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Functionalism is a theory which sees society as made up of
various parts which work together to keep society functioning
· Functionalist believe that the family provides the vital needs
for society and therefore society cannot function without it!
· Functionalists therefore emphasise the positive role of the
· Functionalism is a structural theory and sees the individual as
less important than society as a whole.…read more

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Talcott Parsons (1955):
· The family is very beneficial to society. The functions it performs will
depend on the needs of society ­ `functional fit' theory.
· Believes that the family evolved out of the industrial revolution.
· Industrialisation created two essential functions performed by families:
>Primary socialisation of children - taught norms and values of society.
It is normally the family that help mould the child's personality in order
to fit the needs of society and maintain consensus.…read more

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Criticisms of Parsons:
· Laslett: presented evidence that most pre-industrial
households may have already been nuclear, and not extended
like Parsons claimed. (However, criticised for being unreliable
due to lack of insight to quality of family life)
· Young and Willmott: claimed that the hardship of early
industrial period led to a rise in `mum-centred' working class
extended family.
· Ignores dark side to family ­ i.e. domestic violence ­ has no
function to society.
· Ignores family diversity.…read more

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George Peter Murdock (1949):
· Saw the family as performing 4 essential functions to meet the needs
of society and its members:
>Stable satisfaction of the sex drive ­ to maintain social order and
stability and prevent social disruption.
>Reproduction of the next generation ­ to ensure that society has
enough new members to survive.
>Socialisation of the young ­ to ensure that society runs on a
consensus, the young need to be taught shared norms and values.…read more

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Strengths of Murdock:
· Carried out significant research on 250 societies
· Does recognise other family types, but lists the practicality of the
nuclear family.
Criticisms of Murdock:
· Other institutions and family types can carry out the functions.
· Murdock has a `rose-tinted' harmonious consensus view.
· Feminists - the family serves the needs of men and oppresses
· Marxists ­ the family meets the needs of capitalism, not the
needs of family members and society as a whole.…read more

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New Right:
· New right have a conservative view on the family.
· Assume there was a golden age of the family where husbands
and wives were strongly committed to each other and
children were brought up to respect their parents and social
institutions such as law.
· Strongly believe that the traditional family went into decline
in the 1960's (`where it all went wrong').
· Believe that maternal deprivation and paternal deprivation
causes problems in the family.…read more

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New Right:
Criticisms of New Right:
· Spend too much time looking back on `golden age' which isn't
even definite that it existed.
· The New Right tends to blame victims for things that are not of
their own making .
· New Right have idealised image of the past and don't want to
accept change.
· Feminists believe that if the New Right has their way, that
women would be subjected to the old and outdated roles that
are associated with them.…read more

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· Believes that capitalism divides everyone in two different classes:
bourgeoisie (ruling class) and proletariat (working class).
· See all of society's institutions as helping to maintain class
inequality and capitalism.
· Structuralist theory - individual is seen less important than society.…read more

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Frederick Engels (1902):
· Collaborated with Marx and attempted to trace the
evolution of the family.
· Wrote `The origin of the family'.
· Said that the housewife's position is one of `glorified
prostitution' ­ there to satisfy husband.…read more


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