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Families & Households.

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Introduction

AS October Assessment-Families & Households 1. Functionalist sociologists have argued that industrialisation led to a loss of functions for the family. Parsons referred to this process as 'structural differentiation'. 2. Two benefits of the reproductive function of the family for society and/or family members: without sexual reproduction, society would die out. Also, the family legitimises certain sexual relationships and their offspring. 3. Through industrialisation the family lost its production function to factories and its education, health and welfare functions to the state. 4. Parsons claims that nuclear families now specialise in primary socialisation. Through primary socialisation children learn culture, i.e. language, values, norms, etc. This is the first and most important part of the socialisation process. Parsons argues that every individual must learn the shared values and norms of society. Without this there would be no value consensus (an agreement of values by members of society based on the integration between different parts of society), and without consensus, social life would not be possible. The family therefore is responsible for moulding the children's personalities in terms of society's culture to the point where it becomes a part of them. ...read more.

Middle

Parsons and Murdock see the Nuclear family as the ideal family form-they're firm believers in the ideology of familism. With Parsons' nuclear family model the male is portrayed as the 'instrumental leader' who is best suited to the demands of the world of work and being the economic breadwinner. Meanwhile the female is portrayed and the 'expressive leader' i.e., a dependant wife and mother who was better suited to the demands of a caring, home-making and child-rearing role. Parsons also argues that as modern industrial societies have evolved, the modern nuclear family has lost many of its functions. He referred to this process as structural differentiation. Parsons argues that in pre-industrial societies, the family was multi-functional, i.e. the family produced its own food and clothing, it built its own home and was also responsible for the education, health and welfare of its members. Specialised agencies then developed which took over many of the functions of the family. The family lost its production function to factories and gradually lost its education, health, and welfare functions to the State. ...read more.

Conclusion

Parsons makes no reference to the fact that there are major differences in family according to class, region, ethnicity, religion, etc. Despite these criticisms, there are a number of undeniable truths about the functionalist theory. Most sociologists agree that social institutions such as education and the family are interdependent on one another, and despite the decline in the popularity of the nuclear family form, many people still desire to live in the kind of nuclear households first outlined by Parsons. During a person's life-cycle, there is a good chance that most people have experienced nuclear family life at some point. Overall, functionalism is very useful for the understanding of the family, but it is very narrow-minded in its ideas. In order to have a good understanding of the family you must examine the subject within different social classes, different ethnicity, different religions, and so on. You cannot base the study of family life upon the 1950's American middle class nuclear family and expect every family to be like this. Nor can you ignore all the negative aspects of the family and expect to have a good understanding of it. Sharanjit Sunner Sociology L6A JTH SC 30/10/03 - 1 - ...read more.

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