There came from Talcott Parsons and his functional fit

There are
several theories on the functions of the family including Functionalist, Marxist
and Feminist. The Functionalist theory focuses on the importance of family in
the stability of society. They state that society is like a human body also
called the organic analogy, in which it is made up of several parts that all
work together for the normal functioning of the whole body. If one part fails
to function adequately it would lead to a breakdown in society. (Slideshare, 2013) George Peter Murdock
believed that the family is made up of 4 basic requirements: Sexual as it
provides sexual gratification for both people which helps to strengthen the
family, Economic which is the specialization of labour in which each member of
the family specializes in a certain task which provides a rewarding experience
for everyone working together, Reproductive as the family produces the next
generation of society and Educational as the norms and values of society are
taught to children. (Fabes, 2003) In
his work entitled Social Structure (1949) he examined a total of 250 societies
all varied, from hunter gatherer to pastoral, agrarian or industrialised, and
found that in each of these societies exists forms that fit the definition of
family as a social institution. Despite its variety of forms, the family is universal,
and he believes that family should include 2 adults of opposite sex and one or
more children or a nuclear family. (Murdock,
2010) Another theory came from Talcott Parsons and his functional fit
theory. Within this he states that the family only has 2 functions: Primary
Socialisation which imbues the societies values into a child in their early
years and Stabilisation of Adults Personalities which emphasizes the security
found in relationships and acts to balance out the stress of everyday life and
allows adults to express their ‘childish’ side by playing with their children.
For Parsons a woman’s role within the family is an ‘expressive’ one which means
the woman provides things like love and affection that a family member might
need. Men have an ‘instrumental’ role as the main provider, which can be very
stressful so a woman job is to relieve this stress. (Sociologytwynham, 2008)

The Marxist
view of the family is that it performs ideological functions for capitalism, as
the family teaches that there is a hierarchy and that must me accepted. It also
acts as a means for the wealthy to pass down their private belongings to their
children, enforcing class inequality. (Revisesociology,
2014) Friedrich Engels wrote a book titled The Origin of the Family,
Private Property and the State (1884) where he studied early human history and
the change between primitive nature and the emergence of a society based on
private property. He stated that within hunter gatherer groups there was a
clear division of labour between men and women. Men would predominantly go out
hunting whilst the women would collect roots and plants, but it was nothing to
do with a division based upon superiority, but a way to protect the fertility
of the group. With the beginning of civilizations came private land, and the creation
of surplus. Farmers were required to create surplus resources which ended up in
the hands of the privileged thus creating a division of class. (Engels, 1942) The main criticisms of
the Marxist view are that they focus very little on what family is and what its
function is but focus on capitalism. They assume that the future is pre-determined,
and people passively accept socialisation and family life. They also assume
that men only marry for the purpose of reproduction and not for love. (prezi, 2014)

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Almost all Feminists
agree that gender roles are learnt rather than determined and the place where
this happens is within the family. They argue that the traditional nuclear
family oppresses women by socialising women into accepting their roles as ‘housewife’  and by teaching girls to accept lesser roles
while boys are taught that they are superior. Feminism is split into 3 main branches
Liberal, Marxist and Radical and each has very different views. (Earlhamsociologypages, 2017) Liberal
feminists say that inequality in relationships is caused by 2 things: Long and
inflexible working hours and men refusing to pull their weight in
relationships. Jennifer Sommerville (2000) is a key thinker amongst the liberal
feminists and she believes that most feminists have failed to acknowledge the
great strides women have made towards equality, with greater freedom over paid
work and the choice to marry or cohabit, whether they want children or not and
whether to live on their own or not. Sommerville argues that women can do away
with male partners as most are inadequate, and seek their sense of fulfilment
within their children. (Sommerville,
2000) Marxist feminists argue that it is capitalism and not men that is the
main cause of oppression for women. Fran Ainsley (1972) argues that women face
the anger that is towards capitalism, and that males frustrated by work takes
them out on their female partners. Margaret Benston (1969) states that the
amount of unpaid work women does such as housework and childcare is very
profitable to others. Women tend to their husbands needs by feeding him, cleaning
his clothes, doing housework so he doesn’t have to, keeping him in good working
order allowing him to do his job that he is paid for. (Benston, 1969) Radical feminists argue that all men are the cause
of women’s exploitation and in contrast to Liberal feminists, say that paid
work has not been ‘liberating’ but instead they have the burden of paid work as
well as unpaid housework and men benefit more from a woman’s earnings and their
housework. They also argue that women face the ‘dark side’ of family life,
domestic abuse. Nearly 1 in 4 women will experience this at some point and
women are much more likely to experience this violence than men. (Philosopherkings, 2018)  

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