Assess the usefulness of the Functionalist view of the family (24 marks) Functionalism is a macro theory and so looks at things on a large scale they consist of structural theorists. They see society as being similar to a human body, in that the essential organs in the body perform specific functions. This is like society as one of the essential organs in society is the family, as it performs essential functions which serve the needs of the family. And that each part of the body works in harmony with all other parts just like society which works in harmony with all other parts. Over the course of time the family has changed and evolved and so has its functions this is known as ‘the March in Progress.’ Even though the functions may have changed slightly according to the functionalists the role of the family is still essential for society.
Murdock was the first functionalist theorist who studied the family. He did this in 250 different societies of different cultures; this study was done in 1949. He claimed that the family is universal and inevitable and that families exist in every society. He saw that the family had four functions occurred in every society. These functions are sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. The sexual function of the family is to establish sexual relationships whereby people have one partner who meets their sexual needs. This reduces step-relations and the number of children born outside marriage and also reduces the number of STI/STD’s. Another function of the family that Murdock saw was reproductive, this is vital to keep the human race going as it continues to create new generations which in turn, provides new work forces. The third function that Murdock saw was that of economic. This is that families provide economic support to particularly the young but this is extending as parents are paying longer to keep children. This economic function allows the economy to function successfully by instilling attitudes and values...
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