Functionalists believe that the family have specific or traditional functions within the family. One function of the family would be reproduction or having children as this is imperative for the world as they will be the future workforce. For example family businesses will need to pass down the factories/shops to the next generation in the family for the continuing of the ancestors business. Other functions include economic maintenance this is where the family provides necessities for all the family members for example shelter, food and clothing. Another is that the family helps teach children how to socialise with others and also educate them with the correct norms. An important function of the family is that it gives a sense of identity and belonging for example the family allows people to be able to rely on because they are connected through family.
Talcott Parsons is one of the key functionalists that strongly argued that the nuclear family fits the needs of the contemporary family and so believes that that extended family, which could involve divorce, will prevent the family from growing and being taken care of. He supported the traditional functions of the family and spoke about how the modern family is changing a lot of the former functions. Parsons identified two remaining functions within the family one being primary socialisation of young which is when the parents raise the children and educate them about the norms and values for example the rights and wrongs so they are able to pass them one. For example in abusive families negative norms are passed on. However how they act in other ways depend on their school life. The other main function is the stabilisations of adult personalities which is where children turn into adults and are forced to ‘grow up’ and get a job and buy a house etc. they are made to take things more seriously in the world so they are able to achieve a sense of belonging on their own and actually have a purpose. Overall Parson’s view of the family is centred around the middle and upper classes and focuses on the male’s purpose and ignores the female perspective. This suggests that parsons believes women are happy to be housewives and don’t aspire to be anything else but loyal to their husbands.
A few positive functions of the family is that they are much more financially stable as the husband and father have a stable job and are able to earn enough money to support the whole family. The nuclear family also results in a much closer relationship between family members as they are with each other daily and so relationships are created. For example siblings are taught to share with each other and so form a bond of trust with each other. Children in the family are more likely to stay on a positive path if they are in a nuclear family as disruption could cause difficulties with school life and social life. Married parents are seen to be very good role models when they are part of a nuclear family.
However a disadvantage of the nuclear family is that functionalist advertises it so it seems to be very isolated and private and therefore they are seen to have a poor social life because they keep to themselves and don’t concern themselves with wider groups of people. The family becomes attached to home leisure with TV the internet and games resulting in them becoming more home-centred. The family makes little contact with neighbours and is very self-contained. The family as a result of being private becomes reliant on support from the welfare state.
Alternatively functionalists are said to idealise the family life too much. Therefore ignore the rising divorce rates. They refuse to acknowledge the negatives about the changing family life, and the growing family diversity. Another view would be those functionalists don’t take in account the abuse that can occur within any families. That is a reason as to why the modern family is...