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

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Introduction

Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households Functionalist's view of families and households is mainly a positive view. In this essay, I will assess the understanding of families and households through a functionalist view. G.P. Murdock (1949) defined the family as a social group characterized as by common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, their own or adopted of the sexually cohabitating couple. This definition is focused on the 'nuclear family'; a stereotypical two-generation family made up of a heterosexual couple dependent offspring. Right-wing sociologists suggest that this is the ideal type of family to which people should aspire to. ...read more.

Middle

and the father getting ready for work (breadwinner). In addition, Functionalism is a structural theory in that it believes that the social structure of society (social institutions such as economy, education, media, law, religion and family) is responsible for shaping us as individuals and determining our experiences and life chances. Functionalists are interested in how the family functions for the greater good or society and in particular, how it contributes to maintenance of social order. Another Functionalist, Talcott Parsons (1965) have attempted to trace the historical development of the family in order to explain why the nuclear family form has been so dominant. Parson's theory of the family focused on examining the influence of industrialization and the economy on family structures and relationships. ...read more.

Conclusion

After the industrial revolution, specialized agencies developed which gradually took over many of the functions of the family. This meant families could buy food and clothing mass produced in factories. People no longer needed to rely on each other for everything. There were specialized jobs introduced for different professions. E,g; there are now trained doctors to look after patients, whereas before, the extended kinship would work together to help the injured/ill person. Parsons claimed that the new nuclear unit provided the husband and wife with very clear social roles. The male is the 'instrumental leader', responsible for the economic welfare of the family group and protection of family members. The female is the 'expressive leader', responsible for the socialization of children and the emotional care and support of family members. Grant Dawson. ...read more.

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