Assess the Usefulness of Functionalism for an Understanding of the Family

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Assess the usefulness of functionalism for an understanding of the family.

Functionalism is a structural theory in that it believes that the social structure of society (social institutions such as economy, education, media, law, religion and family) is responsible for shaping us as individuals. Functionalists are interested in how the family functions for the greater good or society and in particular, how it contributes to maintenance of social order. Functionalist's view of families and households is mainly a positive view. In this essay, I will assess the understanding of families and households through a functionalist view. All over the world family life is differs by huge variation and diversity. But in the UK and according to functionalists who take the more traditional view of family believe it should be a small group of people living together, including the mother father and usually two or three children and are biologically related. The children should be the product of romantic love. A famous sociologist George Peter Murdock (1949) defines the family as: “A social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It should consist of adults of both sexes with at least two who maintain a socially approved relationship, which has created one or more children of their own. Therefore Murdock’s definition is based on the nuclear family – a stereotypical two-generation family made up of a heterosexual couple with dependent offspring. This definition was popular with functionalist sociologists who suggested that this is the ideal type of family which people should aim to have. Murdock’s four key functions are:

Stabilisation/regulation of the sex drive (sexual)
Reproduction of the next generation (reproductive)
Socialisation of the young (educational)
Meeting its members’ economic needs, providing food shelter etc (economic) Sociologists criticise Murdocks approach on the family saying it’s to ‘rose-tinted’, which means...
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