Sociology theories of the family

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What do functionalists think society is based on?
A shared set of norms and values (a value consensus).
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What do functionalists regard society as?
A system made of different parts that depend on each other and perform functions vital to society's needs.
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What does Murdock believe helps meets the needs of society and its members?
Four functions that the family perform. Stable satisfaction of the sex drive (prevents diseases being spread), reproduction for the next generation, socialization of the young (into society's norms and values) and meeting its members economic needs.
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Criticisms of Murdock
Some sociologists would doubt that most of these are important functions and can be performed equally well by other institutions/different family types. Feminists and Marxists argue that functionalism neglects conflict and exploitation.
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What do feminists see families as doing?
Serving the needs of men and oppressing women.
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What do Marxists see families as?
Meeting the needs of capitalism and not members of the family or society as a whole.
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What is Parsons functional fit theory?
The idea that the particular structure (e.g extended family) and functions of a family type will 'fit' the needs of society in which it lives in. For example, when Britain began to industrialize families became nuclear to meet the different needs.
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What does Parsons see as the two essential needs the industrial society has?
A geographically mobile workforce as industries split up and required people to move to where jobs are which is easier with a nuclear family. And a socially mobile workforce, where a skilled and competent workforce is needed. Status creates tensions.
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Evidence against parsons.
Young and Willmott argue the pre-industrial family was nuclear, not extended as he claims. With parents and children working together.
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What does Parson argue happens to functions when society industrializes?
It loses many of its functions and as a result specializes in two essential functions- the primary socialization of children and the stabilization of adult personalities (the family becomes a place where adults can relax and release tensions).
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Marxists see society as an unequal conflict between which two social classes?
Capitalists- who own the means of production.
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Marxists see society as an unequal conflict between which two social classes?
Capitalists- who own the means of production. The working class- whose work the capitalists exploit for profit.
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What is one function that Marxists see the family is performing which benefits capitalism?
Inheritance of property. They argue that the key factor which shapes all social institutions is the mode of production which is who owns and controls society's productive forces, laws and labour. So in modern society it is the capitalist class.
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What is primitive communism?
The Marxist term for the earliest classless society where all members of society owned the means of production together.
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Describe how private property came about.
A group of men were able to secure control of the means of production. This brought in the nuclear/monogamous family because men has to be sure of the paternity of their children in order to ensure their legitimate heirs inherited from them.
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What is Engels view on private property?
That the rise of the monogamous nuclear family brought woman's sexuality under male control and turned her into an 'object for the production of children'.
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What do Marxists see as a solution to having a non-patriarchal society?
Having a classless society because hen there will be no need to pass on private property down the generations.
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Name a second function the family performs that benefits capitalism in Marxists eyes?
Marxists argue that a set of ideas or believes justify inequality and maintain the capitalist system by accepting it as natural. One way in which the family does this is by socializing children into the idea that hierarchy is inevitable.
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Name a third function that the family performs which benefits capitalists.
A unit of consumption. The family plays an important role in generating profits for capitalists, for example children who lack the 'latest' clothes or must have gadgets are mocked.
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Name three criticisms of the Marxist perspective of the family.
Marxists tend to assume the nuclear family is dominant. Functionalists ignore the benefits the family provides for its members. Feminists argue that the emphasis on capitalism underestimates the importance of gender inequalities in the family.
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What is the liberal feminist approach to family?
They hold a very similar view to the march of progress. Although liberal feminists do not believe gender equality has been achieved they believe there has been progress through peoples attitudes and change in laws. E.g men doing more domestic labor.
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What is the liberal feminist solution to patriarchy in families?
Campaigning against sex discrimination and for equal pay & opportunity rights for women.
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Describe the criticisms to liberal feminists when it comes to their approach on the family.
Fails to challenge the underlying causes of womens oppression and for believing that changes in law will be enough to bring equality.
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What is the Marxist feminist approach to the family?
They believe women's oppression performs three functions for capitalists. Women reproduce the labor force, women are a reserve army of labor and women absorb anger. Ansley- describes wives as takers of **** who soak up frustration from their husbands
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What do Marxists feminists see as a solution?
The family must be abolished at the same time as capitalism is replaced with a classless society.
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What is the radical feminist approach to the family?
They argue men are the enemy and the reason for women's oppression and exploitation and that family and marriage are the key institutions in patriarchal society as men benefit from women's unpaid domestic labor and sex.
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What is the radical feminist solution to the family?
They think family has to be abolished through separatism (women living independently off men) or political lesbianism.
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What are criticisms of the radical feminist approach?
Somerville- states that radical feminists fail to recognize that women's position has improved considerably (examples) and that heterosexual attraction makes it unlikely that separatism will work.
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What is a difference feminist approach to family?
Difference feminists argue we cannot generalize about womens' experiences as all different kinds of ethnicity, class and religion have different experiences. E.g black feminists view the black family positively as a source of support against racism.
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What are criticisms of difference feminism regarding their approach to family?
Other feminists argue that difference feminism neglects the fact that all women share many of the same experiences for example they all face a risk of domestic violence or low pay etc.
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What do the personal life perspective think that all theories suffer from in terms of their approaches?
They tend to assume that the traditional nuclear family is the dominant family type. They are all structural theories. That is they assume that families and their members are simply puppets manipulated by society to perform functions, with no choice.
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What is a structural theory?
Sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to provide stability and unity.
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What do personal life perspective argue we have to do in order to understand the family?
Focus on the meanings its members give their relationships and situations rather than the family's supposed functions.
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How does the personal life perspective contrast with other theories on the topic?
Functionalism, feminism and marxism all take a top down approach. Plp share a bottom up approach of interactionism.
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What is a top down approach?
The researcher looks for patterns in behaviour not looking at individuals, looks at society as a whole. It is favored by positivists.
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What is the personal life perspective on blood ties and marriage?
They argue that relationships are not just based on blood or marriage ties. E.g a woman may not be close to her sister therefore will be unwilling to help her in a crisis but willing to help a friend. Without knowing the meaning we would not know.
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What are other personal/intimate relationships that may be important to people but not defined as family but significant from a PLP perspective?
Relationships with friends (may be like a brother to you), fictive kin (close friends who are treated as relatives e.g your mums best friend who you call auntie), gay/lesbian chosen families, relationships with dead relatives/pets.
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What did Smart research on donor-concieved children?
She explored what counts as family when your child shares a genetic link with a relative stranger but not with you partner.
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What are the issues raised when thinking about donor-concieved children and their relationships? 1
Some parents emphasised the importance of social relationships over genetic ones in forming family bonds e.g a mum defined what a mum is in terms of the time/effort you put into raising your son/daughter.
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What are the issues raised when thinking about donor concieved children and their relationships? 2
Difficult feelings could come up for a non-genetic parent if someone says their child does not look like them. Parents may wonder about the child's identity or donor siblings. If couples knew the donor, they have to resolve questions on who's family.
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What issues may lesbian couples face when it comes to relationships?
Concerns about equality between genetic ad non-genetic mothers and that the donor may be treated as a second parent.
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Describe the evaluation of Personal Life Perspective.
Critics argue they take too broad a view and that they ignore what is special about relationships based on blood and marriage. It rejects the top down view. However unlike functionalism it recognizes that relatedness is not always positive e.g abuse.
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Card 2


What do functionalists regard society as?


A system made of different parts that depend on each other and perform functions vital to society's needs.

Card 3


What does Murdock believe helps meets the needs of society and its members?


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Card 4


Criticisms of Murdock


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Card 5


What do feminists see families as doing?


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