Assess the Functionalist View That the Family Performs Important Functions in Today’s Society?

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Functionalism is a consensus theory which originated with functionalist writers (Durkhem and Comte) in the 19th century. They were influenced by what they SAW as the progress which was made during the industrial revolution.

Functionalists believe in two important concepts - Social Systems, were just like the natural world, society is a complex system and also - Organic Analogy, were they compare society to an organism, such as the human body, which is a complex system which fits together. They believe that all parts of society such as religion and the family work together to create social order and stability. Functionalists believe that society IS based on a value consensus into which society socialises its members. Social structure is also important to socialists because they believe that human behaviour is shaped and determined by it.

Many people believe that that functionalism is too positive because it over emphasises social order and ignores conflict in society. This can be compared to Marxism which is seen as being too negative and over emphasising the negatives of capitalism.

A nuclear family is defined, as a social institution consisting of a father, mother and their children who are all living in the same household. Functionalists stress the positive role of a nuclear family.

The functionalist view on the family is mainly based on the American sociology of the 1940s and 50’s which says that the nuclear family is essential to the survival of society.

One of the functionalists who wrote about the family was G.P. Murdock, he created a very definite description of a family based on what he saw around himself, however his very rigid view of the family has been criticised because it does not include the wide variety of family types which exist, including same-sex couples, and lone parent families. He considers only nuclear families as the norm. However even though Murdock’s view is now criticised, at the time he was carrying out his...
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