Functionalists View of the Family

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Examine Functionalists explanations of the family (24 marks) Functionalists believe that society is based on a set of shared values and norms; this is known as a value consensus. These norms and values socialize its members, which enables them to cooperate with each other so society’s needs are met, this creates social order. It offers a structural and macro view of the family which is top down. Functionalists see society as being similar to a biological organism for example the human body. This is called the organic analogy. The human body is made up of various different parts that function together, each part is necessary for the normal functioning of the whole body. Society is made up of various institutions (for example education or family), Functionalists believe that these institutions rely on each other each other which helps maintain social order. If one institution is quickly modified or fails to work with other institutions, society would be dysfunctional and would end up in anarchy. Functionalists compare this with the human body because if one component is unable to work, this often affects other components in the body, which could result in death. Functionalists believe that a family is a vital institution, which contributes to maintaining social order because it meets the needs of other institutions such as the education system, which enables society to function in a unified manner. Functionalists believes that the nuclear family fits society’s needs, however several alternative theories such as Feminism contradict Functionalist ideology. Murdock believes that the nuclear family performs four essential functions for society and its members however he acknowledges that other institutions can perform these functions. He claims that he found evidence of a nuclear family in 250 different societies so he argues that a nuclear family is universal
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