For most of us, the family is considered as a well-known and comfortable institution. The perfect model of the ‘ideal’ family is still mostly considered to be consisted from two different sexes’ parents, and one or more children. Until quite recently, the sociology of the family was mostly functionalist and just in the last few decades has been challenged from various directions.
There are many different definitions about what the family is. Different theoretical positions influence these variations. For example, the functionalist sociologist George Peter Murdock defines the family as “a social group characterized by common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults”(Quoted in Haralambos and Holborn, 2000, p.504). The sociologist and neo-Weberian Anthony Giddens, suggests a bit different definition- “A family is a group of persons directly linked by kin connections, the adult members of which assume responsibility for caring for children.”(Giddens, 1993a, p.370). For sociologists these definitions are just the starting point for further debate about functions and the nature of the relationships within the family.
Functionalist views on the family
Classical functionalists believe that the traditional structure of the family is necessary for the maintenance and the successful transmission of the culture to the next generation. Functionalism paints the ideal picture of the family made up of a father whom is a feeder in the family, a loving mother- her responsibility in the family is all household chores and childcare, and children. Supporters of this view of the perfect family are stating that ‘this is the most sensible and stable way to live in society’ (Kirby, et al., 2000).
An early functionalist George Murdock argued that the family plays the main role in the society by performing three main functions-
Stabilisation of the sexual behaviour and reproduction.
Providing the basic economic requirements.
Serving the function of socialisation of the next generation.
G. Murdock claimed that without family serving these three...