Sociology & The Family

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Sociology considers the family to be one of the most important social groups, as some form of family can be identified in almost all human societies. The family is often seen as a norm in social relationships, this belief is reinforced by the media, politicians and religion. However the diversity of family structure has increased due to major changes in modern society eg. Changes in divorce laws, changing values and the changing role of women. These changes have led to a huge increase in diversity of family types eg. Single-parent and reconstituted families. Sociological research has shown that our definition of the family varies greatly from that of other cultures and also from other groups within our own society. Functionalism views society as being based on consensus and agreement and assumes that all social institutions exist to serve a purpose or function to society. Functionalism believes that, as with all social institutions, the family exists to serve functions – outlined by G.P Murdock. Murdock’s study “Social Structures” (1949) sees four essential functions of the family : The sexual function – in that it regulates sexual behaviour within society, The reproductive function – in that it produces the next generation of society, The economic base unit – co-operating in tasks and sharing in resources and also the educational function – in socialising children into the culture of their society. American sociologist Talcott Parsons carried out a study – “The family and functional differentiation” – which sees two irreplaceable functions of the family these are: the primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of adult personalities. The primary socialisation of children is the process of the family moulding the child’s personality to fit the needs of society and takes place during early childhood. The stabilisation of adult personalities is often
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