Functions of the family

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Murdock argues that the family performs on 4 basic functions to meet society's needs:

  • Stable Sex Drive
  • Reproduction of the next generation
  • Sociolising of the young
  • Meeting its member's needs

Murdock accepts that there are other agencies which could perform these functions. However, he says these functions are universal due to the sheer practicality of the nuclear family. Feminists criticise saying that the family only serves the needs of men and oppress women and Marxists argue that it meets the needs of captalism, not those of a society as a whole.

Parsons came up with the 'functional fit' theory where there are two types of family - nuclear and extended and the types of family adjust to meet the economic needs of our society. For example, before the industrial reveloution, there was a need for the extended family because the main industry was farmining and many workers were needed. But when the industrial reveloution came, the extended family sent some other their memebers to the cities and gradually the extended families gave way to the nuclear. Parsons sees the industrial society as having two essential  needs:

  • A geographically mobile workforce - this is where the family needs to move geographically to where the job is. The industrial society can spring up or decline anywhere and its esstential the family can adjust to moving where the workers are needed. He argues this is easier for the compact nuclear family with just dependent children.
  • A socially mobile workforce - Today, status is achieved through hard work (meritocracy) and this is the only way you will get promotions. This is more adapted again to nuclear family because the extended family will only create tensions if the son does better than the father when it comes to work. The nuclear family as a result


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