Functionalism and the Family 2a

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  • Society is more important than the individuals who comprise it.
  • Social institutions (education, media, law, family, religion) shape individuals.
  • If a social institution exists it must have a function.
  • Consensus theory - value consensus (shared values and norms) - social order.


  • Cornerstone of society - dominant role amongst other institutions.
  • Extremely functional, beneficial and necesary for smooth running of society.

GP Murdock

  • Nuclear family is universal - 4 basic functions.
  • Reproductive - survival of society, procreation usually occurs within a marital context.
  • Sexual - unregulated sexual behaviour can be potentially socially disruptive. Marital sex creates an emotional bond and encourages fidelity and commitment to family life.
  • Economic - parents provide children with things vital for sustaining life and take economic responsibility for their welfare. Benefits society because of division of labour.
  • Educational - children learn social values and norms via primary socialisation from parents to be conformist citizens.

Evaluating Murdock

  • Fails to acknowledge that families are the product of culture not biology and so family roles and relationships will


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