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Functionalist sociologist Murdock described the family as "a social group
characterised by a common residence , economic cooperation and reproduction. It
should includes partners of both sexes who have a socially approved sexual
relationship, with one or more children own or adopted of the sexually cohabiting
Perceived as right wing conservative.
The family has four functions:
Functionalist; family is universal institution that performs 4 major functions:
Stable Satisfaction of the Sex Drive - prevents social disruption caused by sexual
Reproduction of Next Generation - means society able to continue.
Socialisation of the Young - spreading society's norms and values.
Meeting Member's Economic Needs - providing food, shelter, etc.
Parsons 1965- After industrialisation the family preformed two functions:
1) Primary socialisation- teaching children to internalise the universal ideologies of
the norms and values in the society they live. A child can only become a social adult
through this process. Thus nuclear families described as personality factories-
churning out citizens who continue the rules and belief system which makes
socialising in wider world possible. Mother ­ Expressive role
Father- Instrumental role

Slide 2

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The second role that the nuclear family performs is:
2)Stabalisation of the adult personality- The man relieves the stress of being
insecure in his job by allowing himself to let go by behaving in an undignified
and childish way. Since in the home the man makes the decision within a
warm and loving environment. Due to this indulgence taking place , it
relieves adult family members and strengthens social stability.
Fletcher 1988-Raising a child is easier due to state intervention such as in
the form of doctors, health visitors, social workers, teaching, housing officers
Gender role Socialisation
Children as a result of primary socialisation taught by parents are made
aware of what is culturally expectable in regard to their gender- which
suggest to some extent that gender differences are socially constructed and
further re emphasised through secondary socialisation.…read more

Slide 3

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Social control
Nuclear family ­ agent of social control since it is perceived as the moral
centre of society as it gives guidelines on how to live and behave as part of
a wider society through the teaching of primary socialisation.
To raise a child properly they must have a moral conscience and taught
what correct according to the values and norms of society. A way in which
to ensure this development is through the use of sanctions- rewards and
punishments as an incentive to behaviour in a socially acceptable way.
The family in short helps enforce the continuance of other social institutions
e.g. places of secondary socialisation by teaching children morality to allow
them to grow up according the excepted standard of wider society; namely
law abiding people who are hard workers.
Social Status
Within a family people inherit ascribed status- the idea of fixed characters.
For example, status given by age, gender, social class, religion etc. The
financial situation (socio- economic factors) provides us with identity. For
instance a family with a high socio- economic factor can have a profound
effect on later life. An unequal financial opportunities as a child can provide
inequalities for that person also as an adult.…read more

Slide 4

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Money Consumption
Families in today's society are arguably units of consumption- which
consumers goods and services are provided by the economy as
opposed to the family as a unit of production in the pre industrial period.
Recreation and Leisure
20th Century- family focused on leisure, especially with the 1990's
bringing significant fear over children's safety with children spending
more time at home. Evans and Chandler 2006- Children's bedrooms
more furnished with consumer goods- technological entertainment e.g.
DVD players.* Link to the changing ideas of childhood.
Reproducing and Welfare function
A child is in need of physical support from there parents for a long
amount of time. However the welfare support a child is given such as:
home, food education is dependent on the family's income and job/s of
parent/s. This includes extended family members if they are ill or
disabled. Therefore the family plays an important role in maintaining the
health and welfare of societies vulnerable members and works
alongside other social institutions such as the NHS…read more

Slide 5

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Criticisms of Murdock's Nuclear Family
Murdock disregards the idea that families emerge as a product of culture as
opposed to biology- according to interpretive sociologists. Family, therefore will
behave in different ways despite being in the same society. For example,
people will have different methods of children rearing according to religion,
money and different psychological approaches to child rearing. Murdock's
model is not universal- rather conservative since it assumes a certain social
status and political in the way only certain types of couples are deemed
suitable families. Murdock's model is not universal.
Criticisms of the functionalist view of the family
The functionalists do not consider the dysfunctional nature of families namely-
domestic violence, child abuse and divorce. The functionalist view of families
(esp Murdock) was based upon middle class white American families.
Influences such as religion, ethnicity social class and poverty are not
Parsons for example, in 1950's ­ Western Society inc UK are now multicultural
however without also examining religion and the divides within ethnicities has
meant his perception of the family is outdated. *Link to Family diversity
PowerPoint.…read more

Slide 6

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Marxist criticisms of the Nuclear Family
Marxist main criticism of the nuclear family is in the role of primary socialisation-
since it exploits the working class which reproduces and maintains class
inequality- society is not meritocratic. The way in which the working are distracted
by their exploitation of by capitalism is by:
1)Hierachial structure of the Nuclear Family i.e. ­ Man- Breadwinner- Head of
household. This structure enables men to accept their perhaps low status at work
which stops them from questioning hierarchal nature of capitalism which only
benefits the powerful and rich.
2)Parents teach their children that happiness results from the purchasing of
consumer goods and material items. As a result of this capitalist organisation/
values unchallenged due to the fixation of a materialistic generation who disregard
inequalities for this reason. Rather than benefiting whole of society as
functionalists believe in meritocracy- rather it is a myth of meritocracy. It benefits
the bourgeoisie .…read more

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