Assess the Contribution of Functionalist Sociologists to Our Understanding of the Family

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In this essay the contribution of functionalist sociologists to our understanding of the family will be discussed, sociologists such as Murdock (1949), Parsons (1979) and Young and Wilmott (1973) will be mentioned in this essay.
Functionalists believe that society is based on a shared 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 believe that the family is regarded as a basic building block of society.
Murdock (1949) argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members. These functions are; economic needs, reproduction, primary socialisation and sex. However, he believes that those needs can only be achieved within a nuclear family. But some sociologists would argue that these needs can be met in other ways than within the family such as in institutions other than the family such as education, health services and the government.
Marxist and Feminist sociologists have criticised Murdock’s theory. They say that functionalism ignores conflict and exploitation within society. Feminists see the family as being patriarchal and serving the needs of men and Marxists see the family as meeting the needs of capitalism and not the needs of the family members.
According to Parsons (1979) there are two types of basic functions that the family provides these are the primary socialisation of childhood and the stabilisation of adult personalities. Parsons argues that the family the family provides stability and emotional support to the next generation and to all members of the family as it helps its members of society get away from their stresses in life. Parsons argues over the last 200 years, society has moved from pre-industrial to industrial and the main family type has changed…...

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