AQA AS Sociology Unit 1 Families and Households Revision

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A consensus theory that views the family as a key factor in a functioning society.


Functions of the Family – 4 Functions The family performs 4 functions within a society:

Socialisation/Education of the Young – Teaching children skills and knowledge before they start school.

Economic The family clothes and feeds the children to meet their needs.

Reproduction of the Next Generation The family produces the next generation to keep society going.

Stable Satisfaction of the Sex Drive Teaching what is appropriate and when.

This is criticised by Feminists as Murdock assumes it is a patriarchal nuclear family that oppresses women. Murdock is also criticised for having a “rose-tinted” view, ignoring family diversity and assuming other societies could not perform these functions as effectively.


Industrialisation – Functional Fit Theory Family type moved from extended to nuclear as this allowed it to be geographically mobile and so able to move to where work was available. This created a division of labour; the expressive role and the instrumental role. Laslett and Anderson (Anthropologists) used censuses to determine that the extended family has in fact become more popular post-industrialisation and it was the nuclear family that allowed industrialisation to happen.

Functions of the Family – 2 Irreducible Functions and the Warm Bath Theory The family has lost many functions in a modern society but still maintains 2 ‘irreducible functions’:

Primary Socialisation of Children Teaching the young what is morally right and wrong.

 Stabilisation of Adult Personalities – The family creates a relaxing environment for the male worker so they can continue to contribute to the economy.

This is done through the Warm Bath Theory which suggests the family acts as a valve to release the tension the male worker will have built up; allowing them to return to work the next day, refreshed and willing to contribute to the economy. Zaretsky (Marxist) suggests that actually, the Warm Bath Theory shields the male worker from the harsh reality and oppression of capitalism. Feminists would also disagree as it assumes the breadwinner is always the male.

Wilmott and Young:

Family Diversity – The Symmetrical Family – They used questionnaires and determined that the division of labour between man and wife has become equal; both the men and women will do housework and make decisions about how to ‘run’ the family. Oakley (Radical Feminist) believes this methodology is inadequate as the questions allow for a false representation; what one classes as housework the other may not.


A conflict theory that views the (nuclear) family as a means of maintaining capitalism.


Functions of the Family – Sustaining the Bourgeouisie Families help keep the bourgeoisie (the ruling minority) rich and the proletariat (working majority) poor as property and money can be passed on through inheritance. This then serves the needs of and benefits capitalism.


Functions of the Family – The Warm Bath Theory The family acts a safety valve that helps



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