The relationship between research and theory in family research

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Read the four theory documents I attached and can use any other 2 other websites.Also attached sample paper.

  • write a 600-word essay on the topic for this discussion board
  • one theory application to the topic
  • 4 scholarly references
  • 2 website references
  • title page
  • references page
  • no direct quotations allowed


The Relationship between Research, Theory, and Family

Family, as was discussed in the last unit, is diverse and fluid. There is no set model that represents the American family. Sociologists have long been interested in studying the family, devoted much research to the topic, and have developed many theories to give explanation for why we see certain family patterns in society.

To begin to understand the relationship between research, theory, and family, one must possess a certain understanding of each of these terms. First, family. As seen above, there is no one definition that can completely explain family, but for this paper, family will be described as those living under the same roof and/or that is related to one another, biologically or through marriage. According to the textbook, Sociology of Family, theory is a sort of lens which on can use to view the world (Hammond). It is a way of looking at and studying abstract ideas. It also guides researcher in their research and that research can often be used to either strengthen a theory or show its weaknesses. Often times, if enough research concludes that a theory has some major flaws, that theory will either be revised or thrown out completely.

In regard to family, we see multiple theories develop to sort of expand our knowledge on family and the behaviors within the family. This paper will discuss some of the key theories used to discuss families, what grand theory they stem from, and how they explain certain family dynamics. Some of the theories used to conduct research on families include: Family Systems Theory, Social Learning Theory, Queer Theory, and Transfamily Theory.

Family Systems Theory

Family systems theory stems from the grand theory of Structural Functionalism (Hammond). This theory views the family, when it’s healthy, working like a well-oiled machine. Each part has its own function, but also works together for the benefit of the family. When a family is dysfunctional, a researcher will look at the different family systems and analyze the family connections to determine where the problem lies in hopes of seeing a pattern that can be fixed.

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory, is an interdisciplinary theory, that would most like fall under the grand theory of Symbolic Interactionism in Sociology. In Psychology, it might fall under a different classification. Social learning theory explains the idea of reward and punishment (Johnson, 2015). The theory suggests that if you reward a behavior, then that behavior will increase and if you punish a behavior, that behavior will decrease. In regard to families, and in particular couples, some researchers suggest that to create a healthy relationship, each partner must reward the behaviors they want to see their partner do more, and punish behaviors they want to see less.Johnson and Bradbury (2015) discuss how the social learning theory is often used in helping better marital relationships, but come to the conclusion, that the simplistic nature of the theory and the research done by using it, is not efficient in helping these relationships. Johnson and Bradbury (2015) argue that social learning theory is limited in regard to improving relationships. Johnson and Bradbury (2015) also highlight how much money was wasted in creating programs that used social learning theory in relationships when there was not enough evidence supporting that it even worked. According to the Office of Family Assistance website over 47 organizations were funded to implement these programs in the U.S. One could argue that the money spent on these programs could have been put to better use.

Queer Theory

Queer theory is explained as a theory that challenges heteronormativity (Few-Demo, 2016). It would most likely fall under the grand theory of Conflict theory as it pushes back against traditionalism (Crossman, 2017). Under the sociological study of families, queer theory is used when discussing LGBT families. Few-Demo, Humble, Curran, and Lloyd (2016) discuss the need for queer theory to be taught in sociology and family and suggest that traditional family theories are ill equipped to handle the discussion of LGBT families and this often leaves these families excluded from the conversation of families.

Transfamily Theory

Similarly, to queer theory, transfamily theory challenges heteronormativity, but also cisnormativity, which is the belief that there are only two genders (McGuire, 2016). This theory would most likely stem from the grand theory, Conflict theory, just like queer theory. McGuire, Kuvalanka, Catalpa, Toomey (2016) argue that transfamily theory challenges the following ideas: 1. That sex is binary 2. That gender is binary 3. How gender is constructed 4. How gender identity develops and 5. What family means when it consists of a transgender individual. Just like queer theory, transfamily theory suggests that the traditional models and family theories are insufficient when discussing families because they exclude transfamilies (McGuire, 2016).


As was discussed above there are many theories that can be used to guide research when it comes to families. Each theory providing a different lens in which to see different patterns. Hammond discussed how different theories can look at the situation of divorce and see divorce in completely different ways. While this can be beneficial to sociologists and everyday people, because it can expand one’s knowledge about patterns they see in society, a certain level of caution must be exercised when discussing theory. As seen in the case of using social learning theory in marriage relationships, it is not always efficient. Theories discuss abstract ideas and complex problems, patterns, and people. They are theories, because though they are testable, they cannot be proven. As discussed above, sometimes they need to be adapted because of new knowledge and understanding. So, although they offer a lens in which to see the world, and can guide researchers, they need to be respected for what they are, theories.


Crossman, A. (2017, August 4). Understanding conflict theory. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from

Few-Demo, A. L., Humble, &. M., Curran, M. A., & Lloyd, S. A. (2016). Queer theory, intersectionality, and LGBT-parent families: Transformative critical pedagogy in family theory. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8, 74-94.

Hammond, R., Cheney, P., & Pearsey, R. (n.d.). Sociology of the family.

Healthy marriage and relationship education demonstration grants. (2016, November 10). Retrieved September 15, 2017, from Office of Familiy Assistance website:…

Johnson, M. D., & Bradbury, T. N. (2015). Contributions of social learning theory to the promotion of healthy relationships: Asset or liability? Journal of Family Theory & Review, 7, 13-27.

McGuire, J. K., Kuvalanka, K. A., Catalpa, J. M., & Toomey, R. B. (2016). Transfamily theory: How the presence of trans* family members informs gender development in families. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8, 60-73.

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