Assess the Contribution of Functionalist Sociologists to Our Understanding of the Family

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Assess the contribution of functionalist sociologists to our understanding of the family Functionalists see the family as a sub-system of society, which works alongside other factors such as the economy and education system to cooperate harmoniously to meet society’s needs and achieve shared goals. Item 2B discusses the idea that the family’s functions are “essential to the smooth running of society”. This can be criticized and countered by numerous other perspectives and theories in which I will examine throughout. The functionalist ideologies of the family include George Peter Murdock’s (1949) idea of the four essential functions. These include a stable satisfaction of the sex drive, which help prevent a sexual ‘free-for-all’. Secondly, Murdock claimed another function was the reproduction of the next generation. Thirdly, the family socializes the young into society’s shared norms and values, and finally it meets it’s members’ economic needs, such as food and shelter. The concept of Murdock’s four essential functions are described in Item 2B concerning the “socializing children into the norms and values of society” function. It can be argued that without the family, there would be no form of primary socialization, which takes place largely within the family where the child learns key things such as language, basic skills and norms. Murdock argues that he studied 250 societies, and in all of them a nuclear family existed. He claims that the sheer practicality of the nuclear family allows it to meet the four functions, ensuring it is a universal concept. However, many sociologists argue against this theory. Some may argue that the four functions are not actually that essential whilst some may argue that different types of families can easily perform those functions as well. Both Marxists and feminists criticize Murdock on the basis that his view is overly

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