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Define the term 'family' and the term 'household'.

A family consists of people who are related by blood or marriage.
A household consists of a person living alone or a group of people who live communally and eat together. They may or may not be related to each other.


Explain the functionalist view of society.

Functionalism is a consensus theory. Functionalists believe that society is based on a set of shared norms and values into which society socialises its members. Values are general beliefs as to what is right or wrong, whereas norms are specific guidelines or rules which apply in particular situations. They view society as being a system which is made up of different parts or subsystems which depend on one another. They use the organic analogy and believe that each institution has a positive function in society in the same way that the organs in a human body do. Examples of subsystems are education, the economy, the legal system, religion and media. They view all of these subsystems as being vital to meeting society's essential needs ie. the family meets the need to socialise children. They also believe that modern society is a meritocracy, allowing equal opportunities to all individuals as social positions can be changed through one's own efforts. Functionalists stress value consensus, stability and social order.


Explain what the organic analogy is.

The organic analogy is an analogy which compares society to a physical organic being.


Explain what norms are and what values are.

Norms are specific guidelines or rules which apply to specific situations while values are general beliefs as to what is right or wrong.


What are the characteristics of the nuclear family?

- includes an adult male and female
- they are married
- they have at least one child- biological or adopted
- there is a sexual division of labour


Explain Murdock's cross cultural study.

Murdock carried out a cross cultural study of 250 societies, and found that the nuclear family is the universal family form as it is found in all societies: whilst kinship systems vary, the nuclear family can be found at the core.


What is the sexual division of labour?

The sexual division of labour is the division of work between a wife as husband, where the wife plays an expressive role, being a housewife, and the husband plans an instrumental role, being the breadwinner.


What do other sociologists think about Murdock's view that the nuclear family is universal?

Many sociologists agree that the nuclear family is universal and 'natural' as it is determined by our biology.
Most sociologists argue that the nuclear family is not 'natural' but is rather socially constructed- created and defined by the culture of a society. This is supported by cross-cultural studies which demonstrate diverse family formations.
The extent of family diversity present in the UK today contradicts Murdock's claim of universality.


What does it mean if something is socially constructed?

It means that it has been created and defined by a society's culture.


Explain what value consensus is.

Value consensus is an agreement amongst society's members in ideas, beliefes, principles and goals. Functionalists argue that social order and stability is reliant on value consensus.


What is the functionalist view on the nuclear family?

Functionalists believe that the nuclear family is the foundation upon which society is built because it is functional and beneficial for both the individual and the society.
It meets the needs of society by providing social order, value consensus and social stability.


What are the 4 functions of the nuclear family identified by Murdock as being essential for society.

1. The sexual function
- In most societies, there are norms against sex out of marriage. Rules which prevent a sexual 'free-for-all' contain sexual activity and avoid the disruptive effects which it would likely cause.
The sex drive being controlled and contained helps to stabilise society.

2. The economic function
- The nuclear family needs to meet the economic needs of individual family members. It also acts as a unit of consumption, which helps to maintain the economy.

3. the reproductive function
- The nuclear family provides stability for the reproduction and rearing of children. The nuclear family is the main unit for reproduction, making it essential for society as without reproduction society would cease to exist.

4. The Socialisation Function- the nuclear family is important for the primary socialisation of children. Through primary socialisation, children learn the norms and values of their culture which helps to maintain value consensus (shared values and beliefs) which functionalists see as being essential to maintain social stability.


Explain the difference between Murdock and Parsons's argument.

While Murdock argues that the nuclear family is universal, Parsons argue that the family and the functions it performs depend on the kind of society in which it was found.


According to Parsons, how did the structure of the family change due to the industrial revolution?

He suggested that before the Industrial revolution the family was extended rather than nuclear.
- it was multi-functional
- it was a unit of production
- it was self-sufficient as it met the needs of all members and also fed, clothed and educated them

During the industrial revolution, there came a need for a socially and geographically mobile workforce, which led to the rise of the nuclear family. Geographical mobility was required so that people could move around as industries sprung up and declined. Social mobility encouraged the rise of the nuclear family as it could cause conflict if a male had achieved a higher status than his father and they lived together.

Parsons also claims that the family lost several functions during this.


Explain how, according to Parsons, industrialisation led to a loss of functions for the family.

- the family ceased to be a unit of production: production moved to factories and the family became a unit of consumption instead.
- the family lost other functions to other institutions- education to schools- healthcare to the health service.


What did Parsons identify as being 2 essential functions of the family that can be performed by no institution other than that of the nuclear family?

Primary Socialisation- providing children with the basic skills and values they need to integrate into society. This was also identified by Murdock as being one of the essential functions of the nuclear family.

Stabilisation of adult personalities- providing adults with release from the pressure of everyday life. This stabilises their personalities, thus also stabilising wider society (warm bath theory).


Explain how the sexual division of labour in the family helps to stabilise personalities?

Parsons argues that women naturally have an expressive role, providing emotional support, warmth and security to their children and husband.
Men, he argued, have an instrumental role as being the breadwinner. His role leads to stress and anxiety, which threatens to destabilise his personality.
The wife's expressive role relieves this tension by providing love and understanding. This stabilises the husband's personality which, in turn, stabilises wider society.
Thus, functionalists see the nuclear family as being essential to society.


