Functions of the family

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  • Created on: 25-04-10 20:51

Primary socialization of children

Parsons belived that personalities are 'made not born'. For Parsons, a child could only become a social adult by internalizing the shared norms and values of the society to which they belonged. He saw families as being 'personality factories' making young citizens that are commited to the rules, patterns of behaviour, and belief systems which make involvement in social life possible. The family acts as a bridge between children and their involovement in wider society.

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Gender role socialization

Another important aspect of socialization in that children learn the cultural patterns of behaviour expected of their gender. From an early age people are trained by their parents to conform to social expectations of how males and females should behave. In this sense, gender diffrences are not biological or natural but are constructed by society. These diffrences are further reinforced by secondry agents of socialization such as education and the mass media.

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Stabilization of adult personality

Parsons argued that the second major function of the family was to relieve the stress of modern day living for its adult members. This 'Warm bath' theory claims that family life 'stabilizes' adult personalities. Steel and Kidd note the family does this by providing a loving, stable enviroment where the individual can 'let themselves go'. At the same time the supervision and socialization of children gives parents a sense of stability and responsibility. Parsons viewed the family as a positive and benifical place for all its members - 'home sweet home'.

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Social control

The family serves an important agent of social control and alongside secondry agents like religion, the criminal justice system and the mass media, polices the behaviour of its members in order to maintain value consensus and social order. Murdock believes the family is generally regarded as the moral centre of society and sets the rules. Setting the boundries of deviant behaviour is an important consequence of primary socialization. Effective child rearing involves teaching children what is right or wrong. This is backed up through parental use of positive or negative sanctions (Eg. rewards or punishments).

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Social status

Being born into a family results in the aquision of a number of ascribed statuses.

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