Functionalist to Families

In: Social Issues

Submitted By angelbethm
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Applying material from item A and your own knowledge, evaluate the usefulness of functionalist approaches to our understanding of families and households (20)
This essay will evaluating the usefulness of functionalist approaches such as the families four functions, the distribution of conjugal roles and the symmetrical family, and how these ideas contribute to our understanding of families and households today.
The argument of which the family is an essential building block that reflects the wider needs of society is that of the functionalist approach. Murdoch (1949) argues that the family should feature four main functions, which include; stable satisfaction of the sex drive, reproduction, socialisation and economic needs. Murdoch also argues that the nuclear family is the best able to do this so the father can provide for the economic needs, as the breadwinner, and the mother provides socialisation. On the other hand, the feminist and Marxist perspectives identify that this is a ‘rose tinted’ view of the family unit, and a family rarely meets these expectations. Instead, single parents can just as easily serve the needs of their families and society without being a part of a traditional, nuclear family.
Within these traditional nuclear families, the roles of husbands and wives are segregated into instrumental and expressive roles. The functionalist view of Parsons (1955) argues that the husband has the instrumental role, and so he is geared towards achieving success at work so that he can provide for the family financially. Whereas, the wife has an expressive role where she is responsible for the primary socialisation of the children and meeting the families emotional needs as a housewife. However other sociologists such as Young and Willmott (1962) argue that men are now taking a greater share of domestic tasks and more women are becoming wage earners.
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