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

  • Date Submitted: 02/20/2012 06:27 AM
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Functionalism is a structuralist theory. This means they see the individual as less important as the structure of society this is known as a top-down approach. The family can be defined as domestic group composed of people related to each other by blood and legal ties. Functionalists believe that society is based on value consensus, a set of shared norms and values, into which society socialises its members. The family is examined in terms of the functions it performs for the benefit of society and the individual. Functionalists often use the analogy of society as a machine with interconnected parts.

Functionalists favour the nuclear family. Children are provided with a male and female role model and socialisation from 2 parents. Families teach about stable relationships and acceptable behaviour. Functionalists do not like single parent or same sex families as a result.
Functionalists argue that ideally the man take on the instrumental role and the woman take on the expressive role.

Marxist and feminist sociologists claim that the theory is seen as too positive, optimistic and unrealistic for modern society. It ignores the less harmonious aspects of family life such as domestic violence.

In pre-industrial society, people spent their lives living in same village, working on farms. Then factories and a new type of industry sprung up and people had to move to where the jobs were and they became geographically mobile. The nuclear family could mobilise more easily and was therefore better fitted to modern society. Modern society is also based on evolving technology and requires a skilled, competent workforce.   Social mobility is much more common, whereby a man can be born the son of a labourer and become a doctor through hard work.   Parsons argues the nuclear family is best placed to facilitate this mobility. Adult sons are encouraged to leave home, marry and form their own nuclear family. In the extended family, a son with higher.

Murdock argued that...


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