• Created by: Cat
  • Created on: 07-05-17 19:52


  • Society is based on a set ofshared norms and values
  • Society allows individuals to cooperate harmoniously
  • Society is made up of parts that depend on each other 
  • Every society has functional pre-requisites (economic needs & based on a value consensus)
  • The family is seen as an important part of society
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Family performs 4 functions to meet the needs of society:
1) stable satisfaction of the sex drive
2) reproduction of the next generation
3) socialisation of the young 
4) meeting it's members' economic needs

  • nuclear family meet these needs


  • Marxists and feminists argue functionalisms neglects conflict and exploitation and reject the rose-tinted view
  • Some argue functions could be performed equally through other institutions and non-nuclear family structures

Feminists = see the family as serving the needs of men

Marxists = argue the family meets the needs of capitalism

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Functional fit theory:

  • The family alters to fit the kind of society it exists in
  • Functions it performs will depend on type of society in which it's found
  • Functions the family performs with affect it's shape/structure

Two types of family structure:

1) Nuclear family
2) Extended family 


  • Idealistic view of the family 
  • Ignores family diversity
  • Forgets children create their own personalities (social action approach) 
  • Parsons' view assumes the family works in isolation ignoring the role of other institutions in allowing primary socialisation to occur in the first place
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  • One correct family type = traditional/conventional nuclear family 
  • Family is cornerstone of society (place of refuge, contentment & harmony)
  • Wife should stay at home and look after children, caring for family should be first priority
  • Introduction of the welfare state led to a culture where people depend on hand outs from the state
  • New right thinking encouraged conservative government to launch back to basics campaign 1993 to encourage a return to traditional family values
  • Clear cut division of labour between homemaker and breadwinner
  • Decline of nuclear family and growth of family diversity are the cause of many social problems 
  • Opposed to high levels of taxation and government spending. Favour cutting welfare benefits or abolishing completely to reduce dependency culture and encourage conventional family.


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Lone parent families:

  • Unnatural & harmful to children 
  • Single mothers cant discipline children 
  • Burden on welfare state
  • Leave boys without an adult male role model


  • Essential basis for creating a stable environment to bring up children 
  • Cohabitation and divorce create instability as it's easier to avoid commitment and responsibility
  • Family breakdown increases risks to children 
  • Return to traditional values is necessary to prevent social disintegration and damage to children
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  • Exaggerate decline of the nuclear family
  • Feminists argue gender roles are socially determined 
  • Feminists argue divorce being easier is good 
  • Most single parents aren't welfare scroungers
  • Chester argues they exaggerate the extent of cohabiting and lone parent families
  • Commitment protects against family breakdown not marriage 
  • Feminist Anne Oakley argues they wrongly assume roles are determined by biology
  • Femenists argue traditional nuclear family is based on patriarchal opression of women and causes inequality
  • Little/no evidence that lone parent families are part of dependency culture 
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Two key characteristics:

1) Diversity and fragmentation
Society has a broad diversity of subcultures rather than one shared culture. People create their identity from a wide range of choices 

2) Rapid social change
New technology has transformed our lives by dissolving barriers of time and space.

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Society is based on an unequal conflict between two social classes:

1) Capitalist class
2) Working class 

  • All societys institutions help maintain class inequality and capitalism 
  • Functions of family are performed for benefit of of the capitalist system 
  • As mode of production evolves so does the family 
  • Marx called earliest, classless society 'primitive communism' 
  • Society is based on ruling class ideology


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  • Outdated, died 1883, nature of family may have changed
  • Too simplistic as he ignores middle class
  • Ignore gender and female opression
  • Most people see family life life as positive not as opressive
  • Functionalists see harmony in society and marxists see conflict/exploitation so it's evident that their interpretations and the relationship between the family and social structure should be critically considered in the light of this idea
  • Ignore other family types
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