Religion and Family: Social Systems part 2

Religion and Family: Social Systems part 2

Migration theory

Studies conducted on the effects of migration to family lives indicate that in most cases a new family life is created. The new family life is influenced by both its past cultural customs and the new country way of life. Notably, the new generation that arrives is different from both. These kinds of families demonstrate integration or bicultural alteration instead of absorption. Assimilation or absorption is where the migrating community gives up its culture and adopts the ways of the dominant culture. According to research, the immigrant family’s cultural background and socio-economic circumstances and the legal system in the new country are the major contributors in creation of an incorporated bicultural family (Constantinescu, 2008).

Religious rituals impart significant events in the lives of the immigrants with spiritual meaning. In addition religious institutions react in convenient terms to the needs and hardships of the immigrants. Accordingly, religion is extremely important for immigrants both in the past and present. Consequently, spiritual contribution in migration has been a major theme in sociological studies of the century immigration. The church has always occupied a major place in the lives of immigrants through the provision of a convenient wellbeing system that serves the needs of many immigrants. Religion gives the receiving population a clear understanding of the immigrants so that they can know their origin (Bosworth & Soy, 2005).

People migrate for many different reasons and this affects the family and the religious setup. These differences have some impacts on the overall migration process. The conditions under which a traveller enters a receiver population always have broad consequences for all parties concerned. Migration experience refers to the fact that diverse reasons for migration will create different outcomes apparent from a sociological viewpoint. For instance, a person who migrates within a nation will not have the same movement experience as a political immigrant (Constantinescu, 2008).

Ordinarily, refugees require particular services from the receiver population including emergency shelter, food, clothing and legal aid. The emotional suffering of leaving their homeland and leaving their family members behind can also make it difficult for refugees’ adjustment to their new surroundings. Bearing in mind that a migrant can be a slave, refugee or have some other reason for moving, no particular theory can offer an all-inclusive explanation for the process of migration (Booth, Crouter, & Landale, 1997).

Even though a wide-ranging theory is unachievable, it remains a critical task of demographers to give explanation as to why people migrate. Theories of migration are significant as they can assist us appreciate population movements within their vast political and socio-economic contexts. For instance, if migration from third world nations is revealed to be as a result of monetary problems due to global economy, such immigration could be controlled by improved international economic agreements instead of restraining immigration acts. This is very typical of migration into the USA from Mexico (Booth, Crouter, & Landale, 1997).

Human migration can be defined as the movement of people from one place to another in order to take up permanent or semi permanent residence. Human migration typically takes place across a political boundary. A good example of semi permanent residence is the seasonal migration of farm laborers. Migration can either be voluntary where People choose to move or it can be involuntary where people are forced to move. All this kind of migration alters the family and the religious setup of the participants (Bosworth & Soy, 2005).

Migrations dates back in the ancient word as it has have occurred all through human history. However, migration takes place at a diversity of scales like intercontinental that is between continents. Intercontinental migration can take place between countries on a given continent. Interregional migration happens within countries a country, a significant pattern being rural to urban migration. This is the movement of people from the countryside to cities in pursuit of job opportunities (Booth, Crouter, & Landale, 1997).

Extensive studies have been conducted and have categorized migration as internal where people relocate to a new home within a state, country, or continent. External Migration refers to a new home in a dissimilar state, country, or continent. Emigration refers to movement from one country to another while immigration refers to movement into a new country. Population transfer is closely related to involuntary or forced migration where a government forces some people out of a region. This is normally due to ethnicity or religion. In Impelled migration, people are not forced out of their residence, but they leave due to unfavorable conditions such as warfare, political or religious persecution. This type of migration is also called reluctant or imposed migration mainly due to prevailing circumstances (Booth, Crouter, & Landale, 1997).

A series of shorter migrations from a person’s residence to final destination is called step migration. For instance migrating from a farm to a village, then to a town and finally to a city takes place step by step. Conversely, chain migration is cycle of movements within a family or defined group of people. Return migration takes place with occurrence of voluntary movements of immigrants back to their original residence. The process of migrating for a span of time in response to labor or change in climate conditions is called seasonal migration. This is very typical of farm workers who move to the cities during the off-season (Constantinescu, 2008).

