Theories of the family- the functionalist perspect

What do functionalist believe society is based on?

A value consensus- a ser of shared norms and values- into which society socialises its members.

What do functionalists regard society as?

A system made up of different parts or sub-systems which depend on each other, such as the family, the education system and the economy. They comparre society to a biological organism like the human body. 

What are the four functions of the family according to murdock?

  • A stable satisifaction of the sex drive- with the same partner preventing social disruption.
  • Reproduction of the nect generation- without which society could not continue.
  • Socialisation of the young- into societies shared norms and values.
  • Meeting its members economic needs- such as food and shelter.
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Theories of the family- the functionalist perspect

How can Murdock be criticised?

  • Some sociologists argue that these four functions could be performed equally well by other institutions and by non-nuclear family structures.
  • Marxists and feminists reject this rose-tinted harmonious consensus view that the family meets the needs of both wider society and all different members of the family. They argue functionalism neglects conflict and exploitation, feministts see the family as serving the needs of men, and marxists argue the family meets the needs of capitalism. 

What two family structures does Parsons distinguish between?

  • The nuclear family- of parents and their dependent children.
  • The extended family- of three generations living under one roof.

What does parsons argue about the functions of the family?

The particular structure and functions of the family will fit the needs of the society in which it is found.

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Theories of the family- the functionalist perspect

What two types of basic society are there according to parsons?

Modern industrial society and traditional pre-industrial society.

What society does the nuclear family fit?

The needs of the industrial society, and it is the dominant family type.

What society does the extended family fit?

The needs of the pre-industrial society.

When Britain began to industrialise what family type became prominent and why?

The extended family gave way to the nuclear family, this was because the emerging industiral society had different needs from pre-industrial society, and the family had to adapt to meet these needs.  

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Theories of the family- the functionalist perspect

Two esstential needs Parsons sees industrial society as having:

What is a geographiscally mobile workforce?

In modern society industries constantly spring up and decline in different parts of the couuntry, this requires people to move to where the jobs are. It is easier for the compact 2 generation nuclear family to move than the 3 generation extended family. The nuclear family is better fittes to the need modern industry has for a mobie workforce.

What is a socailly mobile workforce?

Modern society is based on constantly evolving science and technology and so it requires a skilled, technically competent workforce. It is therefore essential that talented people are able to win promotion and take on the most important jobs. In modern society, an individuals statuus is achieve by their own abilities, which makes social mobility possiible. For example, the son of a labourer can become a doctor or lawyer through ability and hard work. Parsons argues the nuclear family is better equipped to meet the needs of industrial society, as there is no conflict between father and soon as they do not live in the same household.

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Theories of the family- the functionalist perspect

What is the mobile nuclear family?

A family structurally isoated from extended kin, with no binding obligations towards them. 

According to parsons what happens to the functions when society industrialises?

The family not only changes its structure from extended to nuclear, is also loses many of its functions.  

When two  essential functions does the nuclear fmaily specialise in performing?

  • The primary socialisation of the children- to equip them wiith basic skills and society's values, to enable them to cooperate with others and begin to intergrate them into society.
  • The stabilisation of adult personalities- the family is a place  where adults can relax and release tensions, enabling them to return to the workplace refreshed and ready to meet its demands. 
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Theories of the family- the Marxist perspective- c

What two classes do Marxist's think have unequal conflict in society?

  • The capitalist class- who own the means of  production.
  • The working class- whose labout capitalists exploit for profit.

What are the functions of the family performed for according to Marxist's?

Performed purely for the benefit of the capitalist system.

What key factor determines the shape of social institutions?

The mode of production- who owns and controls ssociety's productive forces. 

What has increased wealth started to develop?

The development of private property, as a calss of men emerged who were able to secure the control of the means of production. Which brought about patriarchal monogomous nuclear families.

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Theories of the family- the Marxist perspective- c

Why did monogomy become essential in industrial society?

Due to the inheritence of private property- men had to be certain of the paternity of their children to ensure their legitimate heirs inhereted from them.

In engel's view what did the mongomous nuclear family bring about?

A world historical defeat of the female sex, because it brpught the woman's sexuaity under male control  and turned them into a mere instrument for the production of children. 

How can women achieve liberation from patriarchal control?

With the overthrow of capitalism and private ownership of the means of production. A classles socieety will develop where means of production are owned collectively not privately, 

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Theories of the family- the Marxist perspective- c

What is meant by the word ideology according to Marxist's?

A set of ideas of beliefs that justify inequality and maintain the capitalist system by persuading people to accpet it is fair, natural and unchangeable. 

How does the family meet the needs of the ideological function?

