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Evaluate the view that functionalism "ignores the problems that in reality underpin family life"

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Introduction

Evaluate the view that functionalism "ignores the problems that in reality underpin family life" The view that functionalism ignores "the problem that in reality underpin family life" started when functionalists such as Parsons were initiating their theories of the family. Parsons sees the nuclear family as a system or affective relationships, which meet basic human needs for love and intimacy. Marriage is seen as a source of companionship, emotional gratification and psychological support. The nuclear unit is seen as good for society and for the individuals who comprise it. The precedence of the nuclear family was largely unquestioned. However, this positive picture of nuclear family life has come under sustained attack in the last thirty years. Many commentators suggest that this rosy picture obscure the problems that in reality underpin family life and which have very negative consequences for some individuals. Here, as in all areas of sociology, functionalist perspectives have been blamed of having a traditional bias. With their accentuation on the universality and predetermination of the family, they warrant its existence. With their engrossment with the positive aspects of the family, they render it with legitimisation. ...read more.

Middle

This secure image has been shattered by sociologists and psychiatrists who have studied some of the less savoury aspects of life in families. In R.D. Laing's studies of schizophrenia (Laing, 1976, Laing and Esterson, 1970), feminist studies of domestic violence, and Marxist and feminist research on labour and power within households, an contrary image to the family has been presented. From this point of view the family is, or at least can be, exploitative, violent and psychologically damaging. George Peter Murdock's view of the universal functions of the family are also criticised as Murdock argued that his analysis provides a "conception of the family's many-sided utility and thus of its inevitability". He concluded, "no society has succeeded in finding an adequate substitute for the nuclear family, to which it might transfer these functions. It is highly doubtful whether any society will ever succeed in such an attempt." Murdock's picture of the family is a multifunctional institute, which is essential to society. Its "many sided utility" accounts for its universality and its inevitability. However, in his eagerness for the family Murdock did not seriously contemplate whether other social institutes could accomplish its functions and he does not examine alternatives to the family. ...read more.

Conclusion

Parsons view of the socialisation process can be criticised. He sees it as a one way process, with the children being pumped full of culture and their personalities being forged by forceful parents. He tends to ignore the two-way communication process between parents and children. There is no place in his scheme for the children who twist their parents around their little finger. Parsons sees the family as a special institution, which is distinctly separated from other aspects of the social life. Some contemporary perspectives on the family reject that such clear-cut boundaries can be established. The family as such cannot therefore be seen as performing any particular functions on its own in isolation from other institutions. They fail to realise that the family may well be dysfunctional both for society and individual members. That the demands made upon the family are too great and fuses blow. Another point they fail to acknowledge is that in their isolation, family members expect and demand too much from each other. All of these things can result is conflict. The tensions and hostility produced within the family find expression throughout society. The family creates barriers between them and the wider society. All of these are some of the disadvantages of the family that the functionalists fail to acknowledge. ...read more.

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