Families and Households
(In this essay I will examine and assess the view that, in today’s society, the family is losing its functions.) Modern family sociology mainly developed in the middle of the 20th century, in a period of stability (for countries like the USA or even Switzerland) or of social reconstruction after the Second world war (as for most other European countries). This development took place under the aegis of the then dominating functionalist paradigm (Parsons & Bales 1955, Goode 1963). Its basic model was that of the nuclear family, a couple of two adult partners living together with their children and forming an irreducible group securing fundamental tasks for social and hence societal integration, especially through socialization, a group that functioned in a relatively autonomous way, with little intimate contacts beyond its borders, which made it particularly attuned to the flexibility required by the industrial society. The internal structure of this family model was mainly organized around two ascribed criteria, sex and age. The role attribution according to the sex of the adult partners - internal tasks for the wife, external tasks for the husband - was said to correspond to expressive vs. instrumental orientations typical of sexual identities and was interpreted to be a highly functional way of performing all the necessary contributions to family and societal functioning. The welfare state and other social institutions played a pivotal role as a ‘substitute family‘; many functions the family used to perform (see my video on Parsons’ Fit Thesis’) have now been taken over by our welfare state (anyone else hear Charles Murray groan?). Remember pre-industrialization? – The family performed many educational & caring roles! For example, single parents can perform the economic role through benefit payments and primary socialization of children can be performed by pre-school / nursery. So on the one hand, from a functionalist and New Right point of view; the ‘family’ is losing its functions because of their primary concern / focus with the nuclear family. However the evaluation is that the ‘family’ isn’t necessarily losing its functions because in whatever format the ‘family’ is found, with external support the key functions Durkheim and Parsons Stress, are still performable. Certain functionalist such as Parsons and Dennis say that in our now modern society some functions performed by the family have been shifted to specialized institutions that look after certain vital roles. This would include such things as education, as this used to performed by the family who educated their children for the working world. They also claim that now the family has two basic functions left, these are the socialization of children and the stabilization of adult personalities. Changes in the family; Decline in marriage and growth in cohabitation, Remarriage and growth of reconstituted families More births outside marriage, Rising divorce rates, Ageing population. However some other sociologists such as Fletcher and Shorter claim that it is the opposites and that the family actually sued to ignore such things as the education of their children and the recreational activities were not done. They say that now due to the introduction of the welfare system the family now cares about their Childs health and keeps a closer eye on it. The family still is responsible for partly diagnosing smaller illnesses that affect the child and caring after them. And also due to the introduction of the social service department the family must further care for their child so they are not taken away. There are many different sociologists who look in the families place in today’s society and assess the level of function to family has today. From Murdock to parsons, feminist and warm bath theory there is many different views and opinions on this statement. One of the more famous sociologists who looked at the family is G.P.Murdock; he compared...
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