Society is constantly changing, and these transformations change the functions of social institutions. This is especially evident today when the generation of Millennials is becoming fully involved in public life. Their values and approach to life are different from those of other generations, and they are already changing American society. From the functionalist perspective, this means that social institutions are changing to reflect the values of the new generation, and these changes are likely to impact the whole society.
The article by Ben Steverman summarizes the results of the study on divorce among American Millennials. Unlike Generation X and Baby Boomers, this generation tends to be more responsible when deciding to marry, making the divorce rate plummet 8 percent since 2008 (Steverman, 2018). Today, young people prefer to postpone getting married until they finish their education, get a stable job, and feel secure with their lives. When they finally decide to get married, they pick their partners more carefully (Steverman, 2018).
As a result, couples who get married today are more likely to remain together than those who tied the knot a decade ago (Steverman, 2018). This is vastly different from the previous generations. For example, Baby Boomers were divorcing at a high rate in the 1960s and 1970s, and they continue to do so even today despite the fact that older people are more likely to stay together (Steverman, 2018). Thus, millennials really have changed the approach to family, marriage, and divorce. Instead of being a mandatory action that must be done against all the odds, marriage has become an exclusive sign of high social status (Steverman, 2018).
From the functionalist perspective, every social institution exists for performing specific functions that keep society together and ensure its stability. As for family, functionalists perceive it as one of the most crucial institutions because of the extended set of its functions. Family socializes young members of society, addresses people’s emotional needs, as well as contributes to social and economic stability. As Steverman’s (2018) article shows, the function of showing a person’s social status also should not be ignored. Today, marriage works as an indicator that a couple is educated, responsible, and wealthy. As a result, young people value marriage more today, and they are less likely to divorce.
Durkheim, a prominent functionalist, suggests the evolutionary theory of family. Throughout the history of humanity, the type of family has been changing, addressing the growing differentiation of society, resulting in the emergence of the conjugal family. The number of family functions has reduced, and they have become more specialized. The functions that used to be associated with families have been transferred to other social institutions, such as schools, church, and the government. One of the key remaining functions is providing emotional support and comfort to individuals. Regarding the changes in generations’ values and approach to gender roles, marriage, and divorce, it is possible to say that the institution of family is likely to change even more in the future.
Talcott Parsons believed that a modern nuclear family had two basic functions, namely, the primary socialization of young children, and the prevention of adults from disruptive behavior. Primary socialization is a process that takes place during early childhood. Parents teach a child the basic rules and values of their community and family, preparing him or her for secondary socialization that takes place further in life. Another function is described in Parson’s warm bath theory, which states that family provides adults with emotional support, relieving them from stress and preventing them from deviant behavior. Thus, family ensures social order and stability. If millennials are causing the divorce rate to plummet, it is possible to suggest that society is becoming more stable because more people are benefitting from the positive influence of being married.
- Steverman, B. (2018, Sept. 25). Millennials are causing the U.S. divorce rate to plummet. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-25/millennials-are-causing-the-u-s-divorce-rate-to-plummet