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Functionalism and the Family

Functionalism and the Family

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Functionalism and the Family

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  1. Functionalism and the Family Functions of the family that contribute to the well-being of society.

  2. Functionalism • Functionalist sociologists see the family as one of the most important social institutions. • They think it is particularly important because it is beneficial for both individuals and society • Individuals – Meets needs e.g. emotional satisfaction, social support, personal development, identity and security. • Society – Meets the needs of society for social order and stability.

  3. Primary Socialisation • The family is the primary agent of socialisation. • It socializes new generations into the culture of society by teaching them common values, norms, traditions and roles. • Children learn what is expected of them, for example gender roles. • Parsons (1955) argued that families are ‘personality factories’ producing children who are committed to shared norms and values and have a strong sense of belonging to society. • Family central to creation of value consensus, social integration and therefore social order.

  4. Social Control • Polices society’s members on a daily basis in order to maintain the consensus and social order brought about by socialisation. • For example, the family defines what is socially acceptable behaviour with regard to dating, marital, pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Prevents the anarchy which would happen if people could have sex whenever and with whoever they want. • Marriage provides emotional stability for the couple • Family teaches children right from wrong. • Rewards/Sanctions

  5. Procreation • Marriage is considered the most appropriate setting for procreation. • Children are seen as the natural result of romantic love! • REPRODUCTION = essential function for the continuation of society.

  6. Economic functions (money) • Provides children with economic support (not just when they are young……University, first house etc) • Provides society/the economy with workers • (Along with education) The family ensures that children are brought up to value the necessity of working/earning a living etc • Family = consumers! Spend money! (For example, most TV ads are aimed at families)

  7. Reduce the stress of modern living • Parsons argues that one of the functions of the family is reducing the stress of modern living. He argues that family life ‘stabilizes’ adult personalities. • The family provides a relaxing environment for the male worker to immerse himself in as he returns from work (‘Warm bath’ theory). • Romantic love and the unconditional love that parents have for their children provide a means to allow family members to cope with the stress of modern day living.

  8. Other functions of the family • Social status (economic, social and educational resources of the family – and how viewed by others) • Care for other family members (ill, disabled etc – plays an important health and welfare function) • Teaches children to read/write. Provides children with support (cultural and material) throughout their educational career. • Political and religious socialization (beliefs, prejudices, anxieties etc learned from parents)

  9. Conclusion • Functionalists see the family as a crucial social institution functioning positively to bring about healthy societies and individuals • Murdock (1949) claimed that the family is a biological necessity because it is universal (i.e. can be found in all societies)