Functionalist View of the Family Essay

1320 Words Nov 24th, 2014 6 Pages
Assess the usefulness of the functionalist view for an understanding of the family today?
Functionalism is a structural theory. In functionalism, social institutes like families are the key parts of the structure/system. These institutions are seen as working in an integrated way that keeps society in a state of consensus. Functionalists stress the positive role of a family for society and its members. They argue that the families’ role is universal and functional.
A famous functionalist, called Murdock believed that the family is a social group characterised by common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship. Murdock
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Parsons believed this was the case because of two factors. Geographical mobility, this is where the family moved to where the work would be, and a nuclear family could move easier than an extended family, and Social mobility, this is where people could move from their ascribed status to their achieved status. Consequently the extended family was replaced by the nuclear family in order to fit the needs of society.
Two functionalists who believed that the family was important and studied the family were Willmott and Young. They believed that the family was becoming a joint conjugal family and that the family was becoming more symmetrical. The rise of the symmetrical family is due to major social changes in the 20th century where there were higher living standards, labour saving devices, better housing, women working and there were smaller families which made it easier for the woman to be able to go out to work and come home and do little bits of housework.
Despite criticisms, the new right from the 1970’s agreed with the functionalist view that the family is useful. The new right is a political view rather than a sociological view, which has had considerable influence on government policies in Britain. It is a conservative view of the family based on some assumptions. The first assumption is a biologically based division of

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