AQA AS Sociology Families and Households full revision notes

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Families and Households

Theories of the Family

Functionalism

  • Sees society based in a value consensus which enables cooperation and survival
  • Society is a system of sub-systems work together to contribute to the running of the whole system (family is one of these sub-systems)
  • The family is seen as essential in providing functions for the maintenance of society
  • Murdoch (1949) argued that the family is universal; the family performs 4 basic roles 
  1. stable satisfaction of the sex drive
  2. Reproduction of the next generation
  3. Primary socialisation of the young
  4. Economic stability for its members
  • Parsons (1959) 2 ‘basic and irreducible’ functions of the family
  1. Primary socialisation of children- internalising culture in individuals and structuring                     personality
  2. Stabilisation of adult personalities- adults gain the stability of emotional security, responsibility for children and a haven from the stresses of modern society
  • Over time, the functions of the family have been passed over to some specialist sectors such as health care and education. 
  • ‘Functional fit’, the isolated nuclear family is the most typical and suitable for modern society because;
  • It offers geographical and social mobility (more suited to industrial society)
  • status is mainly achieved not ascribed so isolation from kin allows different generations to have different social status, relationships between immediate family is warm and close. 
  • Sexual division of labour believed to be based on biological differences; 
  • Male role seen as ‘Instrumental’ (working and competing in the world as a breadwinner)
  • Female role is ‘expressive’, (caring, loving, and providing emotional support to family)
  • Criticisms
  • Nuclear family was common in pre-industrial society, because of short life expectancy and cottage industry
  • Early industrial society introduced the extended family as means of mutual support in times of hardship (Anderson)
  • Feminists say that the functionalist view of women is oppressive
  • Oakley (feminist) in other societies, the roles are changeable, the nuclear family produces problems and misery alongside the harmony
  • The extended family still exists in late modern society, but in different forms

Marxist Perspectives

  • The nature of the family depends on the economic circumstance- in modern society it serves the interest of capitalism
  • The family was not needed until accumulation of wealth and the need to defend it emerged (Engels)
  • The family provides new workers into the economy
  • The family serves to socialise workers into discipline with the ‘correct’ attitudes of obedience and acceptance of hierarchy (making them assets to the workforce)
  • The family acts as a haven from alienation and oppression at work, making it more bearable (Zaretsky)
  • Family responsibilities makes working necessary and reduces their bargaining power as people need jobs to support their family 
  • Family acts as a unit of consumption
  • Engels: evolutionary theory of human development
  • The rise of private property, an organised system of inheritance was necessary, as fathers needed to be sure that their property was going to their offspring not another man’s 
  • Monogamy arose  to serve the interests of inheritance, this bought women further into the privacy of the home and family under

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