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Critically examine the Functionalist idea that the nuclear family exists for the benefit of everyone.

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Critically examine the Functionalist idea that the nuclear family exists for the benefit of everyone The Functionalist sociologist, Murdock (1949) defined the family as a social group characterised by common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction. He claimed it must include adults of both sexes of whom maintain a socially accepted sexual relationship, and own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults. Murdock's definition is focuses on the Nuclear family stereotypically made up of a two-generation family: heterosexual couple with offspring. This definition of the family is popular among right wing sociologists who believe it is the ideal type of family unit that people should aspire to have. They argue this because they believe the nuclear family is the best type of family for the individual and for society. This is why they encourage it and regard it as the most beneficial family structure. They believe that it is the nuclear family unit by which the process of socialisation is transmitted at it's strongest with the most benefit for society. However, functionalists tend to see the family as harmonious but this is simply not the case in society today. Feminist criticise the functionalist view on the nuclear family by arguing that the nuclear family doesn't suit everyone within the family unit and is more damaging than it is beneficial. ...read more.


to continue to be reproduced, so consequently, the nuclear family functions to benefit capitalism and consequently, the upper classes and not the whole of society. Furthermore, feminists argue that the nuclear family provides reproduction of male superiority in the household. The nuclear family structure emphasizes the role of men as the instrumental leader and women as the expressive leader. It is also useful to men as it provides an emotionally supportive retreat for men who may be frustrated after their treatment in the workplace. This only reproduces gender inequality in family life that functions to serve a patriarchal and capitalist society and ultimately continues to benefit men. Thirdly, Functionalist sociologist, Parsons argues that the Nuclear family unit meets the correct way to socialise children by internalizing the shared norms and values of a functionalist ideal society. Parsons saw the Nuclear family as the only way of 'producing children with the correct values and norms'. Functionalists believe that the Nuclear family is the only way to transmit to each generation the rules, culture, values, norms and accepted behaviour that allow society to function harmoniously. However, Radical feminists argue that the nuclear family mainly focuses to benefit men because gender-role socialisation results in males and females subscribing to a set of ideas that largely confirm male power and superiority. ...read more.


Men came to dominate the workforce and political and cultural power whereas women were confined to the family. Radical feminists therefore argue that the nuclear family meets the needs of men rather than the needs of all members of society. In conclusion, Functionalists have many strong views on the role of the family in society. There main view is that the nuclear family unit supports and maintains order in society and is therefore in place for the benefit of society and everyone in it. The Nuclear family ensures that the right cultural values and norms are socialised from one generation to the next and that those children grow up with the values that support a functionalist society. However, feminists argue that this is not the case, and that it is clear that the nuclear family is in place to reproduce a patriarchal society that is for the benefit of men only and furthermore, ensure a strong capitalist society that exploits the working class and benefits the upper classes. The nuclear family reproduces gender inequality and discrimination against homosexual and single parent families. Consequently, the nuclear family clearly is not for the benefit of everyone, but the selected few power group's i.e. men and the upper class. ...read more.

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This essay would score 5/5 stars. It contains breadth (lots of studies and named sociologists) and depth (it explains each one well). The candidate scores well on application(sticking to the question) and also gives plenty of evaluation (criticism).

Marked by teacher Lesley Clark 07/02/2012

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