Gender Series

The Relationship Between Family Disorganization and Gender Diversity

For a law student, it is obvious to observe that the existence of a society depends upon certain pillars which are formally known as social institutions. Family, Education, Political, Economic among others are some of the social institutions one must take into consideration. Family is considered to be the basic or the primary social institution. Family as a social institution and as a social phenomenon is way more complex than one may perceive it to be. Family as an institution influences many social factors. Sociologists have given various definitions of family, some associate family with procreation, some associate it with heterosexuality and some associate it with sex and gender roles. It is not certain what the definition of family should comprise of, although one thing is certain that family is a dynamic concept.

What do we understand by the term ‘Family’ & ‘Family Disorganization’?

Family is an indispensable part of society. It generates individuals with the right mind, personality etc. who work in other social institutions for the development of the society. Families take care of an individual’s emotional needs, mental health issues etc. Therefore, family institutions have the responsibility of producing healthy individuals who contribute towards the development of society. But what if this family institution fails to produce healthy individuals as discussed above? What if the family institute itself is the source of the problem? What if the institution of family has ceased to exist for an individual? Through this article, an attempt has been made to find the answer to all the questions mentioned above.

At this point, one might wonder how the institution of family can cease to exist or operate for an individual. If one were to ruminate over this question, the probable conclusion would be family disorganization and its aftermath. For some family, a disorganization is an analytical tool while for others family disorganization also equated with the concepts such as family dissolution, marital maladjustments etc.[i] Family disorganization refers to “the breakup of a family unit, the dissolution or fracture of a structure of social roles when one or more members fail to perform adequately their role obligation”.[ii] Taking into account the broader definition of family disorganization, there are numerous factors which may lead to family disorganization.

The dispute between parents, disagreement between children and parents etc. can lead to family disorganization. Divorce, deviant behaviour, and separation due to various reasons are, among others, some of the prominent reasons of family disorganization. Family disorganization includes maladjustment and failing of healthy relationships amongst the members of the family.[iii] It is a breakdown of consensus and loyalty, often then disruption of previous existing relationships or the loss of family consciousness and the development of detachment.[iv] Family disorganization is the climax of a long series of conflicts which have threatened the unity of the family.[v] At this juncture, one must now have an idea of what is meant by family disorganization. Also, it is time that one must question the title of this article i.e. the relationship between family disorganization and gender diversity.

Understanding the idea of Gender & its relationship with Family Disorganization

The idea of gender has evolved from being limited to being a man or a woman and association with the sex of an individual to having multiple forms of gender expression. Sex is ascribed by biology: anatomy, hormones, and physiology whereas gender is an achieved status: that which is constructed through psychological, cultural, and social means.[vi] Gender is a concept that humans create socially, through their interactions with one another and their environments, yet it relies heavily upon biological differences between males and females.[vii] Gender is about how a person identifies themselves, the inner sense of who one is. But at the same time, this achieved status has remained static, unvarying depending on the sex of the person.[viii]

The conception of gender diversity is a novel one and eludes the understanding of a majority of the population. The gender roles which the society expects an individual to play is the only understanding of the notion. When an individual belonging to the LGBTQIA community tries to come out of the closet, a majority of them face the problems with differential treatment, discrimination and unacceptance. It is not just the society which refuses to accept these people, the families of these individuals are also part of the same circle (in the majority of the cases).

Now let’s take a step back and analyse the consequence of such behaviour. Family is the primary institution which provides for an individual’s emotional, psychological, and economic requirements taking into account the broad sense of the role of a family. The institution of the family plays an important role in a person’s life. Now put yourself in the shoes of an individual whose family has rejected to accept them after they came out of the closet. Take into account the mental situation of each member of the family which has denied to accept one of its member’s gender identity. What do you think is the result?

Family is that unit of a social structure where members feel a sense of belongingness due to their shared set of beliefs. The phase of family disorganization comes into play due to various reasons; some being associated with alteration in the set of beliefs. In the present context, let us take into account the idea of gender which parents in a family might have and their child comes out to their parents as gay.

When an individual comes out of the closet to their family, there are some who may face resistance from their families and in some circumstances even face sanctions. What can be the possible consequence of such resistance? Division in the set of principles in which a family believes may lead an individual towards disassociation from their family. This is where the disorganization of a family unit comes into the picture. When an individual’s gender identity is not accepted by their own family, the individual no more feels the sense of belongingness which might encourage an individual to disassociate with their family leading to family disorganization. It is to be noted that family disorganization not just destroys a family unit but also affects each individual mentally, socially and emotionally. The question that remains to be pondered upon is “is there a solution to this family disorganization?”.


The umbrella solution to this problem is that society must accept the change. Gender is not binary and it is a very wide concept, it represents an individual’s social self. Non-acceptance of an individual’s social identity has many consequences. Society can only accept the change when efforts are made to make these changes a part of one’s life. Law is also known as an instrument to change the set moral ideas. Introduction of LGBTQIA community inclusive laws marriage laws, workplace laws etc. can help the society to accept the change. Awareness campaigns related to gender education, the inclusion of gender studies and LGBTQIA history in the school curriculum are some means to achieve the umbrella solution. Media is another element which can help us to achieve this umbrella solution. Media is an element which influences an individual’s thought process. For example, it has now become a trend in U.S. television shows, Netflix shows to have at least one couple representing the LGBTQIA community. One can implement these solutions to achieve the end goal of acceptance but in the end, the end goal is acceptance the means to which is not limited to the above-mentioned.

[ Pankaj Mehta is a student of law at Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur. ]

References –

[i] Jetse Sprey, Family Disorganization: Toward a Conceptual Clarification, 28 J. Marriage Fam. 398–406 (1966).

[ii] William J. Goode, Family Disorganization in Contemporary Social Problems, ed. by Robert K. Merton and Robert A. Nisbet, New York: Harcourt Brace 390 (1961).

[iii] Dr. A.D.Chauhan, Family Disorganization- A Main Social Problem In Current Scenario, 21 IOSR-JHSS, 16-18 (2016).

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Candace West & Don H. Zimmerman, Doing Gender, 1 Gend. Soc. 125–151 (1987).

[vii] Amy M. Blackstone, Gender Roles and Society, 335-338 (2003).

[Viii] West and Zimmerman, supra note vi,at 126.

Cite this article as: Pankaj Mehta, "The Relationship Between Family Disorganization and Gender Diversity," in THE QUEST Sociolegal Review, July 9, 2020,

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