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.
Item 2B “For functionalist sociologists, the family is an important institution in society. They see the family as having a number of roles essential to the smooth running of society. For example, the family is seen as key to socialising children into the norms and values of society. Other sociologists argue that the functionalist view is too uncritical and ignores the conflict that takes place within the family.” For functionalist sociologists the family is an important institution in the modern day society. Functionalists like Murdock, Parsons and Fletcher see the family as having a number of essential roles to give a ‘smooth running society.’ George Murdock, a functionalist, looked at 250 societies in the US.
Murdock suggested that by living in a family which consisted of a mother, father and their biological child/ children, society would be enhanced ass teaching and learning the norms and morals of society would be best with a world which consisted of nuclear families. Since Murdock was a functionalist, he belied that the essential building block of society were the functionality of the economy, reproduction, sex and socialisation. George Murdock along with other functions had a consensus view that nuclear families accommodates the four key functions because it would stabilise satisfaction of the sex drive which would lower social disruption that could be caused by sexual tension. Another key factor was socialisation, specifically primary socialisation, which Murdock believed would be best in a nuclear family as primary socialisation is during the childhood of children, where they learn the norms and values of life, nuclear families were seen as the best setting for this. The functionalist view is extremely positive on its views for family’s and households due to their belief on the importance and influence nuclear families have on society.
Outline and explain the Functionalists view of education Functionalism is based on the view that society is a system of independent groups held together by a shared culture or value consensus. This is an agreement in society among its members about what values are important. Each part of society such as the family and education system performs functions that help to maintain society as a whole. Functionalists see the education system as acting in a more positive way to keep society running in the way it should. Many sociologists have studied the role of education and argued that the education helps its members in ways such as language and academic skills.
Assess the usefulness of the functionalist perspective for an understanding of the family in contemporary society. (24 marks) To assess the usefulness of the functionalists perspectives for an understanding of the family in contemporary (everyday/today) society, I will need to compare functionalists views of the family covering topics such as sexual, economic, reproductive, educational and stabilisation of adult personalities with other theories. Functionalism is a positive theory and believe that the family is the most important institution in society. However, functionalism is a theory that neglect the negative side of the family such as conflict between husband and wife and child abuse and the effect it may have on society. The Functionalist view of sexual issues in society are that every society needs rules about sex.
Sociological Explanations of the Nature and Extent of Family Diversity Today In our modern society, there are different types of families including, but not limited to, the nuclear family, single parent family and divorce-extended family. This has caused sociologists to argue about whether this is a bad thing for society. Functionalists and the New Right argue that without pre-set roles in families, for example the male breadwinner and female homemaker, society would fall apart. These groups argue that the family that best serves society is the nuclear family consisting of a father, mother and dependent children. Opposed to this, feminists and postmodernists argue that the shift from the traditional family to the family today is a good thing because it provides individuals more choice and allows them to pursue their own wants and needs.
Murdoch (1949) argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members. These functions are; economic help, reproduction, primary socialisation and satisfaction of the sex drive. He believes that those needs can only be achieved within a nuclear family. However, some sociologists would argue that these needs can be met in other ways than within the family. For example, other needs such as reproduction and sex can also be met by sperm donors, and ‘escorts’.
These include; stable satisfaction of the sex drive, reproduction of the next generation, socialisation of the young and meeting its members economic needs. Murdoch argues that the nuclear family because of its sheer practicality is a way of meeting the four needs of society and that this can be found universally. However, some sociologists would argue that these four needs can be met in other ways than the nuclear family, for example by other institutions or different family types. Marxists and Feminists have criticised Murcdoch’s view. Marxists and Feminists say that functionalism rejects conflict and exploitation.
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’.
Assess the contribution of functionalist views to the understanding of the family Functionalism is a structural consensus theory. They believe society is held together by social consensus, or cohesion, in which members of society agree upon and work together to achieve what is best for society as a whole. Secondly, they view each aspect of society is independent and contributes to society’s functioning as a whole, similar to the functioning of a human body. Their view is primarily positive and believes that if everyone abides by their roles and expectations then society will continue effectively. Overall, I think the Functionalist view is too positive as it fails to explain the social conflicts that characterise the modern world.