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Assess the claim that the nuclear family is a universal institution.

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Assess the Claim that the nuclear family is a universal institution Adam Hepburn 12L The Nuclear family is a family consisting of parents and their children and grandparents of a marital partner. There has been an on going argument among sociologists surrounding the debate for whether or not the nuclear family is a universal institution. Many different sociologists have presented many different theories regarding the question. The term "universal" refers to the whole world as one, therefore the question is asking for the opinion concerning the nuclear family and whether or not it is social accepted and seen as the norm throughout the world or whether there are other forms of family units and the nuclear family described at the start, is only recognised in certain parts of the world. However this question proposed has no exact answer, as there are so many different cultures to experience where they have their own style of nuclear families and interpret it completely differently to many others in other countries and social backgrounds. Many famous sociologists cast their personal views and theories on the matter. One main sociologist named Murdock claimed in 1949 that there are four main functions of the family. He concluded this theory after closely studying 250 different societies. ...read more.


Gonzalez performed a series of studies surrounding the family in 1985. She discovered the Matrifocal families. This is where the families are centred on the mother. She is the head of the family unit and she lives with her relatives. Gonzalez also claimed these families are called New World Black Families. In this set up, Gonzalez comments on how the mother would support the woman economically as the father was usually absent. Gonzalez therefore argues that Murdock should re-define the family. Different Sociologists such as Smith, Liebow and Lewis all have altered views on the causes of Matrifocal families. Smith comments on how he feels the plantation slavery being the main factor accounting for Matrifocal families. The father figurehead image was eroded after he was subject to the authority of plantation owner. Liebow focuses his opinion towards how the father believes he is unable to support his wife and children due to unemployment and poverty. This all stems from the father failing to provide daily for the family to survive sufficiently. There is also a sociologist named Lewis. Lewis feels that poverty is that main trigger behind Matrifocal families. It is now a common sight, a lone parent. It is now treated as a norm. Herskovits also took great interest in the Matrifocal families. ...read more.


The nuclear family is a universal institution to an extent. However, it is hard to justify that statement due to the small African societies who operate in a completely alien fashion to English families. Whether the nuclear family is universal depends on how it is defined. Relationships are universal, as is some form of co-residence, of intimacy, sexuality and emotional bonds. But the forms they can take are infinitely variable and can be changed and challenged as well as embraced. Murdock's evidence and views given at the start of the essay was the core from which to work from as he gave the first ground statement regarding the nuclear family. It was through this that other sociologists carried out research based around his theory. Murdock believes in the four essential functions for a family. However Gough and Gonzalez both argue that statement claiming that the families and societies they focused on managed and survived with few problems, and there were also many signs of family bonds and togetherness despite not performing the four essential functions. Educational, Economic, Sexual, Reproduction. It seems that many different people and sociologists all have their own ideas on what is exactly meant by the nuclear family. Through they're not being a definite description of a nuclear family there will never be precise recordings as to whether or not the nuclear family is a universal institution or not. ...read more.

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