Functionalist VS marxist views

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Functionalist VS marxist views


  • FUNCTIONALIST THEORY: Consensus theory. Organic analogy - functionalists see the family as a vital organ in maintaining the body of society.
  • MURDOCK - argues there are 4 main functions of the family:
  • Sexual - expressing sexuality in a socially acceptable/ approved context
  • Reproduction - the family reproduces and rears children
  • Socialisation - family is very important in the primary socialisation of children and teaches children shared ideas and beliefs (value consensus) which functionalists believe is important to maintain a stable society
  • Economic - the family provides food and shelter for its members
  • PARSONS - two basic and irreducible functions of the family : the primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of adult personalities
  • Primary socialisation of children - teaching children the norms and values of their society and teach them their families culture
  • The stabilisation of adult personalities - in industrial societies, the pressure of work and the struggles of working life threatens to destabilise personalities - wife's expressive role relieves the tension by providing love and understanding


  • Do not regard the nuclear family as a necessity
  • Conflict theory
  • See the family within the framework of a capitalist society  which is based on private property, driven by profit and is riddled with conflict between social classes.
  • ENGLES - believed the monogamous nuclear family developed when ownership of private property arised so men needed to know who their children were in order to pass their possessions on.
  • ALTHUSSER - argued that in order for capitalism to survive, the working class (prolateriat) must submit to the ruling class (bourgeoisie)

Overall comparison

FUNCTIONALISM - criticised for downplaying conflict - present nuclear families as harmonious which ignores the dark side of the family. Parsons view of the instrumental and expressive role of men and women is very old fashioned - not the case todayIt ignores the exploitation of women and ignores the harmful effects of the family (Leach)MARXISM - old fashioned - the idea that men marry to pass down their property ignores other reasons for getting married.Women are far less likely to marry for economic support  


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