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The usefulness of functionalism for an understanding of the family

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  • Essay length: 662 words
  • Submitted: 28/01/2005
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AS and A Level Developmental Psychology

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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.

However, Murdock did not consider that the family may have a detrimental affect on members of the family as he seemed to assume that all families are harmonious and do not have any arguments or problems. He also overlooked alternatives to the family and how they might be better at some of the functions than the family itself and therefore minimise the importance of the family.

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