Assess the functionalist contribution to our understanding of the family.

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Denis Kirya

Assess the functionalist contribution to our understanding of the family?

Functionalist ideology employs the idea of the nuclear family being the main universal family in society and most benefitting. The nuclear family functions to meet the pro dominant means of society (sexual reproduction, educational and economic functions). The family allows each member of the family to shine individually and enjoy success from this although feminists would argue about women gaining any benefits from the nuclear family. Functionalist Charles Murray also argues other family institutions weaken the production of society’s needs. Divorce is ultimately highlighted as one of the main causes of this creation of new families which are presumably less effective in meeting the functional needs of society through the family.

Sociologists Young and Wilmott research in the 2nd half of the 20th century indicated nuclear family as the dominant family type in Britain at the time.  Functionalist viewed the institution as a symmetrical family in reference to the equal relationship between husbands and wives in private. In contrast the decline in family institutions has led to much debate which has prompted the idea of family no longer meeting the needs of the state or family becoming less private due to various legislations allowing other institutions into marital affairs. The New Right believe the decline has occurred due to the broken Britain we live today were a return to traditional family and marriage values are need in order for the family to meet the needs of society.

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Feminist appear to be very critical of Willmott and Young feel functionalist perspectives on the family are flawed. Ann Oakley argues despite the research results of Willmott and Young equality had not yet arrived in relationships between men and women and the idea of egalitarian relationships only met the demands of the presumed society at the time. In addition to this Oakley goes on to dispute functionalist sociology as there to meet the values of male dominated society “malestream sociology” labelling it as an idealised picture which covers up the inequalities of relationships and fails to highlight the domestic violence ...

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