There are a variety of reasons why people migrate from one place to another. Before relocating, people think about the merits and demerits of staying versus moving and if the merits outweigh the demerits, they decide to move. Encountering some difficulty such as a shortage of food, breakout of war, floods and other natural disasters is a major reason why people decide to migrate. Conversely, the reasons for immigrating could be desirable, for instance a nicer climate, better food supply and freedom. Research reveals some push and pulls factors that may influence people to move. These include environmental factors like climate and natural disasters, political instability causing war, economic factors like work and finally, cultural factors including religious freedom and education (Bosworth & Soy, 2005).

In general, human migration affects population patterns and its characteristics. In other words, its social and cultural patterns and processes tend to change. The socio-economies of the population are also affected depending on the cause of migration. The physical environments are also likely to change due to increase or decrease in population of a place. When people migrate, their cultural characteristics and ideas diffuse along with them. The migration ends up creating and modifying the cultural landscapes of a place. These are the major reasons why the family and the religion of people are affected. When people migrate, the cultural markers that identify their religion like worship buildings, spiritual places; architectural styles and signs are likely to change (Booth, Crouter, & Landale, 1997).

The theory of migration has a significant value in analyzing the religion and family social systems. This is because migration leads to social, cultural, economical and political changes in social structure. Sociologists agree that migration has a great effect on family life and the religion of people and determines the structural characteristics of the family. Experts agree that this is one of the crucial foundations of the culture and is necessary in identification of the direction and the degree of the change. Characteristics related to the structure of the family, like family type, social roles, decision making, women contribution to the economy are factors that change with the migration. This has an immense significance in creation of social integrity and in achieving a strong social life in the society (Bosworth & Soy, 2005).

Community theory

The term ‘community’, as it has been used in the past, has to some extent been linked with the expectation and the desire of re-establishing the tight type of bonds between individuals distantly credited to the early times. Before the early 1900’s, there was no social science literature covering ‘community’ as a subject. It was in 1915 that the first understandable sociological meaning was put forward. It was done by C. J. Galpin with regard to delineating rural communities in terms of the trade and service areas surrounding a central village. Many descriptions of community came up after that.

These covered many aspects of the community. For example, some looked at the community as a geographical region; others saw it as a group of people living in a particular place while others looked to community as an area of common life.

Frazer (1999) says that community can be approached as a value. Therefore, it may be used to unite several elements, for instance, unity, loyalty, support and trust. It is very similar to the third of the principles that were adorned on numerous banners of the French Revolution, that is, fraternity. The other two, of course, were liberty and equality. Community can also be tackled as an explanatory group or set of variables. The two are intertwined and most times very hard to tell apart. Community can be studied in three different aspects namely place, interest and communion. In terms of place, territorial or place community can be viewed as where individuals have things in common. This mutual factor is understood geographically. Locality is another way of identifying it. Looking at community in this way has resulted in a lot of literature in ‘community studies’ and in locality studies where the focus is usually on spatial divisions of labour.

With the aspect of interest or ‘elective’ communities, individuals have a mutual characteristic apart from place. They are associated by factors such as religious belief, sexual orientation, occupation or ethnic origin. It is in this classification that issues such as the ‘gay community’, the ‘Catholic community’ or the ‘Chinese community’ arise. Development in the sociology of identity and selfhood has contributed towards a crucial part in opening out the theoretical forum within which forms of community which are not based on geographic regions can be perceived. Intentional and elective communities are a primary characteristic of modern life. Lastly, there is the aspect of communion. In its most feeble form, it can be approached as a sense of connection to a place, group or idea. This is to mean, whether or not there exists a ‘spirit of community’. On the other extreme, ‘communion’ could be regarded as an insightful meeting or encounter both with other people, and with God and creation. An example of this is the Christian communion of saints, which is the spiritual unification between each Christian and Christ, and thus between every Christian.

