Outline and explain whether the Nuclear family can be seen as universal [15 marks] It is suggested that the Nuclear family is universal as it is promoted as the ‘right’ family type through mass media programmes such as the simpsons, the flintstones and so on. Sociologists study the family because it is the main agent of primary socialisation and it forms one of the central experiences of an individual’s life. Functionalist sociologist George Murdock expresses that he feels strongly that the nuclear family is certainly universal as neither the individual or the society could survive without it. .In 1949, functionalist sociologist George Murdock defined the nuclear family as a social group characterized by economic cooperation, common residence and reproduction. It also includes a sexual relationship and one of more children, own or adopted, of the sexual cohabiting adults. He studied 250 societies and decided that they all showed characteristics from the nuclear family, even though widely varied, concluding that the nuclear family is universal.
However many would say that this theory is out of date as Murdock would have been living in a very religious period where the family would have been expected to live as a nuclear family and consist of these characteristics, whereas in the 20th century families have developed to the changing societies., this would show how the nuclear family is not universal.
Also Murdock didn’t take into consideration all societies, such as those who practice Polygamy, a marriage that involves three of more people. This would involve the husband having more than one wife, or possible the wife having more than one husband. This would be against his belief of a nuclear family being universal as Polygamy does not correspond with Murdock’s characteristic of a sexual relationship. Kathleen Gough, 1972, describes how women bore children to up to twelve ‘sandbanham’ husbands within the Nayar tribe. The mother’s brothers were economically...
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