Drawing Upon A Range Of Alternative Perspectives, Critically Analyse The Functionalist Sociological View Of The Nature Of The Nuclear Family Unit

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TITLE: Drawing Upon A Range Of Alternative Perspectives,  Critically Analyse The Functionalist  Sociological  View Of The Nature Of The Nuclear Family Unit

“Many sociologists have regarded the family as the cornerstone of society. It forms the basic unit of social organization and it is difficult to imagine how human society could function without it. In general, the family has been seen as a Universal social institution, as an inevitable part of human society. It has been regarded as a good thing, both for the individual and the society as a whole”  

(Haralambos & Heald 1985 p. 325).

There are three distinct types of family organization: The nuclear family, the polygamous family and the extended family. The most basic type of family

organization is the nuclear family. The term nuclear family is used to mean the group consisting of husband, wife and their children. The normative expectation is that an individual will experience the nuclear family from two perspectives. First as a child in his family of origin (family orientation), then as an adult in his family of marriage

(family of procreation).

A polygamous family consists of two or more nuclear families affiliated by plural marriages, by having one married parent in common. An extended family consists of two or more nuclear families affiliated through an extension of the parent-child relationship rather than of the husband-wife relationship, by joining the nuclear family of a married adult to that of his parents. Three generations including the nuclear families of father and sons, live under a single roof.

The nuclear family is a Universal human social grouping. In the nuclear family we can identify four functions fundamental to human social life. The sexual, the economic, the reproductive and the educational. “Without provision for the first and third, society

would become extinct; for the second, life itself would cease; for the fourth, culture would come to an end. The immense social utility of the nuclear family and the basic reason for its Universality, thus begin to emerge in strong belief”

 (Bell & Vogel 1961 p.43).

Through the years, a range of alternative perspectives have emerged about the nuclear family unit. One is the feminist perspective. For radical feminists, social relationships in all societies are based on male domination and gender divisions constitute the basis of  social life. From their point of view, the family is an institution that oppresses women. They see the apportionment of tasks among family members as the main form of a sexual division of labour. Women are described as giving much but receiving less in return. That unequal process of exchange is theorized as an aspect of the internal stratification of nuclear family life, in which men get much more benefits to those of women.

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Feminist sociologists point out that oppression within the nuclear family is formed by a ramified system of social control whose power is based on the collusion of men against women, in a variety of social institutions.

Feminism has been criticized for drawing a wholly oppressive picture of the nuclear

family.  Feminists have inverted the image of monotholic family. Family is now seen as wholly bad instead of wholly good. In addition, motherhood and family life is either treated as some form of false consciousness or completely ignored by feminists. They are thus charged for not acknowledging the complex ...

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