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discuss the functionalist argument that the nuckear family is best equipped for modern society

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Jennifer Hoult The nuclear family is a two generational family which consists of a mum and a dad living with their children. This essay will look at the functionalists Talcot Parsons and George Peter Murdock and their arguments which support the view that this type of family is best equipped for modern societies. It will also look at the criticisms to this argument which include the views of Marxists Eli Zaretsky, Frederick Engels and Edmund Leach and also the Marxist feminist view of the nuclear family. According to functionalists the family's functions serve the members of the family and also society. They argue that the Nuclear Family is the best type to serve the needs of society and in particular the needs of an industrial economy and they give many reasons for this view. Functionalists see the male and female roles in a family as different but equal. Murdock (1949) studied 250 different societies and claimed that he found some form of the nuclear family present in all and this was either on their own or as a unit within an extended family. From his studies he came to the conclusion that the family had four basic functions which are essential for society. ...read more.


In the workplace it is the complete opposite as employees are paid and promoted on merit. Parsons argued that such conflicts are avoided with the nuclear family as they are separated from extended kin and the father is the main breadwinner so only he would have contact with the public sphere. Parsons also argued that the family has two basic functions and the nuclear family is ideal to perform these essential functions. The first function is the primary socialisation of children and this is where the family moulds a young child to the needs of society. The second is the stabilisation of adult personalities and this is where the family provides the emotional support which is needed in adulthood to cope with the stress of everyday life. It also provides an emphasis on marital relationships. There are many criticisms of the functionalist view of the family and especially the nuclear family. They argue that it is only the ruling class that benefit from the family as the family raises the future workers with values and beliefs that will ensure social reproduction. Marxists say that the family serves capitalism and Frederick Engels stated that the nuclear family emerged with capitalism. ...read more.


Women are disadvantaged as they have childcare and domestic responsibilities. Feminists state that women perform unpaid work in these roles. Edmund Leach also criticised the family. He studied families which were more of an extended family and decided the nuclear family is isolated from kin and the community because of the many demands made on them. Leach claimed that the nuclear family will always have conflict within it as its members demand too much from each other and also demand too much from the community. A family with continuous conflict is not ideal for any society. We can see the functionalist arguments that support the view that the nuclear family is best equipped for modern societies. Murdock found evidence of the nuclear family in almost all of the societies he studied and believes the above argument is proved because it is so universal. Parsons believed that the nuclear family was ideal for the industrial society which we live in today. However we can see that there are many criticisms of the functionalist view of the nuclear family. Marxists such as Engels and Zaretsky believe that functionalists only see the good side of the family and ignore conflict which is present within the nuclear family. Marxist feminists believe that the nuclear family is patriarchal and exploits women. ...read more.

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