Functionalism and the Family

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  • Created by: Sam
  • Created on: 17-04-14 11:44

Functionalism and the Family

Murdock defined family as: " a group of people who live in the same house, includes adults of both sexes, at least 2 of them have a aprrovoved sexual relationship. And one or more children, own or adopted."

  • He claimed the family was universal. 
  • Studied 250 sociteies, claimed a type of family existed in every society. 
  • Claimed nuclear family was present in all samples. 
  • Against his findings- polygamy, other types of family, e.g. gay families. 

Murdock claimed family performs 4 functions: 

  • sexual
  • reproductive
  • educatonal
  • economical 
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Functionalism and the Family

Parsons: Argued 2 basic types of socitety:

  • Traditional preindustrial society. (agriculture, working with family)
  • Modern industrial society. (factories, urbanisation)

Function of the family, depended on type of society. Peticular structure + function of the family fit with the needs of the society.  

  • The extended family fits the needs of preindustrial society. 
  • Nuclear family fits needs of modern industrial society. - easier to move, less people. 

Parsons saw Industrial Society as having 2 essential needs: 

  • Workforce needs to be geographically mobile, nuclear families can move easily. 
  • Individuals increase ther status by their own merit. No longer ascribed status. Young people indepnendant from families, find own occupation, and social solution. 

Parsons called this type of family, the ISOLATED NUCLEAR FAMILY. As it is spearated from the rest of their family. 

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Functionalism and the Family

Parsons: Modern family is stripped to two main functions: 

  • Primary socialisation of the family: 
    • Internalisation of culture (learning norms + values)
    • Children's personality moulded by values of the culture. 
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities: 
    • emphasis on marriage + emotional security. 
    • person's perosnality stabilised by parents.
    • parent's can carry out childish whims. E.g. playing with children's toys. 
  • Warm Bath Theory: family provides a hub, where parents can recharge and stabilise their personalities.

Critisisms of Parsons: 

  • Accused of idealising the damily - ignores domestic voilence. 
  • Picture largely based on American middle class families.
  • Ignores differences between classes + ethnic groups. 
  • Ignores the 2 way process between children and parents.
  • Doesn't take into account of children who 'wrap parents round their little finger' 
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Functionalism and the Family

Critisisms of Parsons: 

Laslett: Study showeed tha becuase of the low life expectancy in preindustrial society, Grandparents rarely lived for long. Therefore, nuclear families would be most poplular. 

Anderson:  Research showed extended family didn't disappear durning industrialisation. 

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