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Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere assess the view that, in today’s society the family is losing its functions. As stated in Item 2B, the family fulfils a number of important functions for individuals and for society, such as the socialisation of children and the stabilisation of adult personalities. However, some sociologists suggest that, in today’s society, the family is losing its importance as these functions are being taken over by other institutions; for example, nurseries have an increasingly important role in the socialisation of young children whose parents are working full-time.
Functionalists see the family as a particularly important sub-system; they believe that the nuclear family is a key institution as it meets basic needs. Murdock (1949) argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members. Firstly, they offer economic support to provide the children with all the fundamental necessities they require in life e.g. food, shelter and water.
They too give a stable satisfaction of the sex drive with the same partner, making their partner feel more safe and secure, as well as reducing the chances of getting STDs. Another purpose is reproduction of the next generation, without which society could not continue. Further to this, it also provides the child with 2 role models and so, they will feel more safeguarded of having both parents. Lastly, it socialises the young into society’s shared norms and values- without this, society would suffer from negative impacts e.g. feral children.
A criticism to Murdock’s study is that it is out-dated, many sociologists argue that society has now changed and these functions can be performed equally well by other institutions, or by non-nuclear family structures.
Marxists and Feminists reject his ‘rose-tinted’ consensus view that the family meets the needs of both wider society and all the members of the family. They argue that functionalists don’t review exploitation and conflict within society. Marxists argue that the family maintains class inequality and capitalism and so, the functions of the family are performed purely for the benefit of the capitalist system. They do not see the nuclear family in the same way as functionalists and believe that they ignore the ‘dark side’
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