Roles of the family in contemporary society

  • Created by: Ella.99
  • Created on: 24-01-16 16:44

Text Box: INTROAll theories have diverse ideological images of what the role of the family is, or should be in the past present and future. Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Postmodernism all illustrate there different opinions through key sociological concepts.


most popular in the 1950’ when marriage rates were high and divorce rates were low

Ø  Untrue of contemporary society

Ø  Still applicable as the nuclear family is still the most popular structure.

1.       Murdock (1949) stated

·         Role of the family is to fulfil the following:

Ø  Reproduction of the next generation

Ø  Socialisation- during which instrumental and expressive roles are passed on.

§  Fem: argue that they are passing on a patriarchal ideology which oppresses women, criticising the positive outlook functionalists have of the role of the fam

Ø    Economic needs

Ø  Satisfying the husbands and wives (strictly male and female as it is describing a nuclear fam) sex drives.

·         Postmodernism perspective: not accounting for gay couples or allowing fam diversity. Less true of contemporary society as this is more common but homosexuality was not made legal until 1967- Murdock=out-dated.

2.       Talcott Parsons (1955)

·         Family is the main institution in the primary socialisation of children

Ø  Agrees with Murdock

Ø  Key norms and values are transmitted

Ø  Teaches children to interact and to communicate, allowing them to become aware of themselves as social beings and recognising they have a particular role in society

Ø  Overall, very positive.

·         Stabilisation of adult personalities

Ø  Playing with children brings out the childish side

Ø  Husband and wife comfort each other when husband has had a bad day, safety valve, parsons warm bath theory:

§  Func: see this as a positive aspect of family life as, in the short term husband is happier, stress alleviated.

§  Marx: agrees with warm bath theory but views it as very negative,  family are providing emotional support- protecting them from the harsh reality of a capital society (which we still have in contemporary society)


·         Text Box: MARXISMEngels, a historical sociologist also writing during in a capitalist society

Ø  Identified the family’s role as keeping the Bourgeoisie rich, acting as a support mechanism for capitalism.

Ø  Unlike functionalists Parsons and Murdock, Engels viewed nuclear fam critically as it:

§  Supplied replacement workers

§  Encouraged monogamy- meant that women have to stay faithful so that money is passed down and they are still being supported as they could not inherit themselves.

§  Exploits women through patriarchal system, Feminists would agree women are still exploited in contemporary society as the patriarchal…


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