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The functionalistic view of the family

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Sarah Burn 09/10/2009 The functionalistic view of the family Functionalists believed in a theory that the family is a positive institution. They hold the view that meets well with the needs of an advanced industrial society for a geographically and socially mobile workforce. Functionalists highlight the ideal family type in a modern society, as the nuclear family. The view of the nuclear family comprises of a breadwinner husband and dependant wife and children. Critics have accused the functionalist view of the family as ideological in tone and representing a conservative stance. Some feminists' highlight the 'family ideology' presents an image and ideal of family life that does not represent real experience, particularly that of women, whom feminists see as oppressed by the family. However, they defend the claim that many people share the functionalist view of family life, if not only as an aspiration. The nuclear family is seen as traditional and positive. Functionalists believe in society working in a social system including a series of parts known as institutions. These institutions are beneficial for society and if they work properly then the society will work properly. For these institutions to be beneficial, functionalists believe that a nuclear family is best for society. This nuclear family consists of a married couple and their children. Functionalists argue that the nuclear family can fulfil many roles that affect society. These include socialising children into society's norms and values to create a healthier society. There should be a complementary role in the family. ...read more.


Originally a family would be together to produce something that could be sold so when agencies took over this extended kin families broke up and moved away to find other work. But Historians argue that Parsons was far too simplistic in his interpretation. Laslett (1972) recorded a study of types of family before the industrial revolution showing that only 10% of households were actually extended kin. This criticised Parsons View of their being, no nuclear families before the revolution. Despite doubts about the universality of the nuclear family at the time, functionalist sociologists focused their attention to the functions of the family. Nuclear families specialised in the primary socialisation of children. Parsons (1966) believed that personalities were "made not born" and that a child could only become a social adult by internalising the norms and values of their society. Therefore he saw nuclear families as "personality factories" churning out citizens who commit to the rules. This, by some people, could be interpreted as: if you are not a nuclear family but a single parent family or homosexual couple, that you cannot socialise your children properly and that they will not conform to social order or do well in their lives. This of course is not true as many single parent families bring up their children well and then they go on to better things. The raising of children into society's norms and values creates a healthy and sustained society. The functionalist nuclear family have the strongest household income. ...read more.


In conclusion, there are some aspects of the functionalist family which are acceptable but I think we should take into account the criticisms as some of them are also acceptable. ... I have to admit that I didn't think academics had such a blinkered view of reality... their ideology cannot be translated into reality unless they accept that quite simply the 'normal' family as they describe is at best common and never always going to be true in all people's cases. Family structures break down, sexual partners often don't even get together for a relationship, and in case they hadn't noticed, people do die before their time so to speak... single parents families, homosexual marriages, break ups, mental illness, domestic violence.. Any political ideology that seeks to be installed needs to accommodate what will occur... never mind what could. The skeleton of functionalist ideology is sensible... the idea that family structures and social institutions uphold the very essence of society is designed to bring a general order and productivity to society I would think. But defining roles for people based on sex or the like not only will be unpopular with feminists, it would be highly contrary to the productivity factor of society... in simple terms it would deny many skill usages to where they are needed or are appropriate. I tend to think beyond the functionalists... I don't think society should be based on the institution of nuclear families with marriage, but of institutions that facilitate everyone in society to be productive for the society... letting people define their own circumstances and roles and having the whole social system in place to support and protect that, its pitfalls and benefits. ...read more.

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