Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to Our Understanding of the Family.

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Functionalists view the family as an institution that is present in society to maintain social order and stability. Functionalist’s also view society’s functions very similar to that of the human body. The Brain in the human body is the organ that controls all other functions. In Society the Government is the main control over the country as a whole. The heart of the body is what keeps the body alive. In society the family is the heart. Overall if the family and heart is taken out, the body and society would collapse and die.

Although both of these have necessary back-up systems, the society has the Army, Police services and Laws if the government should collapse. And the body has immune systems and antibodies to fight of any infections and diseases. Family is seen to be the key to society because it means reproduction to keep the society functioning.

According to Functionalists the only family that would mean perfect functioning of society is the Nuclear Family.

The nuclear family consists of a working man, a housewife, and children. The man is the breadwinner, he earns the money that the wife uses to buy food and necessities to help keep the family together.

Functionalists views of this concept believe that heterosexual couples, adopted children and divorces do not fit into the smooth running of society.

Murdock (1949) states that ‘The nuclear family is a biological necessity because it is universal’. What he means by this is that the main reason that reproduction of children is a necessity to society is because it is world-wide, it is happening everywhere and it can be found in all societies.

Murdock also says that there is 4 key points. Stable Satisfaction of the sex drive (Less promiscuity), reproduction, primary socialisation and economic needs.

Parsons extends on Murdock’s theory with the 'warm bath' theory. This theory is based on how the family is seen to be a stress reliever. The man arrives home from work and is expected to...
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