Theoretical Viewpoints on the Family

notes on the theoretical viewpoints of the family

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Sociology ­ Family
Tiger & Fox (1972) claim it is natural for people to form and live in families.
They also argue that gender roles are biologically determined ­ men are
cut out to be breadwinners and women to adopt the caring, domestic role
because that is the way we have evolved.
Wilson (1975) believes that men and women can choose to behave in ways
different from those he sees as natural, but that will cause society
problems as they are going against nature ­ it is pointless to say that men
and women are equal to each other because they are born different and
Evaluation: sociological theories cannot simply be understood in terms of
our biology. Although functionalists do agree with some parts of
socio-biology, they also believe that humans are a product of their
environment and the values they have been socialised into. Feminists
argue that the roles men and women take in families are influenced by
social rather than biological factors. Marxists argue that families are
influence by the exploitation caused by capitalism.
Functionalists believe that the family is at the heart of society, and that it
is the only agent of primary socialisation. They believe the family is a very
positive institution which always benefits its members. They believe that
that the nuclear family is the only normal family. Functionalists have
introduced the `warm bath theory' ­ they claim that the family soaks away
the stress of work and helps its members relax, just like a warm bath. They
suggest the family is a way for people to escape from modern-day
pressures. However, they haven't considered the possibility of having a
stressful environment at home, e.g. domestic violence ­ they believe the
nuclear family should always stay together and not break-up and divorce
even in situations like these.
George Murdock (1949) states that family is a universal institution with
universal functions. However, he has not taken into account societies
where gender roles have been reversed, e.g. the Tchambali people. This
shows that gender roles are socially constructed and not natural.
Furthermore, he has only based his study on middle-class life and has
ignored other influenced like race and religion.

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Talcott Parsons (1955) suggested that the nuclear family is becoming more
and more socially isolated and geographically further from extended kin,
e.g. aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. He suggests that this is
bringing the nuclear family closer together as they are not really close
with anyone else, plus the fact that at home they have the internet, TV etc
which has made families more home-centred ­ economic consumption.…read more

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All domestic duties and care of family members should be carried out
by neighbourhood services run by both sexes.
2) Disappearance of class divisions would integrate all citizens
developing family life and individual self-realisation.
Women are a good reserve army of labour because they are cheap and
exploitable labour. Constrains of childcare mean women take what
work they can, so they are poorly paid and work part-time, and are
seen as unskilled and worthless.…read more

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argued that this system would generate intimate relationships between
household adults + children, instead of uncaring parents neglecting their
children. There should be no taboos over sexual relationships between
people of any age or gender. Also, long compulsory education could be
replaced by education in basic skills & more specialist training at any time
of life, enabling adolescences to be financially independent.
New Right:
They believe that the traditional nuclear family is the best type.…read more

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Women have been creating new
types of families that better suit their needs, such as the divorce-extended
Beck ­ `risk society' and the negotiated family. The patriarchal family has now
been replaced by the `negotiated family'. We now live in a risk society
where people have more choice and tradition has less influence. Recently,
family and marriage have been transformed by greater choice and a more
equal relationship between men and women.…read more


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