Talcott Parsons 'Functional Fit' theory

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Parsons' `functional fit' theory
Apart from the functions identified by Murdock, the family may meet other needs too. For example, it
may perform welfare, military, political or religious functions. In the view of Talcott Parsons (1955),
the functions it performs will depend on the kind of society in which it is found.
Parsons' distinguishes between two types of family structures
The Nuclear Family ­ of just parents and dependent children.
The extended Family ­ of three generations living under one roof.
Parsons argues that the particular structure and functions of a given family will `fit'
the needs of the society in which it is found.
According to Parsons, there are two types of society.
1. Modern industrial society
2. Pre-industrial society
Features of a pre-industrial and modern industrial society
Pre-Industrial Modern Industrial society
Agricultural economy Based on constantly evolving science and
Labour intensive: Requiring basic skills Machine intensive: Requires a skilled and
technically competent workforce.
Status is ascribed (fixed at birth) by social Status is achieved by individual efforts and
and family background. ability.
Agriculturally dominant. Industries constantly spring up and decline
in different parts of the country.
Families were predominantly extended Families were nuclear.
Families as producers Families as consumers
Parsons argues that the nuclear family fits the needs of industrial society and is the dominant family
type in that society, while the extended family fits the needs of pre-industrial society.
In Parsons' view, when Britain began to industrialise, from the late 18th century onwards, the extended
family began to give way to the nuclear.
This was because the emerging industrial society had different needs from pre-industrial society, and
the family had to adapt to meet these needs. Parsons sees industrial society as having two essential
needs: A geographical mobile workforce and a socially mobile workforce.


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