The importance of family in society

Topics: Sociology / Pages: 4 (782 words) / Published: Nov 19th, 2013
“Today, the nuclear family performs an essential function in society” Functionalism is a consensus view that society is like the human body and couldn’t function without all its parts- Society is characterised by groups working together and widely agreeing on norms and values. They believe that society influences the individual, and the individual is less important, as long as society is running smoothly. It is also a Structuralist view, meaning the social structures (family; education; the media; religion) make us who we are and instruct our behaviour. The idea that the nuclear family is essential is central to functional theory but has been criticised by Feminists and Marxists, who offer an alternative view. Firstly, Sociologist George Peter Murdock (1949), after comparing over 250 societies, claimed that the nuclear family was universal. He defined the family as:
“A social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It contains adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.”
He identified four vital functions of the family which could not be performed by other establishments, therefore proving the importance of family in today’s society. These were: Reproduction (to keep society going); Sexual Satisfaction (to keep harmony in the family); Socialisation of the young (to teach children rights and wrongs); and economic (to provide for basic economic needs). However, some argue that Murdock’s definition of the family is quite dated now and conservative, as it refuses to accept some types of family which are deemed okay and socially accepted now- E.g. Lone parent families and civil partnerships. Because of this, many sociologists question Murdock’s theory. The Functualist, Talcott Parsons (1955) believed that family life was an essential function in society. However, he thought that the family has

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