As a natural social structure, the family unit functions out of the complexity of its own set of processes, problems and properties. Similar to other operational social systems, the family unit is structured in a way that doesn’t allow any of its members to function completely on his own. As a result of this, each member of the unit influences and affects every other part of his social network like any other social system.
The family social system is influenced by many aspects. Tradition, stability, loyalty, trust and interdependency are all important in understanding how a family really functions. Boundaries, rules and patterns of interaction as well as cultural influences also affect how families operate as a social system. These components all influence one another in their interrelationships within the family frame. These are the same components that are found within any social system.
The social structure of a family contains elements such as communication forms, rules, patterns of resolution for arising conflicts, structures of power and family roles, which all assist in the solving of problems, the completion of various tasks and the obtainment of the family’s goals. What makes the family different from other social systems is how it is built upon emotions like love, patience, forgiveness and endurance. This emotional bonding enables the family to build a foundation of understanding and acceptance between family members when communication is done properly.
Family social systems may operate on a generational basis, where things change down the line with each new generation coming up. A family social system must change along with it, much like other social systems. As children grow up to move on to lives of their own and parents grow older and go into retirement, these changes signal transitional shifts within the family social system.
Anxiety, anger, loss, fear, resentment and confusion are some of the emotions felt by different family members as the unit transitions to fit the new changes within the family structure and dynamic. How successfully a family copes with these changes depends largely on its perception of these transitions. The changes within the family system can be viewed as either conducive or destructive to the family nucleus and can either account for a positive change for the family or cause major dysfunction within the unit.
One other key component to the successful functioning of a family system is how well a family communicates and processes information. If information between family members is not communicated or processed properly it can cause major fallout and chaos within the family unit and disrupt the flow of the family system. Chaos and order within the family is determined by how information is shared between family members. How families communicate vital information with each other does affect the success and failure of how a family social system operates.