Sociological perspectives on family - AS and A2 theory 33 mark question



Family is one of the main institutions of society and helps contribute to the stabilty, due to shared norms and values, through primary socialisition. Family serves a function to society. Theory based on society as a whole, not just individuals.


Sample of 250 societies. Researched nuclear families- 2 parents and children, based on reproduction, economic co-operation and common residence.  He concludes that the nuclear family is a "universal social grouping".

The nuclear family has 4 functions-

Sexual- regualates sexual behaviour to a sociailly accetable manner and encourages monogamy.

Reproductive-ensures children are born to a couple who are resposoible to care for them. encourages people that reprduction is an important function of the family and life.

Economic-  allows parents to care for children e.g. food clothing home safety.

Education- primary socialistion of consensus norms and values and skills to help integreate them into society and make society stable and secure.


Family has become more specialised and shed some of its earlier functions e.g. the education system does this instead.

Family has 2 functions according to Parsons-

Primary socialistion of children

The stabilisation of adult personalities as the family is a safety valve/net as it helps members to cope with stressess and strains of modern living. safe haven.

He also belived in role allocation. Family is effiecent stable and benefical when there was a divison of labour between the male and female roles. They should play their "natural" roles which compliment eachother. the male is the instrumental role, the breadwinner who earns money to help family survive. The female is the expressive role who cares and nurtures for children and husband and does housework to look after the home. Stick to these = stability in family and thus society.


Shows the importance of family to society and its positive benefits

Shows how family links to the ecconomy.

Fails to recognise alternative family forms such as single parent families.

Based on white middle class, not a true representation of a diverse society.Sees divison of labour as natrual rather than something learnded through socialisation

Ignores negative effects of family such as domestic abuse and oppression of women feminism

New Right

Conservative view - political


There are negative effects of the break down of the traditional nuclear family. Rising rates of cohabitation divorce and single parenthood causes instability.

Beneift dependancy (culture of dependency) where people rely on benefits rather than working for themselves and their children. Thatcher calls this the intervention of the "nanny state

Murray created the underclass who are "people at the margins of society, unsocialised and often violent" families in the underclass have deviant attitudes towards parenting work and crime.


Draws attention to the negative side of family breakdown for individuals and society.

Fails to recognise other factors for family breakdowns e.g. unemployment, domestic violence, racisim, poor housing or low wages

Political rather than sociological view

Sees all changes and all other family types as negative,