Functionalist perspective on the family

Murdcock's fucntion of the family

Parsons function of the family

Fit between the nuclear family and contemporary society

Reasons why the extended family has weakend and why there has been a growth of isolated privatilised nuclear family

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The functionalist perspective
Functionalist see the family as a vital `organ'
in maintaining the `body' of society.
Functionalist suggest that the family has a
number of responsibilities placed upon it.
Murdock (1949) argued that there are four
main functions of the family: Sexual,
reproduction, socialisation and economics
Parsons argued that there are two basic
functions of the family and are found in every
society. These are primary socialization of
children and the stabilization of human
personalities.…read more

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Murdock's function of the family
Sexual ­ Expressing sexuality in a socially
approved context
Reproduction ­ The family providing some
stability for the reproduction and rearing of
Socialization ­ The family is an important unit
of Primary Socialization of children, whereby
children learn socially acceptable behaviour
and the culture of their society. This helps
build shared ideas and beliefs (Value
Economic ­ The family provides food and
shelter for the family…read more

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Parsons functions of the family.
The primary socialisation of the family ­ Parsons see
this as the learning and internalization of society
culture such as the language, history and values of
society. He argues that the society would cease to exist
if the new generation were not socialised into accepting
societies basic norms and values.
The stabilization of human personalities ­ Parsons says
that the family helps to stabilize personalities by
`sexual division of labour' in the family. He says that
women have an expressive role, providing warmth,
security and emotional support. He then says that men
have an instrumental role as family breadwinner. This
leads to stress and anxiety and threatens to destabilise
his personality. But the wife's expressive role, relieves
this tension by providing love and understanding…read more

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The fit between the nuclear family
and contemporary society.
Writers such as Parsons, Young and Willmott and
Fletcher have suggested that the classic extended
family has nearly disappeared in modern society,
and the privatised nuclear family and the modified
extended family ahs emerged as the main family
form in contemporary society.
Privatised nuclear family ­ Self-contained, self-
reliant and home-centred unit with free time
spent doing jobs around the house and leisure time
mainly spend with the family. People will care
more about the lives of celebs, soap stars and
super hero's than they do about real people.
Parsons calls this the `Structurally isolated'…read more

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Reasons why there is thought to have been a
decline in extended family life, with the isolated
nuclear family fitting the contemporary society
Need to protect family Need for
stability by geographical Higher rate of social
strengthening the mobility mobility in
bonds between married contemporary
and cohabitating society
Need to avoid the
possibility of Growth in peoples
economic and status wealth and income
differences in an
extended family Growth in
meritocracy…read more


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