Outline two general evaluation points for functionalism

The functional fit thesis may be an oversimplification as historical research does not support it. For example, according to Young and Willmott, the typical family before the industrial revolution was actually nuclear rather than extended.

The functionalist analyses of the family may have a middle class bias. For example, Parsons fails to consider the fact that poverty and wealth may determine whether or not women stay home to look after children. Working class women are generally unable to afford to stay at home rather than work.


Outline the theoretical objections to functionalism.

The feminist perspective: Feminists reject the consensus view that the family meets the wider needs of both wider society and all the family members. They argue that functionalists ignore the conflict and exploitation within the family- the dark side- and its dysfunctions such as domestic violence. They also argue that marriage justifies domestic violence, giving men power over women and that the sexual division of labour is not natural but rather socially constructed.

Marxists argue that the nuclear family meets the needs of the bourgeois/ capitalist class and not of all individuals and society as a whole. They argue that the family is an institution of the superstructure that maintains and reproduces class inequality. They also argue that value consensus is ruling class ideology which children are socialised into- i.e. parental power over children makes them ready to accept orders from capitalist employers.

Postmodernists argue that the social changes since the 1960s mean that functionalist theories of the family are outdated and no longer useful. They argue that we no longer live in a predictable world made of orderly structures such as the nuclear family. Instead, society has entered a new, chaotic postmodern stage where family structures are fragmented and individuals have much more choice in their living arrangements.


Evaluate marriage and the sexual function.

In the past, sex outside of marriage was seen as deviant- however, it is increasingly becoming the norm.
Fallen marriage rates have coincided with a rise in cohabitation.
There has also been a rise in births outside of marriage.

Murdock argues that marriage provides stability for the reproduction of children, however rising divorce rates suggest otherwise.


Evaluate the economic function proposed by the functionalist perpective.

Other types of families are increasingly fulfilling this function. For example, cohabiting couples with children, same-sex couples and lone parents.
Marxists argue that consumption does not benefit all of us but just the capitalists/bourgeoisie.


Evaluate the reproductive function

The rise of surrogate mothers has allowed same-sex partners to raise children. This means the reproductive function can be performed new reproductive technology rather than the nuclear family.
Many married and non married women are deciding to have no children at all.


Evaluate the education and primary socialisation function.

New Right Conservatives argue that peer groups and the media are more influential than parents today in the socialisation process.

Nurseries and playgroups have an important role in the socialisation of children whose parents work full time.

This suggests that institutions other than the nuclear family can perform the socialisation function.


Evaluate the stabilisation of adult personalities.

Most married women now work and so nowadays both partners are likely to play expressive and instrumental roles at various times.


Evaluate Parsons' functional fit theory with.

Parsons claimed that after industrialisation the family becomes nuclear however other people say that it gave rise to the mum-centred extended family.

Parsons said the nuclear family is dominant however we still have lots of extended families around.

The family is less like a warm bath and more like an ice one. There is a darker side to the family- abuse, divorce...


Explain the Marxist perspective of the family

Marxism is a macro, structural approach like functionalism, but unlike functionalism, it emphasises conflict rather than consensus, this conflict caused by capitalism.

The Marxist perspective sees the nuclear family as supporting capitalism in a number of ways.

1) Inheritance of property

According to Engels, pre-capitalism there were no families as such, and there were no restrictions on sexual relationships. He argues that the patriarchal, monogamous nuclear family emerged with capitalism. Monogamy became essential because of private property- men had to be certain of the paternity of their children in order to pass on private property to them. This means that men seek to control women’s sexuality.

2) Ideological functions

According to Marxists, the family performs two kinds of ideological functions for capitalism.
The first is socialising children to accept hierarchy and inequality through the parent/ child relationship (links here with the conflict view of childhood). This prepares them for working life.
According to Zaretsky (1976) the family also performs an ideological function by offering a ‘haven’ from capitalism (link with functionalism) but this is illusory, and based on the exploitation of women.

3) A unit of consumption

According to Marxists, the family plays a major role in generating profits for capitalists by acting as a unit of consumption for the sale of consumer goods. For example, consumption is in smaller units than is necessary means people buy more- e.g. one washing machine per family rather than per several flats in an apartment block. Further, advertisers encourage false needs and for families to ‘keep up with the Joneses’
The media target children who use ‘pester power’ to encourage parents to spend-


Explain the difference between the interests of the bourgeoise class and the proletariat class.

Bourgeoise class is interested in profit whereas the proletariat want more pay and better working conditions.


What are the different feminist perspectives?

1) Liberal feminism
2) Radical feminism
3) Marxist feminism
4) Difference feminism


Explain the liberal feminist perspective on the family

Liberals hold that freedom is a fundamental value, and that the just state ensures freedom for individuals. Liberal feminists share this view, and insist on freedom for women. They strive for sexual equality via political and legal reform.

Liberal feminists' legislative achievements would include recognition of marital rape, and recognition of coercive control as an element of domestic violence.

Similarly to March of Progress theorists, they argue that family life is improving for women, and that relationships between men and women are becoming more equal- e.g. men doing more domestic labour.


Evaluate the liberal feminist perspective on the family

(-) Other feminists criticise liberal feminists for failing to challenge the underlying causes of women’s oppression- “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” (Audre Lorde, 1984)

(-) The liberal feminist approach can be seen as individualistic, and as speaking mainly to white, middle-class women.