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Discuss the Marxist and Functionalist Perspectives on the Family

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Introduction

Discuss the Marxist and Functionalist Perspectives on the Family For the purpose of this essay question I will discuss the Marxist and the Functionalist perspectives on the Family. I will compare and contrast them and give a critical analysis of each and place them in historical context as well as modern day. In Britain today there are many different types of families. A social unit living together defines what a family is. The family resembles the core feature of society. Both Marxist and Functionalist perspectives believe the family is what holds society together and helps socialise the future generations. There are three types of family existing in today's society. The nuclear family resembles a family unit made up of no more than two generations, stereotyped as a mother, father and 2.4 children. The extended family refers to a family unit made of many three generations or more who live with each other or near by. This type is typical of pre-industrial or 'primitive' societies. ...read more.

Middle

Talcott Parsons on the other hand concentrated on modern American society. He believed society was dependant of two basic irreducible functions: Primary socialisation and the stabilisation of adult personalities. Primary socialisation refers to socialisation during the early years of childhood, which would occur mainly within a family unit. Secondary socialisation would happen during later years when the family is less involved and the influence of peer groups and school starts to play a major role. For primary socialisation to be effective culture has to be engaged and accepted for norms and values to exist. Also a child has to be shaped with regard to the central values of that culture where they become part of him/her. Parsons quoted families 'are "factories" producing human personalities'. Another function of the family that Parsons defined is 'stabilising adult personalities'. This refers to the role the family plays in support the adult members emotionally. In an industrial society the nuclear family is often isolated and therefore it is essential to keep a balance between the stresses of life and the emotional support of the family. ...read more.

Conclusion

Functionalists emphasise the typical nuclear family. Although Marxists acknowledge the nuclear family's importance, its theory is based on generalised family types. Functionalists believe the family balances and maintains society. While on the other hand Marxists believe the family consumes the products of society provided by Capitalism. Murdock suggests the family is a universal concept while Engels believes the family only came into existence with the invention of private property. Both Murdock and Parsons paint a very 'rosy' picture of family life. They fail to take in account the darker side of society and family issues such as domestic abuse etc. Parsons views on men and women in relationships are often out dated. A lot of women these days are the breadwinners in the family and therefore the husband and wife roles have been reversed. Functionalist do not recognise that women suffer from the sexual division of labour while Marxists highlight this is their theory. Marxists also come under scrutiny for exaggerating the importance of the family life as being a refuge from the capitalist society. Marxists also underestimate darker issues such as violence within the home etc. Zaretsky overemphasises the fact that family and work are separated. ...read more.

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