Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households.
In this essay, with the use of information from Item A and elsewhere, I will go into an extent to explain the functionalist view of understanding of the role of families and households.
Functionalists believe that society is based on a shared value consensus, this is a set of shared norms and values into which society socialises its members, This enables society to work without any disagreements and meet society’s goals and needs. Functionalists believe that the family is regarded as a basic building block of society. George Murdock (1949) argues that the family performs four functions to meet the needs of society and its members. These functions are; economic needs, reproduction, primary socialisation and sex. Economic function is providing shelter and food for all family members. Sexual function is allowing the sex drive to be satisfied with one partner and therefore preventing conflict. Reproductive function means to produce next generation; have kids. Socialisation function is teaching the norms and values of society to offsprings. He believed that those needs can only be met within a nuclear family. However, some sociologists would argue that these needs can be achieved in other ways. For example, other family types such as an extended family can be used for primary socialisation and economic security. Other needs such as reproduction and sex can also be satisfied by sperm donors, in-vitro, one night stand, prostitution, friends with benefits etc.
Marxists and Feminists have criticised Murdock’s theory. They say that Functionalism ignores negative aspects of nuclear family, such as domestic violence, cheating, etc. Feminists see the family as being patriarchal and only benefits men and Marxists see the family as meeting the needs of capitalism and not the needs of the family members.
According to Parsons there...
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