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Functional Perspectives on the Family Underestimate the Amount of Strain and Exploitation within the Family Unit. Discuss.

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Introduction

Functional Perspectives on the Family Underestimate the Amount of Strain and Exploitation within the Family Unit. Discuss. Functionalists ask three main questions about families: 'What are the functions of the family?' 'What are the relationships between the family and other parts of society' and 'how does the family help the individual? Functionalist perspectives on the family provide very straightforward theories, but they are often met with opposition for glorifying the role of the family and overlooking the fact that family life isn't always wonderful. Tallcott Parsons (1959) argues that the family had two main functions: Primary socialisation of children and the stabilization of adult personalities. Tallcott says that the families are like 'factories that produce human personalities'. His theory can be explain simply with the milk-bottle explanation. Babies are born as an empty milk bottle and as they grow older, members of their family fill them with ideas and values (milk) until they reach puberty, when they can be deemed full. ...read more.

Middle

In its isolation, he sees the family as creating a barrier between itself and the outside world. Far from the functionalist view that the family works together with other prerequisites to maintain society, Leach sees the family as a damaging institution. Rather than socializing the individuals within its own unit, the family separates them from the outside and makes too many demands. However, Leach is an anthropologist and so his findings and viewpoints cannot be taken quite so seriously as those of an established sociologist. He has not conducted detailed fieldwork and so lacks any support for his findings. He has also been widely criticised for presenting a picture of society being out of control and the family being destructive. This is the complete opposite of the functionalist picture of a perfect society. Another key functionalist idea comes from Murdock and is that the family performs four main functions; sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. He states that without these, society would not be able to survive. ...read more.

Conclusion

So while the family does provide stability, it is not achieved as easily and sweetly as the functionalists would have it. From this we can see that there are two contrasting and completely opposite ideas about the family. On the one hand the functionalists see the family as maintaining and stabilizing society, performing key roles such as teaching values, with utmost efficiency. On the other hand there are the critical views that the family is emotionally destructive and manipulates its members, placing them under strain. Strong critics of the family paint a picture of the family being useless and society being out of control, while lesser critics (such as Marxist feminists) would argue that while the family does still maintain and stabilize society, it is not as wonderfully sweet and efficient as the functionalists make out. We can assume that the true answer lies somewhere in the middle. Families are not always as efficient and pleasant as the functionalists argue, but are also not as destructive, manipulative and isolated as the critics say. While functionalists underestimate the strain placed on the family, the critics overestimate it. ?? ?? ?? ?? Craig Beattie, 12CLI - 8th October 2002 ...read more.

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