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Examine the contributions of the Consensus and Conflict approaches to the Family.
Consensus and conflict approaches are opposite to each other, consensus looks at the
positive attributes to a subject, in this case the family, and conflict looks at the negative.
Functionalists have a consensus approach towards the family and believe that not only does
it benefit the individuals in the family but also society as a whole. However, Marxists and
Feminists have a conflict approach towards the family. Marxists believe that the family
benefits only the bourgeoisie, the ruling class, and capitalism. Feminists on the other hand,
believe that only men benefit from the family institution. Despite all theories believing
different things, each theory adds to our understanding of the role of the family, but in
One way in which functionalism helps us to understand the role of the family is by
suggesting that the family has certain functions that help socialise children to be ready for
adult life in society. Murdock believes that the family has 4 functions, sexual function-the
family provides an acceptable way of regulating sexual behaviour, reproductive
function-producing the next generation, economic function-meeting the basic economic
needs for the individuals within the family and the educational function-being responsible for
the primary socialisation of children. The primary socialisation of children is essential to the
continuation of society as it is, without it there would be no culture and therefore no
consensus on norms and values. This would mean the collapse of social life. However, some
sociologists argue that other institutions in society can also provide all of these functions.
For example, the sexual function can be fulfilled through prostitution or promiscuous sex
outside of marriage due to the decrease in stigma around it, the reproductive function can
be fulfilled through advances in healthcare (I.V.F), economic function can be fulfilled by the
government providing welfare benefits and the educational function can simply be fulfilled
through the schooling system. Therefore, in some instances reducing the contributions
functionalism has to the family. Another functionalist, Parsons believes that the family has
only 2 functions, primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of adult personalities.
Parsons believes that marital partners provide emotional support for one another and adults
can play with their children indulging in their "childish side". The family therefore provides
adults with release from their stresses, acting like a "warm bath". This ensures stability for
both individuals and society. Although Marxists would agree with Parsons on some aspects
of the warm bath theory, they would criticise Functionalists as they believe the family
doesn't benefit everyone but instead capitalism.
Marxism is a conflict approach that believes the family is only there to benefit capitalism and
the bourgeoisie. Engles said that men created marriage just so they could pass their capital
on with complete confidence that the child was their own. However, this could be criticised
as the religious and love aspect to marriage is completely ignored. Another Marxist
sociologist Zaretsky, said that the working class families are pressured in to buying
expensive items to benefit the ruling class. Both of these theories support that the family
has been created to help capitalism grow and be maintained. The working class family,
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Failing to find a way out of the circle of capitalism, they
have to stay at it, as the men feel pressure to carry on providing for their family, another
benefit the family offers for capitalism. However, Feminism would disagree with this theory
as Marxism fails to acknowledge the oppression of women within the family.
Feminism is a conflict theory that looks at the negative side of the family; feminists believe
that the family institution only benefits men.…read more