Examine Functionalist and Marxist explanations of the family.

Essay by claire123High School, 11th gradeB-, January 2003

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Functionalists and Marxist diverse had views on the family. Functionalist theory asserts that there will be a specific pattern of family organisation corresponding to different types of society. Hence there is a particular family form that best suits the conditions of industrial society.

The family described by modern functionalists is very much a description of the sort of families they might have been brought up within and formed them. This is the idealised family of the Victorian middle class; it is a conglomeration of white, middle class, male, western values and experiences. It is just reminiscence and justification rather than a sociological investigation.

Functionalist think that the family has functions to carry out for society and individuals; these are divided into 'essential' and 'non-essential'. For society, the main function is pattern maintenance while for individuals, it is the stabilisation of the adult personality and the socialisation of children. Another of the main points that functionalist believes is that the family is viewed in evolutionary terms, evolution occurs via differentiation and that the family form 'fits' industrial society.

Another of the major factors of functionalism family theory is that of the nuclear family. It is said that the nuclear family with two parents and dependent children living together in a home in relative isolation is 'the' family form in western societies and that the family has an instrumental and an affective leader.

Murdock, a functionalist, states that the family has four functions. They are sexual, economic, reproductive and educational. He argued that the family needs these four factors and he argues that they are the family's purposes. Another functionalist who has similar theories to Murdock is Fletcher. Similar to Murdock he states that the family has functions such as procreation and child rearing, regulation of sexual behaviour and provision of a...