Outline and evaluate the functionalist view of the role of the family in society [33 marks]

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Outline and evaluate the Functionalist view of the role of the family in society [33 marks]

Murdock, a functionalist, describes the family as a universal institution based on the nuclear family model. The functionalist view of the role of the family in society is that it maintains social order. The family is a tool for socialisation and a key social institution in sustaining the value consensus.

Murdock identified four main functions of the family: the sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. These four functions cover the role of the family in society. The sexual and reproductive functions are what keep society populated—if they became dysfunctional then society would not have the people inhabiting it. The economic function is the parent’s responsibility to take care of their family financially, usually through the division of labour where the man will take on the instrumental role and provide for the family while the woman will adopt the expressive role and take care of the home and family members. Marxists would contest this viewpoint—arguing that the division of labour is capitalist dogma used to control the labour force and stop them from developing consciousness. The final function identified by Murdock was the educational functional—this is the socialisation function of the family. It is this function that maintains the value consensus which allows society to remain functional. This is a key role of the family to functionalists—if this function is not carried out appropriately then society will become dysfunctional. The weakness in this argument is that it can be seen that functionalists adopt too much of an idyllic view of the family and that while some hindrances may occur it may not necessarily result in a dysfunctional society.

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Another functionalist thinker, Parsons, agreed with Murdock’s educational function. He stated that one of the main functions of the family was the primary socialisation of the children—this is to equip them with the norms and values they need to succeed in society. If they are not successfully socialised they will not fit the value consensus and will not be able to function in the society. Parson’s view of socialisation is focused only on the education of children, this could be criticised because he ignores the two-way interaction between parent and child. Parson also identified one other function of the family, ...

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A very good piece of work looking at the functionalist view of the family. All the key viewpoints have been covered, with some excellently critiqued using other theorists. There are a few odd grammar errors - proof-read carefully. 5/5