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The Usefulness Of Functionalism For An Understanding Of The Family

783 words - 3 pages

The Usefulness of Functionalism for an Understanding of the Family

Functionalists focus on the roles of the family as an institution and
its interaction with other institutions, such as the ratio of
functions the family has to perform compared to those that other
institutions such as schools and the NHS perform. Functionalism sees
the use of the family in society and how it can take pressure from the
government by becoming an almost dependent institution that will help
support its own members.

George Murdock analysed 250 societies and studied the purpose of the
family, he came up with a final definition; that the family performs
several main functions. These functions help the individuals within
the family; Murdock believed the functions are sexual, educational,
economic and reproductive.

However, Murdock did not consider that the family may have a
detrimental affect on members of the family as he seemed to assume
that all families are harmonious and do not have any arguments or
problems. He also overlooked alternatives to the family and how they
might be better at some of the functions than the family itself and
therefore minimise the importance of the family.

The Functionalist theory does not consider that the modern situation
and success of institutions other than the family has decreased the
importance of the family and the functions it performs. For example,
the role of education is now limited to only children under the age of
five, as schools provide the majority of education for the younger
members of the family from that age to adulthood. Reproductive
functions of the family have also been limited because it is no longer
necessary for a family to have both parents to create a child. This
could be because of promiscuity or artificial insemination. Finally,
economic support within the family has also been reduced because the
government provides benefits for Old Age Pensioners, the unemployed
and pregnant mothers, meaning that a family does not need to support
itself...

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