Functions/roles.purpose of the family

Learning table 3

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  • Created by: lucyball
  • Created on: 09-04-14 18:31


Functionalists see the family in a positive way (especially nuclear), performing vital fuctions/roles for individuals and society as a whole.

Murdock- nuclear family is universal and ideally suited to performing the following functions:

  • Stable satisfaction of sex drive- sexual needs are satisified with the stability of the same partner
  • Reproduction- families produce future generations of children
  • Primary socialisation of children- transmiting shared norms and values to children
  • Economic needs- families provide for tge material well-being of members e.g. food and shelter

AO2 :( Ignores the neagtive aspects of the family life e.g. abuse

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Parsons Current functions of the family

  • Unit of consumption- feeding and clothing family members
  • Primary socialisation of children- Integrating children into socities shared norms and values
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities- offers emotional support for adults e.g. relaxing environments to unwind from the tensions of work

The rise of the nuclear family shift from the extended family to nuclear at the end of industrilisation

  • Provided opportunities for geographical mobility- nuclear fmailies function to allow for easy movement around the country when looking for jobs
  • Provided opportunities for social mobility- (achieved status) nuclear families function to allow for social mobility without potential family conflict.

Loss of functions modern nuclear lost some functions (below) but obtained new ones (above):

  • Unit of production- most families go to a workplace for their employment
  • Welfare needs- now catered for by institutions such as schools and professional healthcare
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Evaluation of parsons theory

AO2:( nuclear families were common in pre-industrial society- young and willmott found the nuclear family was the norm

:( Extended family has not disappered in modern society

:( Extended family was strengthed by industrialisation- young and willmott claim the hardship of early industrilisation gave rise to mum centered working class extended families e.g. helping with orphans due to high death rates.

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Maxists see the family epecially the nuclear family in negative terms and believe the functions/oles of the family benefit a ruling minority to maintain class inequality and capitalism.

Inheratince of property - capitalism gave rise to the patricarchal monogamous nuclear family- functioned to provide ruling class menlegitimate heirs to pass their private property on to. For marxists patriarchal control will only end with the creation of a communist society as there will then beno need to pass wealth on to fure generations.

Ideological functions- Family is seen as part of the superstructure which transmits rulig clas ideologies .This justifies inequality and maintains a state of false class consiousness.Marxists claim that children elarn to accept hierarchy and inequality though the family. Children come to accept unequal power through parental dominance and therefore accept hierarchy in the workplace.

Unit of consumption- Families act as an important market for the sale of consumer goods. They thus play a major role in genraing profitsfor capatilist busineses. Families feel they have to buy up to date prodcts to keep up with the ver changing society.

AO2 :( marxists ignore the positive functions of the family Fuctionalists would stress the vital functions the family performs.

Marxists focus too much on class based issues- feminists would argue they do not focus enough on gender inequality issues.

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Feminists see the family especially the nuclear family in negative terms as it oppresses women and fucntions to serve the interest of men.

Liberal feminists Gender relations are becoming more equal. Men are doing some domestic labour and some people chose to socialise their children equally (similiar aspirations). They believe futher equality can be gained by futher change in attitudes and socialisation of both sexes. More family friendly social policies should be made e.g. flexible working hours.

AO2 :( ignores the underlying cause of womens oppression - Marxists and radical feminists would argue deeper social changes are needed to end inequality between the sexes.

Radical feminism main source of womens oppression in the fmaily is patriarchy. The family is an expoliative institution which benefits men. Men benefit from womens unpaid domestic labour. They believe women can only be 'free' by abolshing men and living independently from the family.

AO2 :( Ignores recent equality breakthroughs- better acces to divorce/job opportunities

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Marxist feminists Maintain that the main source of womens oppression in the family is capitalism rather than men. Womens oppression is said to preform vital functions in supporting capitalism.

  • Women reproduce the labour force- through unpaid domestic labour, maintaing the current workforce and socialising the next generation of workforce
  • Women absorb anger that may otherwise be directed at capitalism Ansley sees domestic violence as a result of mens expolitation and alienation in the workplace.
  • Women act as a 'reserve army' of cheap labour- can be emloyed flexibly by capitalists

Marxists feminists believe equality can only be achieved by abolishing the family and creating a communist society

AO2 :( ignores the positive aspects of family life- many women enjoy/chose to look after a home and bring up children

Difference feminism-  Womens experience of family life differs according to: social class, age, ethinicity and sexual orientation of partners. Black feminists see the black family as better as it serves as a form of support and resistance to racism in society

AO2 :( Ignores the shared inequality and risks many women experience e.g. low pay and domestic violence that affects many women regardless of social class/ethnicity etc.

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Evaluation- futher weaknesses

Evaluation futher weaknesses

:( Functionalists/ Marxits/ Feminists assume that the nuclear fmaily is the dominant type and ignore family diversity

:( Functionalists/ Marxits/ Feminists approach focus on the social structure to neglect human action. Postmodernists would argue that family members have choice in family life and relationships.

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