The Family as a Social Unit: Past, Present, Future Free Essay

The Role of the Family in Society and Why It Will Disappear



After reading The Tyranny of Dead Ideas by Matt Milner, a lot of ideas have come to my mind. Even though the author presents six main dead ideas, mainly about economics and education, I do believe a plethora of practices, thoughts, and concepts have faded away in the state-of-the-art world. The role of family, precisely, is vigorously vanishing, leaving past beliefs and expectations out of the modern priorities. Sociology takes on board various social units, but the main one is the social role of the family. Indeed, the family is only one word but means the entire world. I have no clue whether I am right or wrong, but having followed many people and their life events, I can confidently state that the role of family is not as powerful as it was in the past. Such breakdown undoubtedly has a significant impact on society. Families are ruining; relationships are disappearing; the genuine concept of family is losing its focus and essence. Therefore, I am going to discuss the family as a social unit in the past, present, and any possible opportunities to eliminate this dead idea in the future.


Admittedly, the need for reproduction and creation of a strong family was of the priority for everyone centuries ago. The origins of the family come from the ancient times and it arose much earlier than state, army, education, market, and many other crucial things. The specificity of this social unit is that the family serves both as a social structure that regulates role relationships in the family, and as a primary social group, whose members are connected by three types of communication: matrimony, parenthood, and kinship (Clayton 77).  If there is no connection in the family group, then this family is not complete. Many researchers turned to an analysis of the family’s origin to find out the objective prerequisites for its existence and possible disappearance due to the social crisis in the near future. The thinkers of the past approached differently to the definition of the nature and essence of the family. One of the first attempts to determine the nature of marriage and family relations belongs to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. He considered the patriarchal family “an unchanging and initial social unit” (Carlson 396). Let’s take a look at ancient people or even royal families. Everyone tied the knot and had children shortly after turning to the adolescence, which was 16-18 years old. It was something abnormal to be single in the ancient community, and hence, people got married even without any double confidence or deep thoughts. And what is more interesting, all of them tried to keep marriage healthy and families’ bonds tighter not to break this social unit. Indeed, a vast amount of people lived without personal development as the main priority or even free choice, because the concept of family (especially the big one) was already embodied in their minds.

Moreover, one of the greatest examples of the important family role was the former Soviet Union. Why? Since the USSR was a socialist country, the state cared too much about family and its essence. There was even a popular saying, “Family is the most significant social unit.” Even though many critics and experts state that no love was ‘a free choice’ between spouses, it actually had an unusual influence on people’s minds. Hearing and reading this saying every now and again, “the Soviet people started paying close attention to marriage and own family at an early age” (Shapovalova 3). People tied the knot at 19-22 years old and had children shortly after the big day. If some may call it “propaganda” or “pressure” from the government, others would disagree since the constant reminder of the family as a social unit made the community stronger in everything. The same idea could be seen in many countries – Africa, the Western world, Asia, etc. If one looks at old families now, one can find more than five kids in one union. Why? Because the family was more than ideology; it was the purpose of the worldly life. However, things became worse: the second half of the XX century and the beginning of the new XXI century gave the alarming signals about the difficulties of this social unit.


Do you know why I consider the family as a social unit a dead idea? I do think so because the concept of family has altered to the core. If before people even did not think of getting a divorce or staying the whole life without children (except for being naturally childless), today communities are falling apart by living together but not marrying, the absence of kids even if they have the ability, and so on. Sociologists increasingly began to talk about the institutional crisis of the family, the consequences of which are a real disease of the modern civilization. The real danger of this disease lies in the fact that society is changing the value orientations in relation to the family structure. If in the past, over the course of millennia, the family was the unshakable condition for its own survival (along with adaptation to nature), then in post-industrial society is full of increasing distribution of extra-family priorities (Sheehan & Fehlberg 7). Individualism, career growth, unbridled striving for well-being, sexual freedom, etc. undermine the need for family organization of life. Almost all sociological trends, especially Marxist-oriented theories and doctrines of feminism, corroborate these rapid changes.

The role of family is truly vanishing. I have met so many people who even do not plan to tie the knot or have one kid. Instead, they want to develop, work 24/7, and die in peace. Also, many couples live together, but do not marry. They even can have offspring but are not spouses. Sociologists affirm (2000) that no family can be deemed without proper marriage and children. Ruefully, what one can see today is the total upsurge of singles and the dramatic decrease of a genuine family bonds. Probably the only community which is still holding the importance of the family unit is the Muslim world due to their religious beliefs. For instance, having a non-official relationship is deemed sinful and unacceptable. In other words, if two people want to live and build a family together, they should get married, “or otherwise, nothing will be accepted for God from them as ‘halal’ (righteous or permissible)” (Hasna 188). The role of family for Muslims is off limits because they believe in its essence and they are eager to marry and have many children. Notably, the Western world is gradually stepping aside, unlike the Muslim community. Since the institutional crisis of the family is taking over more and more countries, becoming a normal item, then the whole world community will have to solve the problem of modernizing the family institution.


The real question now is the family as a social unit returning or getting buried into the ground? Unfortunately, this concern is ambiguous and is impossible to answer. Since I consider the strong and impeccable concept of family in the contemporary world as a dead idea, it is hard to come back to the ancient times. Admittedly, a bunch of people marries and reproduces on a daily basis, but still, the high percentage of single ones or divorces is on its rise. However, I do not want to say the word “impossible” in altering and eliminating this dead idea, but everything depends on people themselves. People are currently choosing the ‘childfree’ lifestyle or something abnormal and far from traditional structures. Hence, I reckon that people should reevaluate the concept of family and actually believe in its significance. Only this way might eliminate the dead idea, which I am hoping for.


The family as a social unit is vigorously fading away, turning the modern world into the communities of child-free lives, unofficial relationships, and the neglect of the fundamental family concept. Indeed, kin plays a significant role in a lifespan, and thus, people should reconsider their beliefs and perspectives. Career is good, self-development is vital, and careless lifestyle is seductive, but this is not the genuine purpose of life. Ultimately, the concept of the family seems to be a dead idea in the state-of-the-art world, though I do hope people will be able to make up their minds and alter this disease to the core.

Works Cited

Anatolyevna, Shapovalova Yanina. “Family and Marital Relations in Ussr in 1944-1945.” Society: Philosophy, History, Culture, no. 4, Dec. 2013, pp. 1–4. EBSCOhost,

Carlson, Allan. “The Family, the Irreplaceable Social Unit.” Vital Speeches of the Day, vol. 64, no. 13, Apr. 1998, p. 396. EBSCOhost,

Clayton, Carmen Lau. “Displaying Families: A New Concept for the Sociology of Family Life.” Children & Society, vol. 27, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 77–78. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1099-0860.2012.00469.x.

Hasna, Fadia. “Islam, Social Traditions and Family Planning.” Social Policy & Administration, vol. 37, no. 2, Apr. 2003, pp. 181–197. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/1467-9515.00333.

Milner, Matt. The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity. NYC, NY: Times Books, 2009.

Sheehan, Grania, and Belinda Fehlberg. “Families, Divorce and Family Law.” Family Matters, no. 55, Mar. 2000, p. 4. EBSCOhost,



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[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: November 26, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]
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