Functions of the family in society - print


George Peter Murdock (Functionalist):

  • Studied 250 societies and concluded that some form of family exists in every society - families are universal.
  • Murdock claimed that the reason for this universality was that certain basic jobs are essential in ensuring human survival and that the nuclear family was the most sensible living arrangement.

The nuclear family ensured these functions were addressed:

Sexual -  defining who people can/cant have sex with.

Reproductive -  ensure that there will always be a next generation.

Economic -  provide food and shelter.

Educational -  primary socialization of the next generation.

Talcott Parsons (Functionalist):

  • Analysed the functions that the family performed in industrial society.
  • Contended that other institutions developed to pick up some tasks originally performed by families.

The new specialised family now has two specific functions to fulfil:

Primary socialization of the next generation - 

  • Teaching babies how to be members of society and behave in socially acceptable ways.
  • Claimed that this value consensus (a set of values and behavioural patterns that people must be taught and must follow), which is reinforced by other state institutions, is the glue that binds members of society together in social cohension (willingness of members of a society to cooperate with each other in order to survive).

Stabilization of adult personalities -  

  • Adults get fulfilment from caring for their children and also the family home is a place of sanctuary.
  • Warm bath theory. The idea that when a man came home from a hard day at work, he could relax into is family (a feeling of comfort and security) like a warm bath and it would take away the stress and refresh him for the next day's work. 

Eli Zaretsky (Marxist):

  • Argued that the nuclear family was essential for the survival of capitalism.



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