The nature and role of family in society

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Information about The nature and role of family in society

Published on December 15, 2013

Author: lindseycottle



Sociological perspectives on the role of the family

THE NATURE AND ROLE OF FAMILY IN SOCIETY 1 The family is one of the most important social groups for sociology because almost all people experience living in a family for some of their life.

FAMILIES AND HOUSEHOLDS  A household is a group of people who may or may not have family or kinship ties.  A family is a type of household where the people living together are related. Most commonly a family is also a kinship group, kinship means being related by birth or blood.

THE MAIN TYPES OF FAMILY      Nuclear Family: Two generations living together (mother and father and dependent children). Traditional extended family: Three or more generations of the same family living together or close by with frequent contact between grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, cousins etc. Attenuated extended family: nuclear families that live apart from their extended family, but keep in regular contact e.g. by phone or by email Single-parent families: A single parent and their dependant children Reconstituted family: New stepfamilies created when parts of two precious families are brought together

FUNCTIONALISTS EMPHASISE THE POSITIVE ROLE OF THE FAMILY  Functionalists see every _________ in society as essential to the _______ running of society. A key functionalist study by Murdock (1949) concluded that the family is so ______ to society that it is inevitable and _________ - in other words, you can‟t avoid having family units in a society, and societies everywhere have family units. Institution  universal  smooth useful

MURDOCK (1949) – LOOKED AT 250 SOCIETIES IN DIFFERENT CULTURES  Murdock argued that some form of the nuclear family existed in all of the 250 different societies he looked at. He argued the family performed four basic functions  Sexual Provides a stable sexual relationship for adults and controls the sexual relationships of its members Reproductive Provides new members of society Economic The family pools resources and provides for its members Educational Teaches norms and values of society       

THE WARM BATH THEORY    In the 1950‟s Talcott Parsons argued that the family has two basic and irreducible functions. These are the primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of adult personalities - Primary socialisation is the process by which children learn and accept the values and norms of society. Parsons described families as “factories” where the next citizens are produced. The family stabilizes personalities through the emotional relationship between the parents. The emotional relationship gives the support and security needed to cope in the wider society. It‟s a sanctuary from the stress of everyday life. Talcott Parsons described the family as a warm bath, because he believed that the family helps to relieve stress and tension from work, and helps adults personalities stabilize, and make the family members content.

HOW CAN YOU CRITICISE THIS APPROACH TO THE FAMILY? Idealistic  Morgan (1975) asserts that Murdock makes no reference to alternative households or to disharmony and problems in family relationships  The functionalist view was dominant in the 19__‟s  Since then, there‟s been widespread criticism that neither Murdock or Parsons look at issues of conflict, class or violence in relation to the family.  Feminists argue they ignore the issue of exploitation of women.  The fact they overlook negative aspects of family life, makes their position look weak. 

MARXIST PERSPECTIVE Marxists also take a structuralist view of the family, viewing the family as performing essential functions for modern industrial society.  The key deifference is that Marxists argue that the family benefits the minority in power (called the bourgeoisie) and the economy but disadvantages the working class majority (____). 

MARXISM IS A USEFUL TOOL OF CAPITALISM     Engels (1884) said the family had an economic function of keeping wealth within the bourgeoisie by passing it on as inheritance. Zaretsky (1976) focused on how the family helped the capitalist economy. The family is a place where the proletariat can have power and control. HE is the „king of his own castle‟. The role of women as housewife means workers are cared for and healthy. This makes them more productive – a great benefit that the capitalist class get for free. The family household is a unit with the desire to buy goods produced by capitalist industry. The family buys the foods for more than they cost to produce and the bourgeoisie gets the profit

CRITICISMS OF MARXISM  The Marxist view of the family never mentions the good things! Marxist sociology is entirely focused on the benefits to the economy and the benefits to the working man‟s boss. It ignores other benefits to the individuals and society.  Traditional Marxist sociology assumes the worker is male and that women are housewives  There is no Marxist explanation as to why the family flourishes as an institution in non-capitalist or communist societies, there is little Marxist research on alternatives to the family. 

QUESTIONS 1. What do sociologists define as a household?  2. What are the key functions of the family according to Parsons?  3. Explain the ways in which functionalist and Marxist perspectives on the family are similar  4. Explain the ways in which functionalist and Marxist perspectives on the role of the family are different? 

THE DARK SIDE OF THE FAMILY  Brainstorm here:

WHAT DID YOU MISS?  Domestic Abuse Economic dominance  Child abuse Incest Inequality

EXAM QUESTIONS  Q1 Suggest three functions that nuclear families might perform (6 marks)  Q2 Examine the view that the family performs the vital function of maintaining the „status quo‟ in society

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