Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to Our Understanding of Families and Households

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Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households.

Functionalism is a macro approach to society. It is based on a consensus that society as whole is run by and for the benefit of all its members. Early Functionalists such as Durkheim believed that society is made up of many institutions which work together to function. Regarding families, Functionalists believe that the nuclear family is best for society. Functionalists look at what the functions the family performs and they therefore say that the nuclear family is best for society. For example functionalists believe that traditional domestic roles (for the male to play an instrumental role as the breadwinner and the female to do the dual-burden) are necessary to ensure that children are socialised correctly with both male and female role models. Functionalists believe that the nuclear family is perfect for bringing up a geographically mobile workforce which allows families to move about for work easily, for example Functionalists believe during the industrial revolution nuclear families became more common as it was easier for families to move to an urban area in search of work than if it was for example an extended family. Conflict theories such as Marxism and Feminism challenge the Functionalism and the consensus of society by taking a more critical view. Social historians such as Laslett and Anderson also criticize the functionalist view of a ‘Functional Fit’ in the family. The main supporters of Functionalism in the family are Murdock, Parsons and Fletcher – each with their own views on how the nuclear family benefits all the members of the family and society as a whole.
One of the first functionalist sociologists was G.P Murdock (1897-1985). He believed that the nuclear family provided sheer practicality to meet the needs of each member. He conducted his studies…...

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