Murdock's Theory of the Family



- Murdock studied over 250 different societies and found the family to be a universal feature.

- His focus was primarily on the nuclear family: a unit that consisted of a husband, a wife and their children was most common.

- The nuclear family existed in all societies that Murdock studied and performed clear functions for its members and wider society.

Key Functions of the Family

- Economic: 

  • The nuclear family fulfils the economic function through the man working and providing for his family.
  • Their basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter are earned through the labour of the man.
  • Women provided a more domestic role that met the economic needs, often doing unpaid labour at home.

- Sexual Regulation:

  • Sexual relationships between men and women within marriage are controlled and regulate sexual urges.


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