Functions of the family

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  • Created by: Lottie
  • Created on: 27-04-14 13:12



  • Defines the family: 'family is a social group characterised by common residence, economic and reprdocution. It contains adults of both sexes and 1 or more kids'
  • It performs 4 functions:

Stabilisation of the sex drive, Reproduction of the next generationSocialisation of the young and meeting economic needs.

  • Criticsed: These functions can be performed by other insitutions., Feminists: family serves men not women, Marxists: meets capitalism needs not family members
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  • Functions performed by the family depend on the society. e.g: Extended fitted pre-industrial society but nucelar family = industrial. Industrial sociey has 2 needs: geographically mobile workforce and socially mobile workforce.
  • The nucelar family lost its functions to the workplace, schools etc
  • Modern nucealr family specialised in performing 2 functions fo rthe family: primary socialisation and stabilisation of adult personalities. 
  • Criticsed: Y+W: pre industrail society = nuclear not extended - supported by Laslett: who used census records
  • Y+W and Anderson: Extended family best fits needs of industrial society and so the family become extended and exists today due ot its functions it performs. 
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  • See capitalist society as based on unequal conflict between 2 classes; working and ruling. 
  • All off societies institutions inc. the family, help maintain class inequality and capitalism.
  • Functions of the family are performed for benefit of capitalist society:
  • 1) Inheritance of property - Engles
  • 2) Ideological functions - Zaretsky (teaching kids basic rules for home and future work)
  • 3) Unit of consumption (pester power)

  • Criticism: Marixsts assume the nuclear family is dominant and ignores the other functions HOWEVER functionalists: argue they ignore the benefits of the family. Feminists argues they ignore importance of gender
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Feminism - overview


  • Family oppres the womrn e.g: unequal D.O.L.
  • Gender inequality is not natural but made by society - criticsed by Parsons: its natural

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Feminism - liberal

Feminism - Liberal:

  • We are moving towards greater equality
  • Attitudes and socialisation have lead to changes in laws etc e.g: gender inequality.
  • This laws is making the family more equal

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Feminism - Marxists

Feminism - Marxists:

  • Capitalism is the main cause of women's oppression in the family.
  • Family performs functions for capitalism:
  • 1) Reproduces labour force (women socialise next working generation)
    2) Absorbing men's anger (wives soak husbands anger from the exploiation from work)
  • 3) Reserve army of cheap labour (When they are no longer needed they carry on domestic role)
  • To make the family equal we must overthrow capitalism and need a classless society. 
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Feminism - Radical

Feminism - Radical

  • Men are the enemy, family and marriage are the key institution's in a patriarchal society.
  • Family = main cause of oppression e.g: Divison of labour
  • Women need to live seperatly from men to gain equality = Greer - women should become political lesbians
  • Criticsed: Sommerville: ignore ethnic and class inequalities. Liberal feminists: they ignore the progress of the family so far
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Feminism - Difference

Feminism - Difference:

  • Women have different experiences of the family so we can't generalise for exmaple
  • White vs Black
  • Middle Class vs Working Class
  • Gay vs Straight
  • They criticse all feminists
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New Right

New Right:

  • Conserative view of the family.
  • Family is based on:
  • 1) Biological D.O.V (family has a D.O.V between male breadwinner and female homemaker. Nucelar family with segregated conjual roles = best place to socialise kids)
  • 2) Families need to be self-reliant (Relying on state welfare creates a dependency culture which undermines gender roles)
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