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Assess the Usefulness of Functionalism for an Understanding of the Family.

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Claire Simmons Assess the Usefulness of Functionalism for an Understanding of the Family. Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons (1956), suggest that the modern nuclear family has evolved to meet the needs of industrial society. Parsons argued that the most common family type in pre-industrial society was the extended family and that this extended unit was 'multifunctional'. It was responsible for a number of functions such as education, production, health care and welfare. He argued that the industrial revolution bought about three fundamental changes in family functions and structure. These are: 1. Structural differentiation: Specialised agencies developed which gradually took over many of the family's functions, such as factories taking over the production function. ...read more.


It is beneficial to individuals because it provides a stable environment for children to construct loving relationships. Historians such as Peter Laslett (1977) and Michael Anderson (1971) suggest that parsons failed to acknowledge that industrialisation may follow different patterns in different industrial societies. Laslett's survey of English parish records revealed that most pre-industrial societies were nuclear, not extended. This was due to early death and late marriage. It may have also been because children were sent away from home to become apprentices or servants. Margaret Benson (1972), who was a marxist-feminist, argued that the nuclear family provides the basic service required by capitalism - labour powers - by: 1. ...read more.


Kate Millet (1970), a radical feminist, argued that men originally acquired power over women because of biological factors. Women who were frequently pregnant could not make the same contribution to the workplace as men. She suggested that modern technology has now taken away this power from men, by introducing things such as contraception. However, patriarchy remains in place because of ideology. Both men and women conform to their stereotypical gender roles, with the man being the breadwinner, and women being the housewife. This ensures men's domination in the workplace. However, some people would say that this idea is dated and does not take into account the recent rise of feminism in the workplace. ...read more.

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