Using material from item A and elsewhere, assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households

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Examining the Functions of the Family

  1. Explain what is meant by consensus?

Consensus is an agreement among a majority of members of society that something is good and worthwhile, it’s a set of shared norms and values, into which society socialises it’s members

  1. Identify the two essential functions that Parsons sees the nuclear family as performing?

Using material from item A and elsewhere, assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households?

Functionalists believe that society is based on a value consensus; this is a set of shared norms and values into which society socialises its members.  This enables society to work harmoniously and meet its needs and goals. Functionalists view society as being made up of a number of sub-systems that are dependent upon each other.  These can include the education system, media, religion, and the economy.  Just as the human body is dependent upon each of the functions in order to survive, society is dependent on each of the sub-systems.  The family meets some of society’s essential needs by socialising children.  This is regarded as a basic building block of society. Murdock argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members.  These include; stable satisfaction of the sex drive, reproduction of the next generation, socialisation of the young and meeting its member’s economic needs.  

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Murdock argues that the nuclear family because of its sheer practicality is a way of meeting the four needs of society and that this can be found universally.  However, some sociologists would argue that these four needs can be met in ways other than the nuclear family, for example by institutions or different family types. Marxists and Feminists have criticised Murdock’s view and say that functionalism rejects conflict and exploitation.  Feminists see the family as being patriarchal and serving the needs of men.  Marxists argue that the family meets the needs of capitalism, not family members or society as a ...

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A good piece of work examining the functions of the family using Functionalism. The writer clearly understands the theory and the different roles of the family. To improve the work it would be useful to locate the other views of the family in the context of functionalism. The writing style was very good overall. 4/5