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With reference to the family, consider how functionalist perspective enhances understanding of the diversity of family in today's society

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Introduction

With reference to the family, consider how the Functionalist perspective enhances understanding of the diversity of the family in today's society. "The family is a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually co-habiting adult" (Murdock 1949). In this piece of work I am going to discuss the family from the Functionalist perspective. In order to obtain a more detailed analysis of the Functionalist theory I am going to compare and contrast alongside the Marxism as well as other perspectives, in order to examine the role of the family in society. Murdock's description of the family is just one of many and I am going to discuss whether his idea of the family is representative of the family in today's society. Cree (2000) tells us that the family is a very specific and carries 'many assumptions about men and women, about children, about work, about sexual behaviour and about caring' (p27). Murdock's view of the nuclear family is very traditional, and 'he based his definition of the family on a sample of 250 societies ranging from hunting and gathering ands, to small-scale farming societies to large-scale industrial societies' (p81) in order to get a true representation of the family from many cultures and societies (Pilkington, 2004). When he wrote his definition in 1949, he claimed that the nuclear family was universal, but now families are much more diverse. ...read more.

Middle

is freely available, sterilization is an option, abortion has been legalized and for those who want to start a family later in life there is IVF treatment (Bilton, 1996). These changes have had an enormous effect on the family and are some of the main reasons why Murdock's ideal is becoming so much harder to achieve. Women are realizing that society doesn't need to be patriarchal, and that they deserve an equal say in the way society is run. Radical Feminists consider that because society is so malestream that it results in the oppression of women in society, and they call this Patriarchy (Bilton et al, 1996). At the other end of the scale, post feminists believe that women are now freer than ever in society, and that feminism is no longer necessary, they believe that patriarchy has been reduced on such a large scale (Kidd et al, 2003). This has had an enormous effect on the family and is another one of the reasons why Murdock's ideal is becoming so much harder to achieve. Talcott Parsons, a Functionalist, argues that industrialization was the cause of the breakdown of the extended family, where there was a functional fit into society, as well as into the nuclear family (Kidd et al, 2003). Before industrialization the home and workplace were not separate entities, and were a mode of economic production; when industrialization occurred, the home and place of work became separate (Kidd et al, 2003). ...read more.

Conclusion

An alarming statistic tells us that 'Britain boasts the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe' (Davis, 2000, p1), and as Baroness Young complains (as cited in Davis, 2000) that 'marriage is hardly mentioned, it is all about sex and relationships' (p1). A higher social acceptance of homosexual relationships means that more people are partaking in these sorts of relationships freely, and this has been enforced with the introduction of The Civil Partnership Bill that allows homosexual 'marriages', and gay couples are now allowed to adopt children and form their own 'family' (www.ethicsforschools.org, 2006). Davis (2000) informs us that young people growing up in today's society are surround by a huge variety of families, these include 'heterosexual, gay, step, foster, looked after and single parent' (p3). This shows us just how diverse families in the 21st century have become, but in the same article Davis (2000) also tells us that what is important in any relationship is 'security and love' (p3). When Murdock came up with his definition of the family in 1949, any other variation of family apart from the nuclear family was virtually unheard of. As society has become more diverse, people have developed different values, and now lead much more varied lives. In conclusion, I think I have shown that Murdock's evaluation of the family is no longer relevant in today's society. I think that a more appropriate definition of family would be any variety where there are two generations that are somehow related, either through marriage or biologically, that live together in the same household. ...read more.

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