Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households.

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Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households.

Functionalist sociologists believe that the family is the key institution of society and that it performs vital functions for the maintenance of society as a whole as well as for individual members. According to Murdock, it provides important sub-system that provides stable satisfaction for the sex drive and therefore avoids social disruption. As well as this, Murdock says the family reproduces the next generation and thus ensuring current society to continue.

Parsons argued that the pre-industrial society was focused on the extended family. Roles in these families were always based on ascription, not achievement. According to parsons, industrialisation had many effects on the family. This meant that the economy demanded a more geographically mobile workforce. Nuclear families were formed as people moved away their extended kin in order to take advantage of job opportunities. Specialized Agencies took over many functions of the family e.g., families could now buy food and clothes mass-produced by factories. New nuclear family provided the husband and wife with clear social roles. Wives were expressive Leaders (takes care of children and provides emotional support), Husbands were Instrumental Leaders (bread winner and provides protection). Parsons concluded that the nuclear family is the only family that can provide the achievement orientated and geographically mobile workforce needed by modern industrial economies. Parsons saw nuclear families as ‘personality factories’ whereby citizens who conform and have certain norms are created.

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Functionalists believe the family has specific functions: Stabilisation of adult personality. Parsons spoke about the ‘warm bath’ theory, where the family relieves stresses of modern-day living for its adult members.  Gender Role Socialisation- Children learn the behaviour expected of their gender. Chapman (2004) notes that girls traditionally learn the right kind of their role of homemaker and wife and boys learn that they are expected to be breadwinners. Social Control- Murdock points out that the family is the family is regarded as the moral centre of society and sets the rules of how you should behave. Therefore, the family sets ...

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This is a fairly good essay that uses some very good counter-arguments in particular. The essay however does miss out some of the key aspects of the Functionalist view in terms of the main functions of the family. Also the introduction and particularly the conclusion need to be stronger. Mark: ***