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The nuclear family is considered the 'ideal'. Why and for whom?

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Introduction

"The nuclear family is considered the 'ideal'. Why and for whom?" In 1949, Functionalist George Murdock defined the family as "a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children". In this description Murdock is describing a family structure called the nuclear family. The nuclear family is the most common definition of a family, which consists of two parents and their children. It was once considered ideal by society but is now facing a decline due to the rapid change of trends in society today. These trends in issues such as divorce and religion are some of many linked to the decline of the nuclear family in society. I will be taking a closer look at these issues, considering Functionalist and Marxist views, and also taking into account other family structures whilst tackling the question of why and for whom the nuclear family is ideal for. Functionalists believe that each part of society has a function, very much like a human body. Using the example of a human body, functionalists believe that the nuclear family is ideal as it is at the heart of society. ...read more.

Middle

An example of this is the generic cereal advert where there is a middleclass housewife, child and a businessman husband always seemingly rushing off to work - this is a typical example of the media suggesting the idea of the nuclear family, and also an example of how old fashioned conjugal roles are still being presented to us. Although, the statistics suggest that despite the media's subtle hints that tell us how to behave and live our lives, perhaps as a society we have become more intelligent and aware, and this is why we chose to live more liberally - the rising awareness of our place in society could pose as quite a threat to the Capitalist society in the future. According to Parsons, the family's two main functions are "primary socialization and personality stabilization of adults" (Parsons and Bales 1956), this makes the nuclear family extremely important for functionalists because without it individuals would not know how to conform in society, and adults would not have the emotional support necessary to cope with everyday life, this would result in the system losing its organisation and order. Marxists value family as a means of keeping society within their own class tiers, protecting private property and fuelling the economy. ...read more.

Conclusion

I personally think that socialising children in an extended family environment offers a much richer experience of socialisation and upbringing in terms of education, nurture, security and finance. Reflecting on the research present in this essay, it seems clear that Functionalists consider the nuclear family as ideal because it provides an environment that is essential to creating a working society through socialisation provided by two parents and holding together traditional and moral values of the responsibility of marriage and family life. Marxists neglect many aspects of the family as a social institution in contrast to functionalists, but see it as support for a capitalist society and a means for passing down property and keeping class differences and wealth within the bourgeoisie. I disagree with functionalists and think if evolution within species is a way of improving and bettering, then the evolution of society which has shown diversity in family structure is also an improvement and is what society needs in order to progress and better itself. In conclusion the nuclear family is considered the ideal due to old fashioned traditional values and what the demands of society needed in the early 1900s, in modern society statistics show that society can survive without the nuclear family being the prominent structure, and so it is no longer vital to the family institution or needed for a functioning society. ...read more.

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