Evaluate 3 different ways of looking at the function of the family

Essay by KrissyB December 2003

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Functionalists see the family as an important social institution, functioning for the good of society and the individual.

Parsons (1955) stated that families are "personality factories" where children are socialised into the culture of society by being taught the shared norms and values of their community. They are given a strong sense of belonging and the family is seen as central to consensus and order. This is also shown when functionalists' state that family controls its members through marriage, as sexual relationships within a marriage is seen as acceptable. This means the disorder which could be caused by unregulated sex is avoided.

Functionalists also believe that the family provides an environment for the male worker to relax in after a hard days work. This is sometimes known as the "warm bath" theory and this gives the adults within the family the opportunity to be provided with emotional support so that they can cope with the pressures of everyday life.

Marxists argue that the nuclear family unit is used to promote capitalist values by stressing the importance of materialism. They also believe that the traditional view of the family, with the male as the head of the household, encourages the acceptance of authority, hierarchy and inequality. Therefore, the family only benefits the capitalist class rather that of the whole society as suggested by functionalists.

The feminists argue that the prime function of the women is defined as mother and housewife, allowing men to dominate paid work. They feel that children are socialised into a set of ideas that confirm male power and superiority, enforcing the patriarchal ideology, and teaching children gender roles. This encourages the idea that the division of labour is natural and that women are mainly sexual objects and mothers.

Feminists believe that the nuclear family...