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The Family in Sociology

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The Family in Sociology In pre-modern and modern societies the family has been regarded as the most basic unit of social organisation. The nuclear family (husband, wife and two children) has been portrayed as the normal or conventional family type by many sociologists. However from the 1960s the nuclear family has come under criticism from a number of sociologists who began to question the idea that the family was a beneficial institution. It is clear however families in modern times have changed greatly from those of the pre-industrial era, they are smaller. The many types of family diversity that is now more common have replaced the extended family of this era. To evaluate the usefulness of having a prevailing image of the typical nuclear family firstly all the theories will have to be assessed. A strong supporter of the family is the functionalist. Their belief is that the family is the "cornerstone of society". In a study on the family George Peter Murdock (Social Structure 1949) studied 250 societies, he came to the conclusion that the "nuclear family is a universal human social grouping...it exists as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society". ...read more.


The primary socialization of children involves two processes, which are the internalisation of societies culture and the structuring of personalities. Parsons could conceive of no institution other than the family that could provide the warmth, security and mutual support needed to complete these processes. The stabilization of adult personalities focuses on the husband-wife relationship. Since the isolated nuclear family does not have the security once provided by the close knit extended family the married couple look to each other for emotional support and so helps to stabilize their personalities. He claims that the nuclear family in industrial society is no less important than it was, it is simply more specialised. Criticisms of Parsons theory come from the fact that he idealised the nuclear family. He portrays his image of the family as having well adjusted children and sympathic spouses who care for each other's needs. Marxists feminists criticise the family as they focus on the double exploitation of women by capitalism and men. They argue men dominant family relationships and that domestic labour within the family serves the need of a capitalist economy. ...read more.


Among these there is other forms of family diversity that have become more prominent. Gay and lesbian households have become more commonplace. There is also the reconstituted family, a family created from pieces of former families. Having examined the different theories and opinions on the family it can be concluded the ideology of the nuclear family often obscures reality. Statistics show that the nuclear family is not the dominant family type instead a diversity of family types exists. A study done at the end of the 1980s by the European Co-ordination Centre for Research and Documentation in Social Science (Boh 1989) showed evidence that family life did have certain trends that were widespread across Europe. All 14 of the European countries studied had experienced rising divorce rates, co-habitation has become more common and the birth rate had declined everywhere. Throughout Europe a greater range of family types is being accepted as legitimate and normal. The prevailing image of the typical nuclear family can be useful for many individuals however the options now available to men and women give them the right to choose the family type they wish to have. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Christine Dodson ...read more.

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