Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households
Due to functionalism’s very positive outlook on family life; functionalism can be seen as only ever looking at the harmony of family life and therefore ignoring the possible conflicts and any negative sides of family life.
Functionalists argue that families perform vital functions for society and without the stability they claim society would eventually fall apart; functionalists produce a list of the functions performed by family life such as socialisation, identity and reproduction, they claim that without the structure of family this all wouldn’t be able to occur.
Functionalists also describe how the family is perpetually changing its structure and functions as society has changed in order to keep up with the new needs of society as they arise.
Murdock argues that because families perform such functions as; socialisation, identity, reproduction, it then goes to makes the family a universal institution. As in performing these functions the family links up with other institutions, providing future pupils for education, workers for the economy, and so on.
Murdock also argues that the family performs four basic functions which are; sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. From his study of 250 societies, he came to the conclusion that the performance of these functions was so vital that it is inevitable that families exist everywhere.
Parsons’ list of functions is shorter; he sees them more as ‘basic and irreducible’. He claims that the family must provide the primary socialisation of children to certify the maintenance of society’s culture and the stabilisation of adult personalities - where responsibility for children gives emotional security and the family performs as a haven from the complications of the outside world.
Other sociologists, in particular Marxists, have slated this approach to family life.
They have put forward that this absorption on...