AS Sociology- Functions of the Family

AS Sociology- Functions of the Family unit 1 revision cards

  • Created by: Pheebie
  • Created on: 09-04-12 09:29

Functionalist Perspective of the Family- Murdock

Murdock (1949)- Family performs 4 key functions to meet needs of society and family.

  • Stable satisfaction of sex drive- samel partner prevents 'sexual free-for-all.'
  • Reproduction of next generation- without society can't continue.
  • Socialisation of the young- Teach society's norms and values.
  • Meeting members economic needs- such as food and shelter.

Criticisms of Murdock

  • Femenists see family as serving the needs of men  not women.
  • Marxists say family meets needs of capitalism NOT society and its members.


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Functionalist Perspective of the Family- Parsons

Functional Fit Theory- Talcott Parsons (1955)

Two kinds of family structure- nuclear and extended. 

You found more of the extended family in pre-industrialised Britain. Since 18th century onwards the family has been changing more so into the nuclear family.

This is due to there now being a:

  • Geographically mobile workforce- it's easier to move just children rather than 3 generations
  • Socially mobile workforce- As a son does better and achieves more than the father they move out as they've achieved a higher status.


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Functionalist Perspective of the Family- Parsons (

Parsons believes the modern family is loosing its functions.

He says there are to 'irreducible functions':

  • Primary socialisation of children- Teaching societies norms & values.
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities- Relax and release tensions so you can return to the workplace feeling refreshed.


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Marxists Perspective on Family

Society is spit into working class and the capitalist class. There are several functions of the family as fulling for capitalism.

1. Inheritance of property- families pass down business and property to the next generation.

2. Idealogical functions- Zaretsky (1976) Family provides a safe haven for harsh exploitive world.

3. Unit of consumption- Advertising urges family to keep up with technology, targets children who have 'pester power' and children who don't have the latest gadget are bullied.


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Liberal Feminist Perspective on Family

Campaign for equal rights and against sex discrimination.

  • Women's oppression is being gradually overcome.
  • We're moving towards greater equality due to further reforms  & changes in attitudes.

In terms of family the believe that the family is not equal yet- but there has been gradual progress to a more equal family.


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Marxist Feminist Perspective on Family

Women perform several functions to serve capitalism:

  • Reproduce labour force- produce and socialise the next generation.
  • Absorb anger- Fran Ansley (1972) 'Wives are takers of ****.'
  • A 'reserve army' of cheap labour- Take over when cheap labour is needed- then are 'let go' to return to unpaid domestic work e.g. WW2.


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Radical Feminist Perspective on Family

Society has been founded on patriarchy- the key division in society is between men and women:-

  • Men are the enemy.
  • Family and marriage are they key institutions.

Patriarchy must be overturned. Germain Greer (2000) Argues for the creation of all female- 'matrilocal' households as an alternative to a hetrosexual family.


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Difference Perspective on Family

We can not generalise all women's experiences in one way- different women from different backgrounds have different experiences.

However some experiences are shared by all women e.g. women are at greater risk of domestic violence than men. 


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Nice summary ;)

Haniffa DorKass


Nice ;P Some more sociologist names would be great though. (for Marxism)

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