Many social scientists reject the idea that ‘families can be defined only by blood ties. ’ Discuss. The Oxford Dictionary meaning of family is noun (plural families) 1 [treated as singular or plural] a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit. There are many different ideas about what makes a family, and is this idea of what a family is universal and the children’s perspectives. There is a lot of debate with social scientists about the family.
Functionalists say that the term family is a universal institution performing functions for society’s survival.
Sociologist Murdock suggest that each family has for functions in order to be classified as a family. They are, a common residence, however there are many cases in which families do not share a common residence for example if a child is at boarding school or a parent is in the armed forces. (Murdock, cited by Gittins, D, p. 2). (Gutman 1976) found that it was common among black slave families in the USA for a husband and wide to live on different plantations and see one another for a few hours once or twice a week.
Soliende de Gonzalez cited by gittins) found this type of household very common in black Carib society: “there are groupings which I have called “dispersed families” in which the father, even though he is absent for long periods of time he still retains ultimate authority over a household for which he provides the only support, and where affective bonds continue to be important between him and his wife and his children”.
(Mudock cited by Gittins p. ) next family function is economic co-operation, it’s a broad term and can encompass a wide range of activities such as sleeping and cooking, it occurs between households as well as between individuals within the household (Murdock cited by Gittins p. 4) third is his definition of sexuality is heterosexuality, even though this is only one of many forms of sexuality. They say that this is the most important function of a family because it leads to reproduction. He also suggests that they get pressured into thinking that’s heterosexuality is a ‘socially approved relationship’ between two adults.
However there are critisms of Murdock as he doesn’t take into account the diversity of the ways in which co-residence, economic relations, sexuality and reproduction. Many sociologists say that they are simply western values and ideas of what a family should be like and assume that everyone will agree. (Jessie Bernard 1973 cited by Gittins pg. 3) Another criticism is that families do not need adults of both sexes, or a heterosexual couple, as same sex couples can adopt or can use medical advances (e. . IVF or surrogacy) to become a biological parent. (Edholm 1982 cited by Gittins p. 4) Anthropologists prefer to use the term kinship rather than family, “the ties which exist between individuals who are seen as related both through birth (descent) and through mating (marriage). ” This theory is concerned with the ways in which parentage us assigned, attributed and recognised, descent is traced, relatives are classified, rights are transferred across generations and groups are formed.
Unlike the functionalist approach the kinship theory stresses the fact that kinship is a social construction and also it emphasises on the variability of kinship depending on how it is defined. There is a debate about whether kinship is biological or social, many of us believe that its biological because of we know who are parents are and they made us so we simply think that kinship is biological but there are cases where children are brought up by parents who they believe to be their biological parents and then find out that they have been adopted and then suffer an identity crises because they do not know who they are anymore.
Their own suffering is caused by the ways in which we define kinship in society and there is a clear difference between a ‘biological’ and ‘social’ parents, we see the biological parent as the real parents and that has the strongest bonds with the child, this is a strong western belief. However in other cultures they believe that it is the person who rears the child is defined as the parent regardless who is involved in the reproductive process, for example in some cultures it is common for a child to be raise by a grandparent. ( R. T. Smith cited by Gittins p. ) fond this was common in Guyana and Jamaica and says that ‘close and imperishable bonds are formed through the ‘act’ of raising a child. Fictive kinship (Rapp 1980:292 cited by Gittins p5) stated that fictive kinship was a serious relationship, and how we turn friends into family. It was also argued that kinship is whatever we chose it to be whether that’s biological, social or fictive, it’s a way of identifying others as in some way special from the rest, people to whom the individual or collectively feel responsible in certain ways.
Many anthropologists have argued that kinship is simply a system of meaning and symbols, they also state that animals reproduce, mate and form attachments but they do not have a kinship system. (Marx cited by Gittins p 5) argued that it distinguishes people from animals. In child birth motherhood is always known unlike fatherhood, however apart from carrying and giving birth to the child that is where the biological process stops the rest become socially constructed.
Gender also affects the ways that kinship is constructed and defined, they are both universally present as mothers and children are but the content of them and the meanings ascribed to them is highly variable. Age is also an important fact when it comes to kinship as people grow up the household composition and resources change. All relationships are different and with society changing there has become many different norms of society. Families do not have to be blood ties or even live under the same roof all the time or have two sec parents. Family isn’t universal.
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