Functionalist view on the Family

Functionalist view of the family

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  • Created by: Melissa
  • Created on: 21-01-12 11:31

Introduction to Functionalist's perspective of the

Functionalists argue that the family is the most important institution in society as it benefits both the individual and society

The functionalist's ideal family is

  • nuclear
  • family live together
  • heterosexaul couple,based on romantic love
  • relationship reinforced by marriage and monogamy
  • family is based on unconditional love and care
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4 functions of the family:

  • sexual - expresses sexuality in a socially approved way
  • reproduction - family provides stability for reproduction and rearing of children
  • socialisation - primary socialisation passes on norms and values, including social control and discipline and gender role socialisation
  • economic - provides food and shelter for family

Murdock argues these functions are necessary in any society


  • does not consider that family functions could be performed by another group
  • descrpition of the family too good to be true
  • different famalies have different experiences eg, culture differences, racial differences
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Murdock pt 2

Murdock studied 200 countries - all had a family - therefore it is a universal institution and the basis of society. His definition is very narrow - only nuclear family


  • K Gough studied Nayar - no nuclear family. Women have sex with up to 12 men . Women's brothers are responsible for children. Gough says it counts as a family
  • Commmunes/Kibbutz's - adults and children work together. all adults responsible for children. Used across the world. Oneida - shared sexaul partners, older people taught younger people. Couples asked permission to have children, all chidren raised by others
  • Lone parent and martifocal famalies - 45% of black Carribean famalies have female heads. Not seen as a broken family , but lifestyle choice.
  • Gay and lesbian famalies
  • foster care
  • feminists suggest mother and children should be classed as most basic family type
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Functional fit theory - structure and functions of family will fit society's needs

2 types of society, industrial and pre industrial.

nuclear= industrial

extended = pre industrial

pre industrial - land was owned and work and home was the same place

In modern society, the family loses some of its functions, as factories take over and become the place of work and production of clothes food ect.

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Parsons' functions

  • Primary socialisation of children - society's culture becomes part of the individual's personality
  • The stabilisation of adult personality - allows adult and escape. woman's role - expressive - emotional support. man's role - instrumental - work and money. Women releive men's stress.

The nuclear family is good for the economy - isolated and privatised, geographically mobile, move where jobs are.

Family is socially mobile - children do what they want (acheived status) and and do well in society - then create their own nuclear family to avoid clashes over wh is in charge

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Criticisms of Parons

  • Too rosy - family dysfunctional - most murders and violence occur within the family
  • Old fashioned - men do domestic work, feminists argue roles are not naturally given, they are created by men
  • Feminists argue it has overlooked the exploitation of women
  • Only 1 type of family; class, religion ect all effect famalies
  • Does not look at alternatives to the family
  • Leach says it is a bad thing that the family has become isolated
  • Young and Wilmot argue that the family was nuclear in pre industrial times as life expectancy was short
  • Anderson argues people choose the extended family, as it may help them with support with children and work
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