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Assess The Contribution Of Functionalists To Our Understanding Of Families And Households

1017 words - 5 pages

Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households. (29 marks)
Functionalists believe that society is based on a value consensus into which society socialises its members. This enables them to cooperate harmoniously to meet society’s needs and achieve shared goals. However, other sociologists argue that contemporary society is not harmonious but is ridden with conflicts.
Functionalists regard society as a system made up of different sub-systems that depend on each other, such as the family, education, religion, law and the mass media. Family and other sub-systems are often compared to the human body where if one of the body parts doesn’t function ...view middle of the document...

The last function is socialisation of the young; socialising the young into mainstream societies shared norms and values. Murdock accepts that other institutions can perform these functions but argues that the nuclear family is the best way of meeting these four needs and it is universal. On the other hand, this is not always the case, not always people/societies work like this, for example the IK’s. This shows that the theory is out dated and not realistic. Marxists and feminists reject Murdock’s ‘rose tinted’ harmonious consensus view that the family meets the needs of both wider society and all family members. It is argued that other institutions can perform these functions equally well, or by non-nuclear family structures. Therefore, Murdock was criticised for being too narrow, by excluding lone-parent and gay families.
According to Parson’s, the functions that the family have to perform depend on the society and this will affect its structure. Parsons distinguishes between the types of family structure: nuclear family and extended family. According to parsons, there are two basic types of societies: traditional pre-industrial society and modern industrial society. Parsons argues that the nuclear family is best. As it is easier for two generations to move than it is for three generations, so it has more geographical mobility. Also, it is more suitable for a socially mobile workforce, where the person that is best suited for the job gets it, so the status is achieved not ascribed. In an extended family this may cause conflict, if the father who is head of the household has an ascribed status which is lower than his sons achieved status at work. Therefore, Parsons argues that the nuclear family encourages social mobility as well as geographical mobility. However, the nuclear family is ‘structurally isolated’ from its extended kin. So they cannot get any help from family or talk to them for emotional support which causes a build up of stress within the nuclear family which causes more...

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