Evaluate the functionalist theory of the family

Essay by daytona955 May 2005

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Evaluate the functionalist theory of the family

In this essay, I intend to analyse some of the theories behind the functionalist perspective of the family, it is my intention to look at two main theorists in this field, Murdock and Parsons. I to analyse their theories and give objective argument for the pros and cons of the functionalist family. I intend to break this down by looking at the theorists separately and then looking at arguments against the functionalist family.

Sociology, second edition by Giddens 1993, states that functionalism is a theoretical perspective based on the notion that social events can be explained in functions they perform, that is the contribution they make to the continuity of society. Breaking this down further, Murdock (1949) states that the definition of the family is "a social group, characterised by common residents, economic co-operation and reproduction, it includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain as socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children are own or adopted of the sexually cohabiting adults".

The structures of the family varies from society to society, the smallest family group is the nuclear family, and consists of a husband and wife, and the immature offspring , units larger than the nuclear family are known as extended families, and can be seen as extensions of the nuclear family. This can have vertical extensions, for example, older members of the family living in the same household. A grandmother or grandfather, and also can have horizontal extensions, an example of this would be a brother-in-law or sister-in-law of the spouses living in the same house. But functionalists felt that the nuclear family was most adapted to the functionalist theory, as it is insular and mobile therefore aiding society, by keeping up with economic movement, but...