Functionalist Perspective of Family

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What Is The Ideal Structure Of Family According To Functionalists?

  • They see the nuclear family structure as the most functional for the needs of individuals and society. 
  • George Murdock argues: "No society has succeeded in finding an adequate substitute for the nuclear family to which it might transfer its functions."
  • Other functionalists are more cautious in embracing the notion of the universality of the nuclear family. 
  • Goode argues that the nuclear family should be seen as an ideal type and that not all families can be reduced to this structure. 
  • Parsons argues that the structure of the family adapts to the needs of society - particularly the economy. He argues that whereas the extended family was typical in pre-industrial society, the isolated nuclear family has become dominant in industrial society. He sees such a nuclear family as 'best fitting' the needs of individuals and the industrial economy. 
  • Parsons draws a distinction between the public world of work and the private sphere of the family. 
  • The positive embracing of this public/private split is a key theme in the functionalist approach to the family. 
  • Lasch goes as far as saying that "the private world of the family is a haven in a heartless world."

What Are The Ideal Roles Within The Family According To Functionalists?

  •  A key assumption within functionalism is that there is a biological imperative for differences between men

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