Lastly the family also provides economic provision. Families need to provide shelter, food and clothing for each other. To fulfil this need they need to have financial stability therefore the adults go out to work to bring home living necessities. To provide protection and maintenance member, the division of labour has come about where the male is the bread winner and the female is the nurturer this not only decreases s chances of poverty, but as more and more wage-earners come about the economy of society will run better.
Murdock’s claims have led to criticisms led by interpretivist sociologists. They argue that Murdock had failed to see that the product of a family is not only biological but has come about due to culture as well. They didn’t acknowledge the fact that even within the same society the role of different family and upbringing can be different. If you were to look at the UK alone there are different social classes, religions, cultures and backgrounds which all come to play when children are being brought up. So a Christian family’s child rearing can be different from a Sikhs family due to the difference in religion.
With Murdock’s work he is implying that in a family he right way to bring up the next generation would be between a married couple of the opposite sex, this ignores same sex families and single parent families where families turn out fine and therefore his work is political in trying to say there is the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ way of rising children.
As functionalists have been analysing the family, they have come up with the claim that there are two main areas that are carried out by the family; which are primary socialization of children and secondly the stabilization of adult personality. One of the functionalists who encouraged the idea of the first point was Talcott Parsons.
Primary socialisation concerns the children upbringing and the way the child is socialized at a young age. Social norms and values are taught to children, parsons said that personalities are “made not born”. From this we can see that Parsons saw this as a major stage in a child’s life as it would shape their personality in future life, thus he saw mothers as being an important pillar for the foundation of a child. He claimed that the mothers were naturally ‘expressive leaders’ and that this role was biologically formed for them to be nurturers and to care and support the family emotionally.
This shows that having families improves socialisation, but o the other hand there are many other contributing factors for these types of changes not only are families playing a role in the child’s life but as time goes on media, education, and religion can also have an effect. So Fletcher (1998) argued that without the help of medical advancements, where healthcare is readily available with clinics and health visitors, so bringing up children has been made easier with this kind of aid at hand.
Now for the second important phase in family functions, is which Parsons believes provide the home with peace, is the stabilization of adult personality. He came up with a theory now known as the ‘warm bath’ theory. He argued that the family and the home is a stress free place for the adults to be themselves. This provides stabilisation where the instrumental leader the breadwinner can be relieved from work related stress etc. In return the family turns out happy with a strong bonded relationship between parents and children as they unwind.
Although this may seem to be the typical family functions, these functionalists have failed to see that not all families work out to be as peaceful or as loving as they claim them to be. It can be argued that if there is such a strong relationship in families with strong bond of love, how has domestic violence, child abuse come about. This has increased single parent families and a reason for divorce rates rising. They also don’t see that they’ve analysed only American families which mostly tend to be the nuclear type, so other types of families and social class can also have major changes to the upbringing. Not only that we have to take in account that not all women stayed at home for financial reasons they had to go to work, so childrearing was different. Also since 1950s, a lot has changed in the society of Britain as it has now become more multicultural this means new means of child socialisation have been introduced through ethnicity, culture, and religion which couldn’t be taken up as a factor when Parsons came up with his theories before this stage.
There are also two groups which believe that the family does not benefit every member of the family but instead is a tool used for either capitalism or men. These would be the Marxists and the Feminists.
Karl Marx who came up with the Marxists theory would also argue on the basis of primary socialisation, he goes against Parsons case who believed that children are brought up to learn social norms for the betterment of society. When instead Marxists would argue that inequality is taking place, by teaching hey are filling children’s mind up with being consumerists which in the end is the main purpose of a family is to serve the capitalists, who are the only people who benefit as families will continue working and being consumers thus becoming an advantage to the capital and the economy.
Feminists perspective on the family is that the role of the woman as being an ‘expressive leader’ is not biological but is a social construction for women to work under men as it only benefits men where it comes to emotional support and child rearing the are capable of handling them alongside work as well. Feminists say that these are also for the benefit of the capital, and the reason of the emphasis of women as just mothers is unfair as it puts societal pressure on them to do so. This is also to the advantage of capitalists, as new generation of children means a new generation of workers.
There are many conflicting views on the functionalists approach to the family as they seem to forget a lot of factors which may intervene with the family, but even with all these views they would all agree that the family is still the basic necessity for survival for the society.