Families and Households: Perspectives

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 31-03-18 17:21

Hiya! I am currently putting together a complete set of notes for the module. It is not complete at the moment, but if you'd like a copy feel free to message me :)

These notes are to aid your revision, I would strongly advise doing past exam questions also.

Best of luck in your exams, Char **

Families and Households

Perspectives on the Family:

Functionalism

Murdock (1949) – The Four Essential Functions of the Nuclear Family

  • Studied 250 different societies and concluded that the monogamous, heterosexual nuclear family was universal.
  • Due to the fact that it performed four essential functions for society.

1. Stable satisfaction of the sex drive – monogamous heterosexual relationships prevented jealousy and everyone’s sexual needs could be satisfied as a sexual free-for-all would cause havoc and conflict.

2. Reproduction of the next generation – biological reproduction allows new children to be born so that life can continue.

3. Socialisation of the young – the family are a child’s first experience of the world and so they learn the norms and values of society from them (Primary Socialisation).

4. Meeting members economic needs – the family is an economic unit and it is cheaper for parents to live together with children to provide things such as food and shelter.

  • Evaluations:
    • The nuclear family is not universal – the Nayar people of India practise polyandry where women have up to 12 husbands at any one given time and there is no jealousy and they own private property, not their husbands.
    • The extended family (especially grandparents) play a critical role in performing many of the four functions.
    • In today’s society, families no longer have to meet economic needs due to support available from the welfare state.

Parson (1955) – Functional Fit Theory

  • A historical perspective on the evolution of the nuclear family.
  •  As society changes, so does the type of family that ‘fits’ society, and the functions it performs.
  • Over the past 200 years we have moved from a pre-industrial to an industrial society and so the nuclear family has emerged from the extended family as a result.
  • The nuclear family fits the more complex industrial society better, however performs reduced functions.
    • Before the industrial era, over 80% of people were involved in agriculture, there was no welfare state and the family were entirely dependent on each other and between them were responsible for education, food, healthcare and work which required a lot of members and so the extended family was a better fit for society.
    • In industrial society, less that 1% of people were involved in agriculture. Factories and offices require a mobile workforce and the extended family broke up in to the nuclear family as it is hard for everyone to move to where there is work available. There was less need for an extended family as some functions that it would have originally performed were taken care of by the state.
  • Evaluations:
    • Laslett points out that church records show only 10% of households contained extended kin…

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