Functions of the family

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  • Created by: Arti
  • Created on: 05-05-13 13:40


-see society based on value consensus (shared norms and values)

-society is made up of interdependent parts

-organic analogy-compares society to biological organisms such as the human body. The heart and the lungs perform fucntions that are vital for the well being of the body. The family meets needs of society such as socialisation.

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Murdock (functionalist)

Murdock say the nuclear family performs 4 functions

1)stable satisfaction of the sex drive: with the same partner prevents social disruption caused by sexual free for all

2)Reproduction of the next generation: without which society cant continue

3) Socialisation of the young: in societys shared norms and values

4) meeting family members economic needs such as food and shelter

Murdock knows other institutions can perform these fucntions but argues the sheer practicality of the nuclear family and explains why its found in all societies UNIVERSAL

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Criticisms of murdock

X- sociologists doubt these are important functions and say other institutions and non nuclear family structures can perform these functions

X-Marxists and feminists reject this rose tinted view, they say if ignores the conflict and exploitation of the family. Feminists say the family serves needs of men and oppresses women. Marxists say the family serves the needs of capitalism and not family members.

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PARSONS- 'functional fit' theory

-says functions of a family depend on the society in which its found

-parsons say there are two types of family structures

1)NUCLEAR FAMILY- fits needs of modern industrial society and has a couple and dependent children with a clear division of labour

2) EXTENDED FAMILY- fits pre industrial society, has a 3 generational family living under one roof

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When britain began to industrialise, the extended family gave way to the nuclear family as the emerging Modern industrial society had different needs. The modern industrial society has 3 needs

1)Geographically mobile workforce

2)Socially mobile workforce

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1) geographically mobile workforce

In pre-industrial society, people lived in the same place on the same farm where as in modern industrial society, industries randomly spring up anywhere so requires people to move to where the jobs are. Parsons says its easier for a compact 2 generation family to move.

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2) Socially mobile workforce

modern industrial society is based on science and technology, which needs a skilled workforce so those who are talented get the most important jobs. In modern industrial society, a status is achieved instead of ascribed so makes social mobility possible. e.g. son of a labourer can become a doctor through hardwork.

Parsons says in the extended family, the adult sons live in the fathers home. The father has a high ascribed status as head of the household but the son at work may have a higher achieved status...this causes conflict and the solution to this is for sons to move out once married and create their own nuclear family which encourages social mobility.

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Loss of functions

The extended family was multifunctional (it was a unit of production- family members worked together on a farm) and a (unit of consumption-fed and clothed members) they were self sufficient. When society industrialises the family changes is structure and loses its functions. The family is NOT a unit of production because work moves into the factories. Family becomes a unit of consumption and loses functions to institutions such as schools.

The family now has two irreducible functions:

1)primary socialisation:equips children with norms and values to fit into society

2)Stabalisation of adult personalities-family is a place where adults can relax and release tensions so they can return to the workplace refreshed.

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-See capitalist society based on the conflict between two classes (ruling class/capitalist class/bourgeosie =own means of production) and (proleteriat/working class-exploited by the capitalist class)

-ALL institutions maintain inequality and capitalism

Functions of the family benefit capitalism

inheritance of property, ideological functions and unit of consumption (nuclear family)


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Inheritance of property

Capitalist class own means of production

-Marxists call the earliest classless society primitive communism where there was no private property and there was what ENGEL called tribes where there were no restrictions of sexual relations.

-As productions developed societies wealth increased and out came private property with a class of men who controlled the property. This brought about the NUCLEAR FAMILY as it was important for the inheritance of private property to be right. Men had to make sure the paternity of their children so the right children got it.

-Increase of nuclear family bought womens sexuality under mens control

-Marxits say women have to overthrow capitalism and private property. Classless society needs to be created where there will be no need for the nuclear family as they wont have to transmit private property to the next generation

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Ideological functions

-The family performs ideological functions for capitalism

-socialises children into accepting the hierarchy and inequality.

-Parental power over children gets them use to capitalist employers being in charge

ZARETSKY: says the family provides a haven from the exploitative world of capitalism where workers can be themselves

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Unit of consumption

The family is now a unit of consumption

-families help make profits for capitalism:

adverts persaude families  buy the latest products

-the media targets the children who use pester power to persaude parents to spend more

-children who dont have latest products-maybe stigmatised by peers

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criticisms for marxists

X-they assume the nuclear family is the dominant family type and ignores other family structures

X-feminists argue that the marxist emphasis on class inequalities ignores gender inequalities

X-functionalists say marxists ignore benefits of the family such as mutual support and intimacy

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-take a critical view of the family

-the family serves needs of men and oppresses women

4 types of feminism LMRD (limrad)





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1)Liberal feminism

-campaign for equal rights and opps for women e.g. equal pay act and discrimination in employment

-says womens oppression is being overcome by laws and attitudes

-believe there is gradual progress to gender equality

-hold a similar view to march of progress (young and willmott)

-don't believe full gender equality has been achieved, but there is gradual progress e.g. some studies show theres more equal division of labour and parents socialise children equally

X-other feminists say Liberal feminists fail to challenge underlying causes of womens oppression and laws and attitudes aren't enough to get equality

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2)Marxist feminist

-say main cause of womens oppression is capitalism

-women perform 3 functions for capitalism

1) reproduce labour force: they socialise next generation of workers

2)absorb anger: ANSLEY said women are the takers of **** -they soak fustration that husbands have due to exploitation

3)They are a reserve army of cheap labour-can be taken on when workers are needed and when no longer needed, employers can let them go so they can carry on unpaid domestic work

Marxist feminists say oppression is linked to exploitation of working class and family should be ABOLISHED

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3) Radical feminists

-society has been found on patriarchy

-fam and marriage are key institutions in a patriarchal society

-men benefit from womens sexual services and unpaid domestic work

-men dominate women through domestic violence or the threat of it

-family must be abolished- by SEPERATISM- women must organise themselves and live indepdently from men by political lesbianism , believe heterosexual relationships oppress women as you sleep with the enemy

X- SOMERVILLE (lib fem) says radical feminists fail to see that womens position has changed (control over fertility, can choose whether to marry or cohabit, ed/job opps)

X-SOMERVILLE says seperatism wont work, heterosexual attraction is hard to overcome and nuclear family wont disappear

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4) Difference feminism

-we cant generalise about womens experiences of the family

-hetero/homo/black/white/working class and middle class all women have different experiences of family life

-BLACK FEMINISTS: say white feminists ignore black women's experiences of racial oppression and say the family acts as a resistance to racism BUT other feminists say despite differences, women share some same experiences such as domestic violence/sexual assault and low pay.

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