Families are crucially important to society without doubt. Most
British people are born into families and then raised by a family.
Most of these very same people grow up to form families of their own
and take the responsibility of being a parent. Many people see the
family as the normal way of life and watch television programs which
revolve around family life. For many the nuclear family has always
been viewed as the proper way to bring up children and to live life.
However, the subject of families is much deeper than many think. But
is the family beneficial to society?
Different groups have different views on how beneficial the family is
to society. Functionalists, who traditionally dominated the sociology
of the family, feel that the family is necessary for the running and
continuation of an integrated society. It is assumed by functionalists
that if there is the existence of a social institution, then it must
have a purpose or a function. Functionalists therefore see the family
as beneficial for society.
To functionalists, society is an 'organism' that contains different
segments which come together to keep society running smoothly. They
argue that the family interrelates to other social institutions. An
example of this would be the family's preparation of children to
become supportive of themselves and take on economic roles. This shows
that there is a link between the family and the economic system.
Functionalists argue that the family has four specific functions that
benefit society. These are sexual, reproductive, economic and
educational. Each one is important to society in the eyes of
Talcott Parsons claimed from a functionalist perspective that the
family carried out two essential functions that are beneficial to
society. They are the primary socialisation of children and the
stabilisation of adult personalities. Parsons claims this because
society benefits from a child learning how to take on roles in society
and what the norms and values are in society. The stabilisation of
adult personalities performed by the family is argued by Parsons to
take away the threat against the society's stability. Adults can
relieve stress and gain emotional support from the family and so are
not overwhelmed and stress can be prevented. This makes sure that
society is kept stable as adults are in a much better frame of mind
with their family at home.
In 1955, Parsons saw industrial societies as becoming more and more
specialised. By this Parsons meant that social institutions and their
functions had become more specialised and could concentrate on a
smaller number of essential functions. This included the family, who
carried out the two essential functions mentioned. Parsons sees the
family as crucial to the moulding of a child's personality intended to