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Functionalist Family - Essay Example

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Functionalist Family

As such, these parts tend also to function in an orderly manner, with minimal conflict. Even when the different parts are not in equilibrium (which they usually are in), their interrelationship is one of consensus, rather than conflict. In this regard, the role of functionalists is to examine social phenomena and its significance to society as a whole (Murdock 1949).
The emergence of functionalism as an anthropology school of thought came about in the twentieth century. The development of functionalism at that time is especially credited to two renowned anthropologists of the Great Britain; A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, and Bronislaw Malinowski. In this regard, functionalism as a theory sought to check on the excesses of the nineteenth century diffusionists and evolutionary theories, as well as the theory of historicism later in the twentieth century (Goldscmidt 1996).
Functionalists hold the argument that the nuclear family is capable of fulfilling many roles which have an impact on the larger society. One of the functionalists, Parsons, believes in the contemporary role of the family; the instrumental role of the male, and the expressive role of the female. Whilst the male works as a bread winner, the female gives care and emotional support to the husband and children.
Although the argument sound...
Whilst the male works as a bread winner, the female gives care and emotional support to the husband and children.

Although the argument sounds sexist, a majority of the nuclear families applies this contemporary role. Murdock, on his part, believes that the nuclear family should be of benefit to the larger society. In this regard, his functionalists' ideas are based on the stable personality of adult, whose role it is educated the children about the values and norms of the society. Several scholars have been credited with the development of the theory of functionalism in the family. However, Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist, have been regarded as an advocate of the school of thought of the structure of structure-functionalist in modern times.

Parsons' real contribution to functionalism happened after 1945, following his recognition of the fact that actors, rather than existing in isolation tend to interact around a social system (Parsons 1951). From this line of thought, Parsons made a logical contribution to the sociology of the family. He proposed that the family is a subset of the society, rather than an independent society. In addition, Parsons argued that the roles of the family interpenetrate with those found on other structures of the society.

Parsons saw the nuclear family as being a result of differentiation of the axes of power/hierarchy and expressive/instrumental functions. Parsons' view of the family from an evolutionary perspective led family sociologist to hold a popular generalisation that the industrialisation and urbanisation of a family leads to the withering away of the extended family. According to Burch (1967), societies have taken this generalisation as a guide to the fact that extended families are more predominant in rural ...Show more


Functionalist approaches to sociology bear similarity with other approaches to sociology. However, functionalist approaches tend to lay more emphasis on function, equilibrium, consensus, interdependence and evolutionary theory. Functionalism tends to focus on the macro-sociological perspective of the existing institutional structures in the society…
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Functionalist Family essay example
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