These different approaches to community do, of course, overlap in some particular cases. For example, place and interest communities may overlap. A good instance of this scenario is in the case of places where majority of those who reside there are employed in the same industry, like was the case in ‘mining villages’. It then arises that it is justifiable to include a fourth perception of community; that of attachment. This is because communities of place or interest may lack a sense of shared identity. Anthony P. Cohen did a lot of work on belonging and attachment that is of great assistance in this respect. His view is that communities are best viewed as ‘communities of meaning’.

The ‘community’ serves as a critical symbol in creating people’s sense of belonging. Cohen argues that reality of community resides within its members’ view of the vitality of its culture. People build up the community representatively, making it a source and store of meaning, and a form of reference to their identity (Cohen, 1985).

Cohen suggests that ‘community’ consists of two linked ideas that individuals of a society have something in common with each other. This thing held in common, is what separates them in a big way from the members of other possible groups. Hence, community suggests both similarity and difference. It is a relational concept, the antagonism of one community to the rest or to other social entities. This leads to the question of boundary of a community, as in where it begins and where it ends.

Cohen argued that boundaries may be several, such as those drawn on a map, or those marked in law, or by physical features like a river or road. Others may be religious or marked by different languages. Not all boundaries are so apparent. Some may be viewed, rather, as only being there in the heads of those affected. This means that they are perceived in very diverse ways by people on either side and also by the people on the same side. This is the figurative characteristic of community or communion boundary and is essential to obtaining a positive reception of how individuals experience communities.

An example of this is the kinds of habits individuals attach with regarding religious ceremony, for instance, the method of worship, the tools used and the movements of the priest, imam or rabbi. Undeniably, it is very important that the theory of community is present in all main religions. This can be illustrated as, the Christian principle of the communion of saints and the worshippers and the Eucharist as types of community; or the oneness of umma or community in Islamic society and modern practice and spirituality. Additionally, community is an outstanding subject in Judaism and in Buddhism. Confucianism is not a religion. However, neo-Confucianism is strongly entwined with Buddhism and with customary pious cults of the family and ancestors. Confucian believes of family and community life is politically important in numerous modern contexts (Frazer, 1999).

Each of the above expressions has its individual symbols and markers of boundaries stating clearly who is ‘in communion’ or ‘in community’, and who is not. The definition of a boundary leaves some people within while others are placed beyond the boundary. The action of defining ‘community’ or ‘communion’ can hence is an exclusionary act. Non-members are denied the benefits of belonging to a specific group to. An example of this is, is the rise of ‘gated communities’ in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where a physical barrier is built to shut out, in this instance, the poor or those who are seen as a threat.

The fact that people reside close to one another does not automatically signify that they have a lot to do with each other. Neighbours may have very little interaction. The character of the associations between people and the social networks in which they belong is frequently viewed as one of the more noteworthy aspects of ‘community’. When queried about what ‘community’ means to them, people often cite such networks. Most of us feel the deepest sense of belonging to our closest social networks, particularly family and friends. Other than that, there is work, church, neighbourhood, civic life, and others. Such informal relationships assist us to generate a sense of self and individuality, and also facilitate us to steer our way around the requirements and contingencies of everyday living. The immediate social environment of metropolitan families is best regarded, not as the confined area in which they live, but somewhat as the arrangement of real social relationships they uphold, in spite of whether these are restricted to the local area or extend beyond its boundaries.



Booth, A., Crouter, A. C., & Landale, N. (1997). Immigration and the Family: Research and Policy on U.S. Immigrants. New York: Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bosworth, S., & Soy, R. (2005, August 12th). The Effects of Immigration on Religion Among Three Generations of Dominican and Puerto Rican Women. Retrieved September 4th, 2010, from

Constantinescu, M. (2008). International Migration and its Effects on Family. Theoretical and Applied Economics , 85-96.

Cohen, A. P. (1985). The symbolic construction of community. London: Tavistock.

Frazer, E. (1999). The problem of communitarian politics. Unity and conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press.