Functionalist Theory of the Family
Focus: The positive contributions of institutions like the family to society.
Important theorists: George Peter Murdock and Talcott Parsons
Murdock - Functions of the Family (1949):
- to possess common residence.
- to co-operate economically.
- to reproduce.
- to include adults of both sexes; at least two of whom maintaining socially approved sexual relationship.
- to include one or more child(ren), own or adopted, of sexually cohabiting adults.
Murdock - The Nuclear Family
- universal (researched 250 societies, finding this system in each one).
- regulates sexual behaviour.
- encourages economic co-operation.
- educational (socialises children into key norms and values of behaviour).
Criticisms of Murdock's Arguments
- ignores the fact some people are unfaithful (have affairs).
- ignores existence of other family types (e.g. lone parent units, cohabitation etc.)
- does not consider homosexual relationships.
- society has changed since Murdock's publication.
- narrow definition (excludes alot of things usually considered families).
- findings of cross-cultural studies of living arrangements conducted by other sociologists do not fit in with Murdock's definitions.
- coming from a Westernised viewpoint; biased? [as suggested by Ann Oakley].