Assess the view that the pre-industrial family was extended and that modern industrial family is nuclear in structure.

Essay by croftyloftyB, February 2007

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Sociologists have always been interested in assessing the relationship between the family and social change. Functionalists argued that the Extended Family was associated with Pre-Industrial times, and that the Nuclear Family is a modern family structure which resulted from the Theory of Transition at the time of industrialisation.

Talcott Parsons, (The Social Structure of the Family, 1959), was a functionalist who argued that the isolated nuclear family is the typical family structure of modern industrial society. He claims that they have become structurally isolated due to the need for a more geographically mobile workforce, and this has in turn severed ties and links with family kinship. He claims that people no longer feel obligated to remain close to family members and that if there is a relationship it is out of choice rather than from the expectation. He argued that the industrial revolution brought about changes to what the family provided for itself.

The state evolved to meet nuclear family needs. They became responsible for the function of education, health and welfare. Parsons believed that this has left the family with only two functions to perform, the Primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of an adult personality.

Another sociologist, George Murdock, (Social Structure, 1949), agreed that the family are responsible for these functions but also believes that they have five others sexual control, economic support, creation of children, socialisation of child and sense of name and belonging. Murdock researched 250 different cultures and concluded that the family was universal.

Parson's concludes that the nuclear family is 'ideal' as it is suited to modern societies because it is small, independent and self-reliant, ensuring that it is identifiable and responsive to the needs of society. This has become known as the 'best fit theory'. He claims that this type of...