The Family


The family is constantly changing, there is no real definition.

George peter Murdock(1949)

* Studied over 260 societies.

* “it’s a relationship between a man and a woman who reproduce and bring their family up in the same economy and socialism”

* Nuclear family and its universal.

* Meets the needs of society

“Cereal packet family”-Leach

HideShow resource information

Felicity Edholm

* Family is not universal –there are different families.

* Families are not biologically driven but socially constructed.

E.g. Lakker tribe in Burma-The mother is just a container, incest is acceptable.

E.g. westernised society –different types of family not just nuclear-single parents?

1 of 5

Functionalist Theories

· Family is viewed positively, good for family members and society.


· The modern nuclear family offers primary socialisation of children in which they learn the values of society.

* Sexual function –provides and satisfies the sex drive

* Reproductive functions-(not necessarily now, sex out of marriage)

* Economic function – provides food and shelter. (not necessarily now, unemployed, money of goverment)

2 of 5

Talcott Parsons-USA 1950’s studied middle class families.

· He said functions have been altered due to government , education ect...

· Society is being taken over and replaced of its functions e.g. natural cures-medicines and drugs.

· Two functions can never be replaced-IRREDUCABLE!

* Stabilisation of adult personalities-emotional support.

* Primary socialisation of children- getting dressed, potty trained.

“Warm bath theory”- emotional support-mother supports working husband.

3 of 5

New Right Theories

Conservative party-traditional-Don’t like change.

· They condemn homosexuals

· Support nuclear family

· Support Murdock and parsons.

· Spend little money on families to keep rich rich and poor poor.

· The husband is the breadwinner the wife is the home keeper.

The family unit has changed radically.

· We moved from farming-agriculture to mass consumption of industry.

Male and female = two different role models.

SUPPORT MURDOCK on “family ideology”

· Encourage people to get married

· Make it hard for divorce

· Lower tax for married couples

· Cut welfare benefits for single parents.

· The conservatives would expect parents to provide.

Fact: over 80% or single parents are women in Britain.


· Lone parent families

· Fatherless families

· Divorce rates

· Cohabitation- living together outside of marriage.

· Homosexual-Gay and lesbian couples.

-they claim these are leading to the end of the nuclear family.

v The diversity of the family is causing the break down in traditional values.

Fact : 2009- lowest marriage rate

4 of 5

Criticism of new right

· You can’t blame all single mothers- widowed

· Value judgement- judging all families out of the nuclear family

· go back to golden age-Victorian times’-there never was a golden age there has always been problems e.g. Crime.

5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Families and households resources »