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  • Date Submitted: 01/22/2012 01:46 PM
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Assess the contribution of the functionalism to our understanding of families and households.
Using the material from item A, functionalists see the family as a key institution of society. Functionalists believe that society is based on a value consensus; which are a set of shared norms and values into which society socialises with its members. They see the family as a particularly important subsystem. For example, Peter Murdock argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the need of society and its members: (1) Stable satisfaction of the sex drive, with the same partner preventing the social disruption caused by a sexual ‘free for all.’ (2) Reproduction of the next generation, without which society could not continue, (3) Socialisation of the young – into society’s shared norms and values, (4) meeting its member’s economic needs such as food and shelter.
Furthermore, Murdock also argues that the nuclear family is universal because of its Sheer Practically in those four essential functions. Few sociologists would doubt that the majority of these functions are important, and some argue that they could be performed equally well by other institutions or other non-nuclear family structures. Other sociologists have criticised Murdock’s functionalist approach: Marxist and Feminists, they argue that functionalism neglects conflict and exploitation. Feminists see the family as serving the needs of men and oppressing women, and Marxists argue that it meets the needs of capitalism, not of family members or society as a whole.
In the view of Talcott Parsons, the functions it performs are dependent on the type of society in which it is discovered. However, the functions that the family perform will affect its structure or shape. Parson identifies between two different types of family structure; which are nuclear families and extended families. The nuclear family is a term used to define a family group consisting of one or more children, living two...

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