Using material from item 2b and elsewhere assess the contribution of functionalist sociologists to our understanding of the family. Functionalists employ the idea of the nuclear family being the main universal family in society and most benefitting. The nuclear family functions to meet the pro dominant means of society (sexual reproduction, educational and economic functions). The family allows each member of the family to shine individually and enjoy success. Functionalist Charles Murray also argues other family institutions weaken the production of society’s needs. Divorce is ultimately highlighted as one of the main causes of this creation of new reconstituted families which are presumably less effective in meeting the functional needs of society through the family. It is useful to consider how the family supports wider society. Functionalism considers this by deciding what functions the family must perform and therefore which type would suit society best. Another way Functionalism suggests that the family supports society is the basic functions a family performs. Murdock (1949) said that there are four basic functions: Reproductive, Sexual, Socialisation and Economic.
Another Functionalist Talcott Parsons said that the family had 2 main functions: Primary Socialisation and the Stabilisation of Adult Personalities. Both believed that for a family to perform Socialisation adequately there needed to be a male and a female role model. Men performed the instrumental role and provided for a family while women performed the expressive role and provided comfort and emotional support to the family. They also believed that marriage was a necessary institution for both a stable household and an acceptable expression of the libido. Functionalists think that the family that best performs these functions and therefore supports society is the nuclear family. However, this is a very traditional approach and can be outdated and criticised by other theories for not taking into account violence in relationships and the negatives of having a nuclear family. Due to functionalism’s very positive outlook on family life; functionalism can be seen as only ever looking at the harmony of family life and therefore ignoring the possible conflicts and any negative sides of family life.
Functionalists argue that families perform vital functions for society and without the stability they claim society would eventually fall apart; functionalists produce a list of the functions performed by family life such as socialisation, identity and reproduction, they claim that without the structure of family this all wouldn’t be able to occur. Functionalists also describe how the family is constantly changing its structure and functions as society has changed in order to keep up with the new needs of society as they arise. Functionalist’s contribution to our understanding of the family. Within sociology there are many different views on family whether it is a positive or negative part of society which includes functionalism, New Right, Critical views, Feminism and Marxism. They have a different functionalist contribution to our understanding of the family. Functionalist view the family as an institution which improves society by obtaining equilibrium, social order and stability while at the same time meeting the needs of all the member in society. They see the nuclear as positive fort society. The New Right have similar views to Functionalist as they believe that nuclear family very important to society. Single parents and same sex couples are seen as bad in society to the New Right. New Right American sociologist Charles Murray (1989) stressed that there is an emerging of the underclass. This showed that there are two groups in society: The New Rabble, this includes the long-term unemployment that is welfare dependent and generally single mothers relying on benefits. This group is dangerous to society because children are not socialised. The other groups are The New Victorians: who are the respectable middle class who marry, socialise their children properly, work and pay taxes.