Using Materials from Item a and Elsewhere Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to Our Understanding of Families and Households

Functionalism focuses on the positive roles played by different institutions of society, the main one being the family. Functionalism see family as a vital organisation in all societies, they are needed to meet basic needs. Functionalism stresses the positive role of the family, and its great importance for society. Functionalists argue that the family has essential functions which it must perform to meet the basic needs of society and its members. Murdock argues that this makes the family a universal institution.

In performing these functions the family links up with other institutions, providing future pupils for education, workers for the economy, potential governmental opportunities, and so on. Murdock argues that the family perform four simple functions; which are sexual – this is where you satisfy your needs with one partner, reproductive – this is where you reproduce for the next generation, economic, and socialisation – being able to socialise your children.

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Murdock argues that the importances of these functions are so vital that they have to exist everywhere. Other sociologists such as Parsons argue that the family has to provide the primary socialisation of children, to ensure the safety of society’s culture and the stabilisation of adult personalities. The family performs VITAL functions of society, and for all the individual members’ init. The family reproduces the next generation and thereby ensures the continuation of society over time” The quote explains that if there was no such thing as a family, then there would be no sexual satisfactions, as a result of this there would be no reproducing, and therefore could lead to the dying out of the population, which means humans would become extinct. Functionalists tend to see the nuclear family as the ideal family type for modern society” This shows that functionalists explain change by showing how, as society develops; the family develops and changes also, in order that it may still fulfil the needs of its members and society in general. Therefore Parsons also believes that the Isolated Nuclear family is the most typical and suitable for modern society. This is because it can be mobile, and because status is likely to be achieved in modern society rather than ascribed.

This links in with the question, and shows our understanding of the family and households. Not everyone agrees and accepts the functionalists view of the family and its role in society altogether. Marxists and Feminism reject its resumption. “Marxists and Feminisms reject its consensus assumptions about who benefits from the family”. Functionalists are criticised because of their very positive approach, functionalism has been accused of ignoring the possible conflicts and negative effects of family life.

Feminists argue that functionalist don’t look at what could be happening, if there is domestic violence or abuse going on inside the house, families are not always happy. Marxists believe that in the family the dominant interest is of capitalism. Children plead with their parent’s for new and stylish items, the parent’s give in and allow the child to have the item, and this is a typical example of capitalism. A view of Murdock’s which can be explained well is, The nuclear family is universal because of its sheer practicality in performing four essential functions”. The quote explains that the nuclear family is the easiest family to move around, where as in the past the extended family was much more known, as family members used to stay in the same house, and work together (in farms, etc), and would have been much harder to move around because of the amount of people living together.

To conclude the contribution of functionalism of families and households, families are a valid function in society, in the past and today. Our families are probably one of the most important functions in society, they help socialise us, and teach us norms and values. Without them we would probably turn to crime or end up living like animals, etc. But altogether families are a big and very important role and function in society; functionalists believe that families contribute to our society in a very realistic way.

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