Assess the view that the family is found in every society. (24 marks) A family is a group of people that live together in the same household, they work together and pool their resources and to some extent they share domestic tasks and income. Families often reproduce and have children. They usually include an adult male and female who have a sexual relationship which is approved of by the wider society as it is often a marital relationship. This is Murdock’s definition of a family and is often considered to be a nuclear family. Murdock, a functionalist, based his definition on a sample of 250 societies which ranged from hunting and gathering bands to small-scale farming societies to large-scale industrial societies. He found a variety of family forms within his sample however each contained a basic nucleus consisting of a husband and a wife with one or more children, either their own or adopted. Murdock believed that the nuclear family is a universal social grouping as it is found in all societies.
Aside from the nuclear family there are also extended families, these often contain relatives of kin either through blood or through marriage. This is often having aunties and uncles who become family through marriage and then have children to make the family bigger with cousins. These all stem off from the nuclear family. Families are also larger due to beanpoles, this is usually grandparents and grandchildren, and the family gets bigger due to different generations getting bigger. In the nuclear family it is usually a monogamous marriage that takes place, this is where a person only marries one person and this is considered the norm in many societies. In other societies polygamy is the norm. This is where a person is permitted to marry more than one person at a time for example in the Mormon society this is the norm.
This often occurs in these societies as there is a shortage of men or women, due to the economic stability or to provide more children. In some societies, the nuclear family is not the norm. Felicity Edholm said that there was nothing normal or natural about the nuclear family. She states that family and kinship relationships are socially constructed as they are based on culture more than on biology. The links between husband and wife, and parent and child are constructed differently within different societies. The Lakker of Burma see there being no blood relationship between the mother and the child, the mother is simple a container for the child to grow in, therefore sexual relationships between the mother and the child are permitted due to no blood relationship so it is not seen as incest. This shows that in societies a nuclear family is not normal. The Nayer society in India is made up of men and women descended through the female line from a common ancestor.
Brothers and sisters, women and children live together; the children are members of their mothers group and not their fathers. The Nayer girls marry a man before puberty and later on are permitted to as many lovers as they want. Her ‘husband’ may or may not be one of these lovers. The children are raised in their mother social group and ‘husbands’ and fathers so not share the same residence as their ‘wives’ and have little to do with their children. The brother of the mother raises the children like his own rather than the biological father and it is his job to look after them. This IK society is another society which doesn’t have a nuclear family.
The IK societies face a daily struggle to survive in the face of draught, famine and starvation. Anyone who cannot look after themselves are regarded as useless burdens. Children are regarded as useless appendages the same as old people as they use up precious resources so they are often abandoned and left to die, sick and disabled children are also left to die. The IK mothers throw the children out of the village compound at three years old and they have to then fend for themselves. These examples of non-nuclear families are interactionalists idea’s and do show that the family is not universal as there are some societies without families such as the IK.
The Marxists agree with the interactionalists in that families don’t appear in all societies, the Marxists believe that families only appear in societies with a private residence therefore making it non-universal. The feminists believe that the family only appears in families where the men dominate the women; it doesn’t have to be universal. The new rights think that there is a universal human tendency to live in families; however there are other universal tendencies too such as the desire for survival. In these cases the tendency for families to appear may be overridden. In modern western societies the family may be in decline because selfishness over-rides the natural tendency to form families.
Courtney from Study Moose
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