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Symbolic Interactionism Theory_note

Symbolic Interactionism Theory_note

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Symbolic Interactionism Theory
Adapted from Scott Plunkett‘s Course Pack 
 
Overview
 
 
Symbolic interaction theory describes the family as a unit of interacting personalities.
 
This theory focuses attention on the way that people interact throughsymbols:
o
 
words, gestures, rules, and roles.
 
 
The symbolic interaction perspective is based on how humans develop acomplex set of symbols to give meaning to the world (LaRossa &Reitzes, 1993).
 
Meaning evolves from their interactions in their environment and with people.
 
These interactions are subjectively interpreted through existing symbols.
 
Understanding these symbols is important in understanding human behavior.
 
Interactions with larger societal processes influence the individual, andvice-versa.
 
It is through interaction that humans develop a concept of larger socialstructures and also of self concept.
 
Society affects behavior through constraints by societal norms andvalues.
 
Self concept also affects behavior.
 
Symbolic interactionism‘s unique contributions to family studies are
1.
 
families are social groups and2.
 
that individuals develop both a concept of self and their identitiesthrough social interaction.
 
 
 Symbolic interactionism is the way we learn to interpret and givemeaning to the world though our interactions with others.
 
 
Major Contributors
(LaRossa & Reitzes, 1993)
 
 
George Herbert Mead
(1934) often cited as the main contributor tosymbolic interactionism
 
 
Never published his theory
 
Blumer, his student published it after his death
 
o
 
Meaning evolves from gestures (an action which produces a response inanother)
 
o
 
Language is a set of shared meaning
 
o
 
Taking the role of the generalized other defined as the ability to extendinterpersonal meanings to an entire group
 
Herbert Blumer
(1969) Mead‘s Student
 
credited with the term ―symbolic interactionism.‖ He also
summarized the basic assumptions of symbolic interaction from
Mead‘s earlier work 
 
Major Assumptions about Self and Family
(LaRossa & Reitzes, 1993)
 
Individuals are not born with a sense of self but develop self conceptsthrough social interaction
 
 
Self concept is developed through the process of interaction andcommunication with others
 
 
Self concept is shaped by the reactions of significant others and by our  perceptions of their reactions
 
 
Self concept, once developed, provides an important motive for  behavior.
 
 
Self fulfilling prophecy is the tendency for our expectations, and/or 
other‘s expectations of us to evoke expected responses
 
 
Humans interact and develop roles in the family according to symbolsused to describe the family.
 
These roles are based on the symbolic meaning attached to each role.
 
How family members react to a situation is determined by how theyinterpret the situation. So, it is important to understand the symbols thefamily uses to understand their interactions and behaviors.
 
 
In a family, complicated sets of meanings are transmitted throughsymbols that permit each member to communicate with each other andshare experiences (Peterson, 1986).
Core Principles of Social Interaction Theory1.
 
Meaning
 
 
Meaning itself is not inherent in objects
 
 
Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings thatthey have assigned to them
 
 
Meaning arises in the process of interaction between people. that is, ittakes place in the context of relationships whether with family or community
 
 
Meanings are handled in and modified through an interpretive processused by the person in dealing with things he or she encounters
 
 
Once people define a situation as real, it's very real in itsconsequences
 
2.
 
Language
 
 
As human beings we have the unique ability to name things
 
 
As children interact with family, peers, and others, they learnlanguage and, concurrently, they learn the social meanings attached tocertain words
 
o
 
That is, language is the source of meaning
 
 
Meaning arises out of social interactions with one another, andlanguage is the vehicle
 
 
In Mead‘s view, social life and communication between people are
 possible only when we understand and can use a common language,(Wood, 1997)
 
3.
 
Thought or “Minding”
 
 
An ability distinctly different from animals in that we have the abilityto think about things rather than simply reacting instinctually
 
 
An inner conversation with oneself 
 
 
A reflective pause through which we modify our interpretation of symbols
 

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