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Assess the usefulness of the functionalist perspectives for an understanding of the family in contemporary society.

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Laura Mead Assess the usefulness of the functionalist perspectives for an understanding of the family in contemporary society The family is considered as the main source of socialisation. This means any change in how the family works will therefore consequence society. In contemporary society it is not only necessary to look at the change in the structure of the family but also its changing role. George Peter Murdock (1949) is responsible for the ideal of the nuclear family, he once said 'It includes both adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexual cohabiting adults'. He believes that the family is a universal institution with universal functions, these four functions are considered vital in the welfare of society. They are Educational, Sexual, Economic and Reproduction. Murdock believes that the family is mainly responsible for all four functions in the following ways: The family is accountable for primary socialisation, a predominantly important factor in the whole socialisation process. ...read more.


The second of the two functions was the stabilisation of adult personalities. Unstable personalities can affect the efficient running of society. Families are there to provide emotional support and also enable the adult to partake in childish activities; this is meant to relieve them of the stresses of adult life. The problem with Parsons second function is that this is focused very much on the men. The home is often regarded as a refuge and family as support, but for many women this is not the case. Feminists disagree with this functionalist view and believe that more attention is required for abuse within the family home. In 1966 Fletcher publicised a more modern functionalist view. Similarly to Murdock and Parsons, Fletcher even now believes that the family plays an extremely important role in primary socialisation. Furthermore, Fletcher agrees with the view of Murdock that the family regulates sexual behaviour. The notion that the family should care for dependants has not as yet been put forward by Murdock or Parsons, yet is a view of Fletcher. ...read more.


Within the functionalist theory there remains no voice for women's choices. Women are not considered to be able to cope with independence which is the main problem with functionalism. The radical feminists are passionate about women's independence and believe the stereotypical view is holding women back. As illustrated previously, the functionalist theory is out dated in contemporary society. The views of Murdock, Parsons & Fletcher on functionalism stand against too much criticism in modern times. This may be because they were publicised up to 60 years ago and had no chance to witness the changing era. As for Murdock's four functions, contemporary evidence and other theories simply highlight their naivety and poor reflection of reality. Functionalism does not appreciate the advances in the family, they are perceived as bad changes which isn't necessarily true. Functionalist's views now simply appear ignorant, as they are not willing to accept that families are changing with the times. I agree very much with the post modernism theory that the choice is up to you, after all, happiness is the key element when maintaining a family. The Nuclear family is simply not suitable for today's society. ...read more.

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