Theories on the family

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  • The family is harmonious - based on consensus. 
  • Supports wider society.

PARSONS - The family has two main functions.

1. The primary socialisation of children - parents teach children norms/values of society

2. The stabilisation of adult personalilties - family becomes a haven from a heartless society

PARSONS - Believed in the sexual division of labour, should be traditional gender roles.

  • Expressive needs - women - emotional needs of society - nurturing natural for women.
  • Instrumental needs - men - patriarchal needs of society

Also known as the 'warm bath' theory.

MURDOCK - The family has four main functions.

  • Sexual, Economic, Educational, Reproductive.
  • No alternative could be an adequate substitute for the nuclear family.
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  • The bourgeoisie control the proletariat - critical of the system.
  • The family is based on conflict, and reproduces the capitalist system.

ENGELS - Nuclear family developed in capitalist society in response to the development of private property and the need for men to pass on their property to their own oddspring.

  • The main function of the family is therefore the reproduction of the capitalist system.

BENSTON - Women reproduce capitalism; their unpaid domestic labour is invaluable to capitalism.

ALTHUSSER - The family is part of an ideological state apparatus; i.e. an institution that supports capitalism and helps prevent rebellion against the existing status quo.

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LEACH The family is the source of all our discontents. The nuclear family is the cereal packet image of a family and is socially constructed.   

  • The family is a strong, inward looking unit, which narrows and restricts individual expression and builds up barriers against the world outside.
  • The family is too intimate, to the point of suffocation.
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The New Right

MURRAY - The family is the cornerstone of society and the nuclear family is normal

  • Concerned there has been a decline in morality in society and that the family is breaking down and the family no longer performs its functions properly, meaning it fails to support adequate socialisation. 
  • This is leading to underachievement in schools and anti-social behaviour.

Welfare benefits create dependency

REDWOOD - The natural state is to have two parents; one male and one female.

DENNIS AND ERDOS - Boys are damaged by a lack of father figure.

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OAKLEY (Liberal Feminist) - The family transmits gender roles through Verbal Appelation, Canalisation and Manipulation.

BENSTON (Marxist Feminist) - Women reproduce capitalism through unpaid domestic labour, which is invaluable to capitalism.

WESTWOOD - The matrifocal family.

LEONARD (Radical Feminst) - The family is patriarchal - women make the main contributions to family life and men receive the main benefits both physically and emotionally.

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Post Modernism

STACEY + ALLAN AND CROW - The family no longer goes through a series of stages and there is no dominant type of family in the contemporary UK.

PAKULSKI ET AL - People are free to choose the type of family they want, thus leading to DIVERSITY.

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