Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to Our Understanding of Families and Households

383 Words2 Pages
Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households Functionalists believe that society is held together by social consensus; shared norms and values into which society socialises its members, in order to achieve what is best for society as a whole. The functionalist theory views the family as a social institution that performs certain essential functions for the benefit of the society (not the individual). The family is the backbone of society and if it fails to carry out the functions and pass on certain values and attitudes to its members, the family is labelled as dysfunctional and society is affected as a result. Thus, functionalists argue that the family is vital to society, helping to maintain order and stability. George Murdock (1949), a well-known functionalist, argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members. These functions are; economic needs, reproduction, primary socialisation and sex. The ‘sexual' function refers to the regulation of sexual activity; husbands and wives have sexual access to each other. Therefore, Murdock argues that the family caters to the sexual needs and gratification of its adult members and also prevents social disturbance, for example, rape. The ‘reproductive' function relates to bearing and raising children. The family provides the society with new members and maintains a populated society, thereby ensuring the continuation of society over time. The ‘educational' (socialisation) function refers to the responsibility the family has to transmit norms and values to the younger members. This function is important as without culture, the society could not survive, and too much deviation from the norm would disrupt the stability of the society. The family is also an ‘economic' unit as it provides necessities such as food, shelter and a new
Open Document