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To what extent do sociologists argue that the family is beneficial to society?

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Introduction

To what extent do sociologists argue that the family is beneficial to society? Families are crucially important to society without doubt. Most British people are born into families and then raised by a family. Most of these very same people grow up to form families of their own and take the responsibility of being a parent. Many people see the family as the normal way of life and watch television programs which revolve around family life. For many the nuclear family has always been viewed as the proper way to bring up children and to live life. However, the subject of families is much deeper than many think. But is the family beneficial to society? Different groups have different views on how beneficial the family is to society. Functionalists, who traditionally dominated the sociology of the family, feel that the family is necessary for the running and continuation of an integrated society. It is assumed by functionalists that if there is the existence of a social institution, then it must have a purpose or a function. Functionalists therefore see the family as beneficial for society. To functionalists, society is an 'organism' that contains different segments which come together to keep society running smoothly. They argue that the family interrelates to other social institutions. ...read more.

Middle

Another view from Marxism is that the economy benefits from the family as the family produces new workers for society. A Marxist writer, Engels, has two main points to his argument. Firstly, that the family serves the requirements of the capitalist economy and secondly that the family prevents women from achieving equality both inside and outside the home. Engels felt that women were oppressed by the family. Women were dependant on their husbands economically and were expected to keep faithful to their husband. However it was regarded as legitimate for men to be unfaithful and use prostitutes. In this way, Engels was critical of the family but still wanted the family to exist. Engels' main view that women cannot achieve equality because the family prevents it from happening and that the requirements of society are served by the family are seen as central by many critics of the family. The main Marxist arguments about the family differ from functionalist opinions considerably. Marxists do not see the family as beneficial to everyone, and in particular stress that women are disadvantaged in the family. However, Marxists do feel that society benefits from the existence of the nuclear family as it develops the next generation of workers. Marxist-feminists use a gender-based analysis of the family and feel that women are oppressed within the family and the wider society. ...read more.

Conclusion

Family members expect too much from each other in his view. Leach is criticised, as he has not carried out detailed fieldwork to support his claims. His view could be labelled as extreme and unbalanced according to critics. It is clear that there are contrasting opinions on whether or not the family is beneficial to society. Functionalists strongly believe that the family is beneficial to the running of society and New Right agree that the family's main function of raising and socialising children is of some benefit. Other views such as Marxists and Feminists have other ideas. Marxists stress that not everyone in society benefits from the family, especially women who are at a disadvantage behind males. Then there are the more extreme views from feminists who strongly believe that women are oppressed in society and the only people who benefit are men. Critical theories argue that the family has harming effects on individual development. The family lifestyle is seen as damaging to a child's up bringing and can cause problems for the child in later life. These theories explain how individuals find it hard to develop themselves as a person in the family because other family members influence them and family relationships can lead to unnecessary emotions coming out. Certain sociologists agree on the subject of the family being beneficial to society, others do not, and the contrasting views lead to fascinating arguments over the true meaning of family life in society. ...read more.

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