Using Material from Item a and Elsewhere, Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to an Understanding of Families and Households. (24 Marks) Essay

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Functionalists believe that society is based on a value consensus this is a set of shared norms and values into which society socialises its members. This enables society to work harmoniously and meet society’s needs and goals. Functionalists view society as being made up of a number of sub-systems that are dependent upon each other. These can include the education system, media, religion, and the economy. Just as the human body is dependent upon each of the functions in order to survive, society is dependent on each of the sub-systems. The family meets some of society’s essential needs by socialising children. This is regarded as a basic building block of society. George Murdoch (1949) argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members. 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. Feminists see the family as being patriarchal and serving the needs of men. Marxists argue that the family meets the needs of capitalism and not family members or society. Parson’s argues that the particular structure and functions of a family type will ‘fit’ the needs of society in which it is found. According to Parsons’ there are two types of society; industrial and pre-industrial society. He argues that the nuclear family fits the needs of

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