In relation to Boss et al (2008) symbolic interactionism has been a vital theoretical perspective in family related studies since its initial development in the 1990s. Symbolic interactionism involves the processes of self-concept, socialization, definition formation, adaptation, and the concept of self development. Symbolic interactionism is systematically applicable to family studies. In this line of thought, family may be perceived as a unity of inter-acting personalities; a small world of communication in which selves and roles are shaped and the personality of each person affects that of every one else (p. 1370).
Actually, a number of symbolic interactionism theorists have used qualitative methods such as novels and case studies to study dynamics of family in particular processes of inter-personal conflict, exploitation, and bargaining. Apparently, the least interested principle puts forward that the person least committed to or interested in the dating or marital relationship frequently exploits the other since he/she posses most power in that relationship. More often than not, the themes of exploitation and conflict are more prominent in the analysis of the family institution (Falicov, 1991, p. 4).
According to Reynolds and Herman-Kinney (2003) in most cases family related matters from a symbolic interactionist perspective deal with certain types of role analysis such as the manner in which gender role conceptions influence the definitions of spousal responsibilities; how internal events (such as divorces, births, and deaths) and external events (e. g migration, parental employment, and natural disasters) affect the definition of roles, conflict, performance, or stress; how the roles of wife and husband are defined during family life stages; how these specific role variables affect the disposition, self-conception, and attitudes of family members; and how children arrival and the change to parental roles alter interaction patterns and role constellations (p. 520).
As a matter of fact, the perspective of symbolic interactionist emphasizes the processes of role definition, role identity, role-making, and role negotiation within the family. Moreover, the role concept is very essential for most of the key sociological perspectives such as conflict theory, structural functionalism, and even social exchange theory. In relation to Boss et al (2008) symbolic interaction, self-concepts and personalities are formed, attitudes and values transmitted from one generation to the next in the family linage. The socialization of children is the most critical and among the few remaining family functions in the modern society. Studies have shown that positive reflected assessments from parents who provide parental support and the application of inductive control impose positive socialization results for the self-concept of the children (138).
The process of socialization is highly reciprocal; children and parents greatly affect the self-concepts of one another. The high reciprocity characteristic levels of family socialization processes (and a symbolic interactionism hallmark) are hardly reflected in family research even though researchers have become more sensitive to it. In accordance with Boss et al (2008), a focus on reciprocity is clearer where identity negotiation is a great problem like in the lesbian motherhood case or in the immigrant families' cases where children and parents must renegotiate their responsibilities in unfamiliar cultural contexts.
However, studies have also shown that when exposed to cultural perceptions that may be of threat to their ethnic identities or self-concepts people are likely to engage in interpretive practices that serve to integrate these concepts into existing self-structures. For instance, car ownership which is an influential status symbol forms personal interactions among people who own various types of cars and the manner in which infiltration of modern technologies into cultures can change role-relations in the institution of family (139).
On the other hand, family relations conducted with certain ethnic domains and cultural situations in which communication takes place shape identity negotiations and family interactions. Beyond and above, national dilemmas, flow of international immigrants, social movements, and international conflicts frame the symbolic domains of families. Thus, Children and immigrant families encountering lifestyles and cultures that are highly distinct from their own seriously struggle to take in new opportunities and keep up their integrity and ethnic identities. Universal social movements like the women's movement provide opportunities for women to restructure their identities and as a result restructure the entire institution of family (Falicov 1991, p. 8).
Arguably, the family institution can be well explored from Symbolic interactions perspective since it is through the interactions between the persons involved that family traits are born. Human life is presumed as to be lived in the symbolic domain given that symbols are the tools through which reality is created. Reality is actually constructed by main use of symbols which are in actuality social products. Therefore, it is arguable that family institution can be understood from the perspective of the symbolic interaction just as the theorist puts it forward.