Topic 3: The functions of the family

  • The functionalist perspective on the family
  • The Marxist perspective on the family
  • Feminist perspective on the family
  • Created by: E456
  • Created on: 15-01-18 11:25
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  • Topic 3: The functions of the family
    • Functionalists
      • summary
        • society is based on a value consensus (a set of shared norms and values) into which society socialises its members
        • George Murdock - four functions of the family
          • (1) stable satisfaction of the sex drive
          • (2) reproduction
          • (3) socialisation of young
          • (4) meeting its members' economic needs
          • criticisms
            • these functions can be performed equally well by other institutions
            • feminists see family as serving the needs of men and oppressing women
            • Marxists argue that it meets the needs of capitalism
      • Parsons' 'functional fit' theory
        • nuclear family fits the needs of industrial society and is the dominant family type in that society
        • the extended family fits the needs of pre-industrial society
        • family adapted to meet the industrial society's two essential needs
          • (1)  geographically mobile workforce
          • (2) socially mobile workforce
        • loss of functions means...
          • primary socialisation of children
          • stabilisation of adult personalities
        • criticisms
          • Young and Willmott: the pre-industrial family was nuclear not extended, due to late childbirth and shorter life
    • Marxists
      • summary
        • see capitalist  society as based on an unequal conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat
      • have identified several functions that they see the family as fulfilling for capitalism
        • (1) inheritance of property
          • monogamy became essential because of the inheritance of private property - Engel
        • (2)  ideological functions
          • family performs a set of ideas or beliefs that justify inequality and maintain the capitalist system by persuading people to accept is as fair and natural
        • (3) a unit of consumption
          • the family plays a major role in generating profits, since it is an important market for the sale of consumer goods
      • criticisms
        • assume the nuclear family is dominant in capitalist society - ignore other family structures
        • feminists argue they undermine the importance of gender inequalities
        • functionalists argue they ignore the real benefits of the family, such as mutual support and intimacy
    • Feminists
      • argue the family oppresses women
      • Liberal feminism
        • are concerned with campaigning against sex discrimination and for equal rights and opportunities
        • women's oppression is being gradually overcome through changing attitudes and law
        • are moving towards greater equality
        • Criticisms
          • other feminists argue that it fails to challenge the underlying causes of women's oppression and for believing that changes in the law will be enough to bring equality
          • Marxist and radical feminist believe instead that far-reaching revolutionary changes to deep-rooted social structures are needed
      • Marxist feminism
        • main cause of women's oppression in family is capitalism
        • (1) women reproduce the labor force
        • (2) women absorb anger
          • Fran Ansley: wives are 'takers of ****' - they soak up frustration of their husbands
        • (3) women are a 'reserve army' or cheap labor
      • Radical feminism
        • all societies have been founded on patriarchy
        • (1) men are the enemy
        • (2) the family and marriage are key institutions in patriarchal society
        • 'political lesbianism' - heterosexual relationships are inevitably oppressive because they involve 'sleeping with the enemy'


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