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Assess the Claim that the Nuclear Family is a Universal Institute.

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Introduction

Henry Cuthbertson 12E Sociology Assess the Claim that the Nuclear Family is a Universal Institute By studying over 250 societies, Murdock defined four irreducible functions of the family; sexual: regulated sexual relations, reproduction: sustained the human population in the society, educational: taught the norms and values of the society, economic: provided a stable environment in terms of food, shelter etc. He thought the nuclear family is the most efficient institute for carrying out these four functions and thought it as a universal human social grouping that existed distinctly within every society. Murdock would argue that the nuclear family is a universal institute as from studying over 250 societies it can be assumed his definition is a firm one and the alternatives are few and far between in small scale, which often have little impact on society. ...read more.

Middle

I think this shows that though Murdock's idea of a nuclear family may not be universal, other forms of a defined nuclear family are, as its functions can be performed in different states. From both Gonzalez' and Gough's studies it is strongly suggested that the nuclear family is essentially just a woman and her children, and that the exception to this is having a father figure, rather than the father not being there being an exception to the nuclear family. Parson also saw the nuclear family as universal, but with two main functions; primary socialisation and the stabilising of the adult personality. Primary socialisation is where individuals learn the basic norms beliefs and values of society at an early age and the stabilising of the adult personality mainly focuses on marriage which provides emotional support from the stresses of daily life. ...read more.

Conclusion

Divorce is one aspect of the 'perfect' family Parson fails to portray as being universal, but there are also things such as ethnicity, different social class etc that he lacks. So in this case I would not say the family is universal as it has innumerable variants. I think that the nuclear family is universal but is hard to define because of such varied cultures across the world. However I think it is universal in the way that all nuclear families involve primary socialisation, teaching the norms, values and beliefs of society to those at an early age. Also I think that the term 'family' is culturally, socially and historically determined and so it is almost impossible for it to be universal. But I agree with Gittions that relationships are universal, along with their attachments such as co-residence, intimacy and emotional bonds but that these can take infinitely varied forms. ...read more.

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