  • Socialising children into the idea thhat hierachy and inequality are inevitable. Paternal control over children accustoms them  to the iidea that there always has to be someone in charge, and this ppepares them for working life where they have to accept orders from their employers. 
  • Zaretsky argues that the family alos performs an ideolgial function by providing a haven from the harsh and exploitve world of capitalism outside, in which woekwrs can be themselves and have a pricate life.
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Theories of the family- the Marxist perspective- c

How does the family play a majoir role in geerating profitss for capitalists?

  • Advertisers urge families to keep up with the Jones's by consuming all of the latest products.
  • The media target children, who use pester power to persuade parents to spend more.
  • Children who lack the latest clothing ot must have gadgets are mocked and stigmatised by their peers.

What criticisms are there of the marxist perspecive?

  • Marxists assume that the nuclear fmaily is the dominant family type in capitalist society and ignores wider family sturcutres.
  • Feminists argue the emphasis on class underestimates the importance of gender inequlaities within the family.
  • Functionalists argue marxists ignore the very real benefits the family provides for its members.
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Theories of the family- the feminist perspective-

What are liberal feminists concerned with?

Campaigning against sex discrimination and for equal rights andd opportunities for women.

What do liberal feminists believe about society?

  • They believe womens oppression is being gradually overcome through changing attitudes and changes in laws such as sex discrimination act.
  • Believe we are moving towards greater equality, but that full equality will depend on further reforms and chanhes in the attitudes and socialisation patterns of both sexes.

What do liberal feminists belie has not quite been achieved yet?

Full gender equality is yet to be achieved in the family- there has been gradual progress.

How can liberal feminists be criticised?

Criticised for failing to challenge the underlying causes of womens opression and for believng changes in the law or in peoples attitudes is enough to bring equality.

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Theories of the family- the feminist perspective-

What do marxist feminists beliieve is the main cause of womens opression in the family?


What functions does womens opression perform for capitalism?

  • Women reproduce the labour force through unpaid domestic labout, by socialising the next generation of workers and maintaining the current one.
  • Women abosrb anger that would otherwise be directed at capitalism. Ansley describes women as takers of **** who soak uup the frustraition their husbands feel due to the exploitation and alienation they suffer at work.
  • Women are the reserve army of labour that can be taken on whe extra workers are needed. When no longer needed employers canlet them go and they can return to their role as an unpaid domestic labourer.
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Theories of the family- the feminist perspective-

For radical feminsits who is the key division in society between and why?

  • Between men and women.
  • Men are the enemy- they are the source of womens opression and exploiatation.
  • The famit and marriage are key institutions in patriarchal society. Men beenfit from unpaid domestic labour and sexual services and dominate women through domestic violenece.

How do radical feminists believe we can stop women's opression?

The patriarchal system must be overturned, the nuclear family which is the root of opression must be abolished. The only way to achieve this iis through sepratism- women must liive idependently of men. As well as polictica lesbianism as heterosexual relationships are inevitably opressive as they involve sleeping with the enemy.

How are radical feminists criticised?

For liberal feminists such as Somerville radical feminists fail to recognise that womens position has improved considerbly-  wiith better access to divorce, jobs and the choice of marriage or cohabitation.

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Theories of the family- the feminist perspective-

What do difference feminists argue?

Argue we cannot generalise about womens experiences. They argue lesbian, heterosexual, white and black women, middle class and working class women all have different experiences of the family from one another. 

How can difference feminism be cirticised?

Neglects the fact that women do share many of the same experiences, e.g. domestic violence.

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Theories of the family- the personal life perspect

What 2 weaknesses does the personal life perspective argue all of these theories suffer from?

  • They tend to assume that the traditional nuclear family is the dominant family type which ignores increased dicersity of families today.
  • They are all structural thoeries. They assume fmailies and their members are passive puppets mani[ulated by society to perform certain functions. 

How can we understand fmailies according to the personal life perspective?

We must start from the point of view of the individuals concerned and the meanings they give to their relationships.

What kind oof approach iis the personal life perspective?

A bottom up approach which it shares with interactionism. It emphasises the meaning that individual fmaily memebers hold and how thses shape their actions and relationships.

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Theories of the family- the personal life perspect

What kind of relationships does personal life theorists believe we should focus on?

  • Relationships with friends.
  • Fictive kin-  close friends treated as relatives.
  • Gay and lesbian chosen families- made up of a supportive network of close friends, ex partners and others noot related by blood or marriage.
  • Relationships with dead  relaitves.
  • Relationships with pets.

How can donor-concieved children be used as an example of the personal life perspective?

Some parents emphasised the importance of socal relationshops over genetic ones in forming family bonds. E.g. Erin the mother of a donor concieved child, defined beng a mum in terms of time and effort she put into raising her daughter.

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Theories of the family- the personal life perspect

How can the personal life perspective be criticised?

  • Can be accused of taking too broad a view. Critics argue, by including a wide range of personal relationships, we ignre what is special about relationships based on blood or  marriage.
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