Unit 1 NOTES

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Unit 1-Families and Households
Definitions and Universality
Defining the family- Murdock (1949) - "The family is a social group
characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction.
It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially
approved sexual relationship."
Typical characteristics of families-
Family members share a household.
They pool resources such as income, and share tasks.
They reproduce-children.
They include an adult male and female who maintain a stable, socially
approved sexual relationship e.g. a married couple.
Who believes that the family is universal?
Functionalists argue that the family is universal and performs the same
vital functions everywhere.
Murdock-In a sample of 250 societies of differing structures, he found a
variety of family forms with a nucleus or common unit- one male adult
and one female adult in a relationship, with one or more biological or
adopted children. He suggested that this nuclear family is a universal
social grouping.
Evaluation of Murdock-
Extended families -The extended family contains relatives by blood or
marriage that are, in addition to and based around, the nuclear family.
This shows that the nuclear family can be adapted and extended in a
number of ways. E.g. three generation extended family with
grandparents etc.
Polygamy- Marriage in the West is typically monogamous- 1 spouse of
each gender and so conforms to Murdock's characteristics of the nuclear
family. In other cultures, polygamous marriage is seen as a sign of
wealth, or a helpful means of dividing up responsibilities.
2 different types- Polyandry, in which a woman has more than one
husband, and polygyny, in which a man has more than one wife.
Households- If a household consists of 1 or more people living together
at the same address, how is that explained by the concept of the family?

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Murdock's reply to the criticisms- Some sociologists see all families as
extensions or reductions of the nuclear family. But it is not universally agreed
that various family forms are adaptations of the nuclear family.
The New Right-There is a universal tendency for human beings to form
family structures. However there are other universal tendencies that may
override the desire to build families, such as the need for survival.…read more

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Some women in Tahiti may have one or two children whom they give up for
adoption before they have a `real' family. This shows that mother- child
relationships often do not form as a result of biology, but as a result of
upbringing; the children are usually closer to their adoptive parents.
The Nayar of Northern India allow women to take many lovers whilst being
married. This shows that they do not view marriage or adultery in the same
way that Western societies do.…read more

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Example question;(KAFAM1) Using the Item and other material, assess the
view that the family is found in every society. (Tip, follow the structure of the
notes above)
Item B;
Among the Nayar of South-west India before the nineteenth century there
was no such thing as the nuclear family. A woman could have sexual relations
with any man she wished to (up to twelve men), meaning that the biological
identity of the father of any children would be unknown.…read more

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Who doesn't believe that the family is universal?
However Marxists
In addition Feminists
Interactionists- Use the Item here The Ik - it relates to Edholm, who is an
Conclusion- Is the family really relevant? If it is not universal is there much point
in defining it?
(Use the notes as a guide for structure, some sentence starters have been
added. These allow for comparison and analysis.…read more


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