Sociological perspectives have different ideas about the role of the family in society.
Functionalists believe that every institution, for example the family, plays a role in society and is necessary in order for society to function properly. This is illustrated by Murdock (1949) as he believed that family is useful to society and as a result, the family institution, inevitably can be found universally. This means that no matter what culture, there will be a form of family present, as logically, it would benefit its members.
Murdock argued that the nuclear family is evident in all 250 societies that he researched. According to Murdock all these societies performs four basic functions. The ...view middle of the document...
Stabilisation of adult personalities means that adults are able to indulge in their childish side by playing with their children and their toys. It is not seen as suitable behaviour by the society to do this without children. Being able to indulge in this side of their personality by being a member of a family keeps their personality stable. Unstable societies threaten the stability and smooth running of society.
However not everyone agrees with the ideas put across in the functionalist view.
The functionalist approach can be criticised for idealising the family. It tends to ignore the ‘dark side’ of family life, for example conflicts between husband and wife or dysfunctions within the family unit. It also tends to ignore the diversity of family life nowadays. It idealises the nuclear family and ignores lone parent families, for example.
Parson’s view can be criticised as sexist. He sees the wife as having main responsibility for providing warmth, emotional support and distressing the hardworking husband. Murdock likewise can be criticised, Murdock strongly believed in the nuclear family and cannot even imagine that there can be a substitute for it. He ignores other types of family, only regarding nuclear family to have any vital meaning. He doesn’t believe that any other form of family can fulfil the family functions as well as the nuclear family. However in modern society, there are many different types of family and they are increasing and they do appear to fulfil the functions put forward by Murdock.
Like Functionalists, Marxists adopt a structural perspective on the family, looking at how the family contributes to the maintenance of society’s structure. However unlike Functionalists, Marxists do not regard the nuclear family as a functionally necessary institution. Marxists see the society within the framework of a capitalist society, which is based on private property, driven by profit, and is riddles with conflict between social classes with opposing interests. Marxists argue that the nuclear family is concerned with teaching its members to the capitalist class. They emphasize the ways the family reproduces unequal relationships and works to damp down inevitable social conflict.
Friedrich Engels was an early Marxist. He believed that the monogamous nuclear family developed as a means of passing on private property to heirs. The family coupled with monogamy, was an ideal mechanism as it provided proof of paternity and so property could be passed on to the right people. Women’s position in this family was just to provide heirs, in return for economic security from their husband.
Althusser was a French Marxist. He argued that in order for capitalism to survive, the working class must submit to the bourgeoisie. He suggested that the family is one of the main means, along with other such as the education system and the mass media, of passing on the ideology of the ruling class. Through...