Theories of the family - Functionalism


  • Functionalism is a structural or macro theory - it focuses on how the structure of society shapes individuals.

  • Argues that society is based on a value consensus- agreed norms and values which each individual in society is socialised into.

  • Organic analogy- Functionalists compare social institutions in society to organs within the body.  Each social institution performs its own function and without them the entire system would suffer.

  • MURDOCK - argues that the nuclear family is universal & suggests that the family as an institution performs four main functions:

  • Sexual function: Allowing the sex drive to be satisfied with one partner.
  • Economic function: Providing food and shelter for economic functions.

  • Reproductive function: Producing the next generation.

  • Socialisation function: Teaching children the norms and values of society.

  •  AO3- MURDOCK ignores that not all nuclear families perform these functions well e.g. socialisation not performed in cases in child abuse.
  • AO3 - Marxists would argue that the nuclear family only benefits the ruling


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