Free Essay: Sociology of the Families - The Help

Published: 2022-12-11
Free Essay: Sociology of the Families - The Help
Type of paper:  Term paper
Categories:  Race Discrimination Family Movie Family drama
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1541 words
13 min read

The Help is a drama film in America based on a novel that relays a young white woman's story. Eugenia Phelan "Skeeter" is aspiring to be a journalist. The story is based in Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1963 which is known to be around the time of the Civil Rights Movement. It is centered on skeeter's idea to write a book in the perspective of the help in her attempt at a legitimate career as a writer and journalist while also focusing on Minny Jackson and Aibileen Clark, two black maids, and her relationship with them, exposing the ill-treatment they face from their white employers due to race. This movie does an excellent job in portraying many perspectives and theories of families. Through the eyes of the characters in this movie, we see how the concepts are applied and played out.

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Family Ecology

The theoretical perspective of family ecology explores how the surrounding environment affects family setup. It is further expressed through the concept of social imagination that families' choices and lives are directly affected by economic, religious, cultural and educational institutions and also historical circumstances such as war, recession, the internet, and immigration pattern ( Lamanna, Riedmann & Stewart, 2014). The story of the help is told with the historical background of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 which was a struggle for African Americans to achieve equal civil rights to those of white people in terms of opportunities, education, and housing, access to public facilities, insurance as well as right to vote and be free of racial discrimination. As depicted in the movie in Jackson, Mississippi 1663 every middle-income family had an African American help who was essentially a maid whose tasks involved more than that of a mere maid's thus the white woman ended up doing nothing in the household depicting the setup of their aristocrat ancestors. The racial segregation in that particular area and era creates a big gap in the structure of the whites and black American families. In the families of the white, we see more opportunities for the children in terms of education and more freedom for women as they did not have to provide for the families. On the other hand, the African American families had the women working for white families as they help to provide for theirs. To add to this theory is the part where Yule May who is the replacement maid for Hilly struggles to raise money to send her children to school.


The Structure-Functional theory is defined with the perspective that various social structures such as marriage and family exist or function to fill a basic need in society. It is further investigated through the three primary tasks performed by families as stated in chapter one. The primary duties include responsibly raising children and providing economic and emotional security. Based on the movie we see families performing the basic functionalities of providing financial security. However, there are instances of dysfunction. Dysfunction refers to the focus on social behaviors or patterns that fail to satisfy the basic family need (Lamanna et al. 2014). This is depicted in the movie through the story of the child Mae Mobley who is neglected by Elizabeth, her mother and left entirely to the care of the help Aibileen thus the family fails to provide emotional security for the child. This part of the film also relates with the Family Ecology theory that examines the sociocultural settings of families that are relatively privileged indicating the uncertain environment which is a product of isolation of children from accomplished or busy parents (Lamanna et al. 2014). The dysfunction is also seen in one of the African American families specifically Minny who has an abusive husband.


The Interaction-Constructionist perspective defines family as a structure created through habitual and long term interactions between people defining their relationships with each other and awareness of each other. It's layered on the background of identity, traditions, and commitments creating relationships as a result of interactions and recurring practices as well as rituals. This perspective explores the concept of reality as constructed were; by interacting with each other people build meanings and definitions of situations and events. The interaction between white and black families created a description of roles and attitudes. The white employers had three views which were their personal beliefs and attitudes towards race, their public persona which was defined by their public interactions determining their attitude towards the help and lastly their position as employers which tended to be condescending and parental. This is depicted in the story through the revelation of Constantine's termination by her employer Charlotte. After the probing by Sketter her daughter Charlotte finally reveals she fired Constantine due to Constantine's daughter Rachel to save face after embarrassing her during a lunch with friends at her home by disobeying her orders and using the front door as opposed to the instructed backdoor. She also explained her intentions of hiring Constantine back eventually and her inability to do so as she later died in Chicago where Rachael took her. The latter shows the conflicting attitudes of personal kindness towards the Help and 'proper' treatment of the help in public hat had been created through interactions.

Exchange Theory

The exchange theory investigates the relationships between economic resources and social links. It is highly based on decision making by indicating that individuals in social relationships make choices that maximize reward and reduce costs. It further emphasizes the added advantage of people with more resources in terms of money, education or even appearance to having a broader avenue of options to select. One of the concepts defined in this perspective is the principle of least interest which gives power to the person with the least interest in the relationship. In the white middle-class families, we can see husbands working and supporting their families who fit the structural-functional theory yet they have little interest in their wives who end up living lives devoid of personal love obsessing over trivial pursuits. A more in-depth investigation of this theory shows that people without resources or alternatives to a relationship characteristically defer to the preferences of the other reducing any potential chances of leaving the other person (Lamanna et al. 2014). The latter is depicted by Minny's reluctance to leave her abusive partner until she was able to get secure employment from Johnny and Celia.

Conflict and Feminist Theory

The conflict aspect of this theory was developed with the realization and acceptance that family setups are not beneficial to all. This theory conflicts with the functional structure theory as it shows that not all practices in the family set up contribute well to its members and society. It calls the attention and needs for equality in the family on matters regarding power. Once again the story of Minny's abusive husband is a direct indication that some family setups are not beneficial to all.

Attachment Theory

This theory explains the attachment style of an adult through the attachment style with which their families raised them during infancy and childhood. "Once a youngster's attachment style is established, she or he unconsciously applies that style, or "state of mind," to later adult relationships" (Lamanna et al. 2014). As seen in the movie the help is left with the primary responsibility of caring for their employer's children with the example of Mae Mobley and Aibileen who end up developing strong attachments to each other. This set up similarly explains Skeeter's attitude towards the African American women to whom she shows respect, love, and consideration as she was raised by one of them. The opposite is depicted by most of the middle-class white women who tyrannize over their help, show a repulsion over physical contact with blacks as reflected with the setup of different bathrooms for different races and show no desire for emotional connection with their employees showing an insecure attachment style. This theory forms a reasonable basis for the best way to raise a child to have secure attachments. Attachment theory has dramatically grown in prominence and importance in family studies during the past decade (Lamanna et al. 2014).

A family refers to any sexually expressive, parent-child or kin relationship where the relationship among individuals has been created through ancestry, marriage or adoption. Families also care for the children and other dependents, as they have attached their identity to the group and are committed to maintaining that identity for an extended period (Lamanna et al. 2014). Through the film and the various concepts and perspective theories mentioned, we can see how social norms, gender, race, historical era, and economic status affect the structure of families. At the end of the film, nature reveals itself by empowering the oppressed and exposing the oppressor. It is not the end of racial segregation nor is it the end of dysfunctional families, but we can see that a family is as important as each member who is in it, that they influence each other through their interactions and can either contribute good or bad to the family.


Lamanna, M. A., Riedmann, A., & Stewart, S. D. (2014). Marriages, families, and relationships: Making choices in a diverse society. Cengage Learning. Retrieved from

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