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The Functionalist View on the Family According to Parsons

  • Date Submitted: 02/22/2014 09:41 PM
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The Functionalist view on the family according to Parsons

Talcott Parsons, a key functionalist thinker focused on understanding how the various parts of society work in consensus in order to maintain the smooth running of society.   He argued that socialization was essential to understanding human behavior patterns and that the roles of social institutions such as education, religion, the media and the family was to ensure that socially acceptable traits and behaviours were passed on to other generations.

The nuclear family is made up of a heterosexual couple and their children and divides the roles of breadwinner to the instrumental leader (father) and role of expressive leader; individual who does domestic labour, nurturing and caring (mother) between the adults who reside in one residence. According to Parsons and many other functionalist thinkers a large part of socialization is taught by the parents or specifically the expressive leader and forms the key values in the child’s life such as the idea of meritocracy, importance of nuclear family life and respect for authority to name a few.   This early socialization results in value consensus among the majority of society which promotes social solidarity and social integration.
The emphasis placed on the nuclear family is argued to be irrelevant as many other types of family exist aside from the stereotypical type portrayed in the nuclear family. An example of this is the Nayar tribe in South India, which were studied by Gough and found to be fit in raising children with socially acceptable patterns of behavior despite the fact that they are raised by their mother who engaged in polygamy.   The Nayar women could have twelve husbands altogether and raised the children in her family home with the husbands visiting (sandbanham husband) or not even being in contact with her (tali-husband).   Gough proves that socially acceptable behaviours depend on the rules of the society to which individuals belong and that the...


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