The usefulness of functionalism for an understanding of the family
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The usefulness of functionalism for an understanding of the family Functionalists focus on the roles of the family as an institution and its interaction with other institutions, such as the ratio of functions the family has to perform compared to those that other institutions such as schools and the NHS perform. Functionalism sees the use of the family in society and how it can take pressure from the government by becoming an almost dependent institution that will help support its own members. George Murdock analysed 250 societies and studied the purpose of the family, he came up with a final definition; that the family performs several main functions. These functions help the individuals within the family; Murdock believed the functions are sexual, educational, economic and reproductive.
Reproductive functions of the family have also been limited because it is no longer necessary for a family to have both parents to create a child. This could be because of promiscuity or artificial insemination. Finally, economic support within the family has also been reduced because the government provides benefits for Old Age Pensioners, the unemployed and pregnant mothers, meaning that a family does not need to support itself financially to survive as there are other options. Talcott Parsons considered how industrialisation and advances in technology and social morals have changed the functions of the family and he claimed the families functions were now limited to just two functions. Firstly is 'primary socialisation', he believed that parents taught their children from an early age what was socially accepted and normal behaviour in public.
Parents are expected to encourage and tutor their children from a young age to give them a better chance at the start of life and therefore help them to get better occupations. Although the family is no longer solely responsible for the health of its members, Fletcher stated that institutions have served to provide information for parents that make them preoccupied with their children's health. Finally, he suggested that a family no longer produced goods t sell and support itself with, but it is an important consumer that helps the economy in general. In conclusion we can see that the family no longer has the same importance as an individual unit in society as it did before industrialisation, but it is still essential in the nurture of young children and an important institution in preserving the economy instead of an individual to rely solely on the government.
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