Does the nuclear family make an ideal living arrangement?

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Does the nuclear family make an ideal living arrangement?

The view that the nuclear family makes an ideal living arrangement for individuals and society supports a traditional functionalists view in that the nuclear family is 'ideal'.

Functionalists such as Murdock, are supporters of the nuclear family, which he defined as "A social group characterised by common residence, economic co-operation & reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually co-habitating adults". Murdock argued that the family performs 4 basic functions- sexual, reproductive, economic and socialisation, and these functions are necessary for society to exist. Another functionalists view is that of Parsons. Parsons says that the nuclear family is universal but argued that there are only two basic functions of the family. They are- socialisation, which ensures that children 'internalise' the norms and values of their society. This creates a value consensus or general agreement around the main values of society. It is during this socialisation that the norms and values become part of the personality. The second function is the stabilisation of adult personality. Parsons suggests that this function provides emotional security by the sexual division of labour in the family. Parsons would argue that the women's role in the family is 'expressive', providing warmth, security and emotional support to the husband and children, and the male’s role is 'instrumental', as the breadwinner. This view of the instrumental and expressive roles for men and women is quite old fashioned. Nowadays both roles are taken up by both sexes. More women are now wage earners and more men take a role in childcare. For functionalists, family life is a happy and harmonious well-integrated institution and is essential in any society. Marxist do not regard the family as a functional necessity, they see the family as performing a vital role for the capitalist economy.

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Criticisms of Murdock and Parsons come from the fact, that they idealised the nuclear family. Both Murdock and Parsons portrayed the image of the family as having well adjusted children and sympathetic spouses who care for each other's needs. Whereas functionalists say that the family meets the needs of society by socialising children into shared norms and values which lead to social harmony and stability, Marxists would say that the family reproduces capitalism and meets the needs of capitalism into ruling class norms and values, this leads to a submissive and obedient workforce which then gives stability for capitalism, and ...

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