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'Functionalist accounts of the family underestimate the extent of strain and exploitation in family life'. Discuss.

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Introduction

'Functionalist accounts of the family underestimate the extent of strain and exploitation in family life'. Discuss. The functionalist theory is one based upon 'consensus'. This structural theory places more emphasis on the social structure rather than the individual. "No such thing as society, only individuals that shape society" Margaret Thatcher George Murdock (1949), after a cross-cultural study of 250 families, found that each and every Family has four universal functions in every society. These core functions of the family are sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. Murdock argues that every family needs these vital four functions in order to stay 'healthy' and in balance. Six years after Murdock made his doctrine, Talcott Parsons (1955) implemented upon his ideas for a modern industrial society. Parsons believed that the family had lost some of its functions due to changes in society and technological advances, yet they specialised in functions which were retained throughout the course of time. The two 'essential' functions which families now performed were primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of the adult personality. ...read more.

Middle

The functionalist perspective has also received criticism from the feminist perspective for being sexist since this view sees women as having main responsibility for providing emotional support and succumbing to the fathers and children needs which can eventually lead to depression through stress overload. The feminist perspective on family life has had the most influence than any other sociological perspective. This perspective tends to highlight the harmful effects which women are the victims of within the family. Society demands different things from men and women, therefore giving different psychological experiences for women. Feminist describe what is known as the 'dark side' of the family, a side which functionalist left out of there synthetic cereal packet family picture. The dark side of the family complains that there is a sufficient amount of psychological harm for women; this is a result of the warm bath theory, which can be seen as an overload of many people's emotions and problems which the mother has to deal with, as well as her own. ...read more.

Conclusion

This criticism attacks the idea that the nuclear family benefits all its members, and instead describes it as being the 'source of all our discontent' with its 'narrow privacy and tawdry secrets'. The politics of the family (1976), was one of many publications written by R.D Laing. In this publication she gave constructive criticism against the functionalist's 'cereal packet' family ideal. R.D Laing main concentration was on families which had a diagnosed schizophrenic member and the exploitative aspects of family relationships. Laing has ideas which are likened to Leach, such as that families are causing problems in society. These problems are cause by interiorization and the nature of the nexus. In effect of interiorization and the nexus the family draws a line between them and the outside world. This leads to separation of 'people like us' and 'people like them', this leads to racism, bigotry and segregation. While the functionalist theory may have an optimistic view about the family and its place in society, it has many criticisms which expose the holes it leaves and gives the 'cereal packet' family a harsh, reality check which it is desperately in need of. ...read more.

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