Families and Household - Theories on the family

AS Sociology – Families & household – Topic 3 – Theories on the family

By Rhaee Torres

Functionalism and the family

  • Society acts as a human body

  • If an institution in society isn’t functioning properly, the whole system breaks down (ORGANIC ANALOGY)

    • System of independent parts are held together by a shared culture or value consensus

MURDOCH

“The family is a social group characterised by a common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults” -1949

  • Family is a primary agency of socialisation

  • These functions are not being performed – Sociologists could argue that it is still a family

4 functions the family perform according to Murdoch (1949)

  1. Stable satisfaction of the sex drive – the same partner, prevents social disruption cause by a sexual ‘free for all’

    • Avoids conflict

  2. Reproduction of the next generation – reproducing allows society to continue

  3. Socialisation of the young – teaches children the norms and values of society

  4. Meeting its members’ economic needs – providing money, food and shelter

MURDOCH’S CRITICISMS

  • Other institutions such as charities can perform some of the functions

    • Government, welfare, benefits

  • His focus is in the nuclear family. Other families are just as able to meet these needs

    • Adopt, education

  • Functionalism is a consensus theory, it views the family as meeting the needs of the individual and wider society and so neglects conflict and exploitation

    • Abuse, financial hardship

PARSONS (1955)

‘FUNCTIONAL FIT’ THEORY

Functions that the family performs will depend the kind of society in which it is found. The functions that the family performs will affect its shape.

  • Functions of the family depend on society in which it is found.

  • Functions performs are impacted on the shape or the structure of the family

  • Distinguishes between nuclear family and extended family’

 

KW - Nuclear Family: Two-generation family of both man and woman with their dependent child, own or adopted.

KW - The Extended Family: People related by blood, marriage or adoption extended beyond the nuclear family e.g. aunts, uncles, cousins etc.

Parsons argument:

  • The particular structure and functions of a given type of family will ‘fit’ the needs of the society.

  • Parsons argues the nuclear family fits the needs of industrial society and is the dominant family type in that society, while extended family fits the needs of pre-industrial society.

  • There are two basic types of society in which it is found;

    • Traditional pre-industrial society – (agriculture, farming, manual labour) Children learnt how to milk cows, churn butter, and tend to farm animals. Generation after generation, rural families relied on told that had changed little over the centuries.

    • Modern industrial society (factories) the post revolution.

  1. The extended family gave way to the nuclear family. The emerging industrial society had different needs from the pre-industrial society.

    • The family had to adapt to meet the needs. Parsons see’s the industrial society as

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