According to Modernist theory, the ‘ideal’ family also known as the nuclear family consists of two parents (both sexes) and a small amount of children. In this type of family (it being the only type seen as acceptable at this time) the father had the ‘instrumental’ role, meaning that he was responsible for looking after the family’s needs on a financial basis. The mother had the ‘expressive’ role which meant she was responsible for caring after the family needs on a physical and emotional basis, this also included housework.
Parsons agrees with this theory as it is a suitable for a more geographically mobile workforce, being ‘structurally isolated’ from extended relatives allows families to meet the needs of the industrial society. In Parsons view there has been a loss of functions due to society industrialising, whilst changing the structure of the family from extended to nuclear this is where the functions were lost forcing the nuclear family to specialise in these two ‘irreducible functions’. These functions are ‘the primary socialisation of children (preparing children with basic skills and society’s values to enable them to cooperate and fit into society)’ and ‘the stabilisation of adult personalities (the family is a place where adults can relax and release tension so they are refreshed for the workplace the next day)’
Unlike Parsons, the New Right believe that this theory is correct but on a more conservative and traditional level. The new right believe that the nuclear family is the ‘natural’ family type and is based on the biological factors of men and women and the differences between them. They believe that family is the ‘cornerstone of society’ and that diversity is the cause of many social problems.
Chester(1985) agrees with this