Assess the view that the nuclear family functions to benefit all its members and society as a whole.

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Assess the view that the nuclear family functions to benefit all its members and society as a whole.

A nuclear family can be defined as a two generational grouping consisting of a heterosexual father and mother living at the same address with a dependent child or children. There is a view held by Functionalists that this family type is the ideal which benefits both its members and society as a whole. In order to assess this view, it’s necessary to first establish the functions that the nuclear family performs and then to assess whether these do benefit all family members and wider society.

Functionalists stress the positive role of the nuclear family in providing for the basic needs of its members and how important it is for the efficient working of society and the maintenance of social order. It is also a very optimistic view of the family which sees the interaction of the family with society’s institutions as harmonious and based on consensus and that these inter-relationships contribute to social solidarity. Functionalists look at society on a macro level and look at what the nuclear family does for the whole of society, not just certain people. To Functionalists the nuclear family is at the heart of society and essential for its smooth running. Indeed, Murdock argued that the family was so essential that it was universal and inevitable. Moreover, it focuses its analysis of the family on the assumption that society has one set of shared values and norms which all institutions are happy to conform with. Thus, functionalists argue, the nuclear family is a win, win situation for both the family members and the other institutions which make up society as a whole.

 Various Functionalists have sought to analyse the functions of the nuclear family. Murdock thought that the nuclear family performs four basic functions which are sexual i.e. by regulating sexual behaviour, reproductive i.e. it produces the next generation, educational i.e. it transmits cultural norms, customs and rituals and economic i.e. protection and maintenance of dependants. Murdock believed that in carrying out its functions, the nuclear family links up with society’s institutions providing for instance future pupils for education and workers for the economy.

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Parsons’ list of functions is much shorter than Murdock’s; he argues that the family has to provide for the primary socialization of children by transmitting to them the acceptable rules and patterns of behaviour to ensure the stabilisation of society; and the stabilisation of adult personality i.e. responsibility for the children gives emotional stability and acts as a haven from any difficulties by allowing adults to let go within the confines of their own home. Parsons analysis seeks to show that as society evolves so the family adapts and his analysis showed how the family’s functions adapt to a modern ...

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