The Relationship of the Family to the Social Structure

The Relationship of the Family to the Social Structure

Consensus/Positive views of the family Conflict/critical views of the family Functionalist theories: the family performs positive functions for individuals and society New Right theories: the family is the cornerstone of society, but it is under threat Marxist theories: the family provides important functions for capitalism Feminist theories: the family reinforces gender inequality and patriarchy Functionalist theories GAP Morocco Evaluation Morocco argues that the family is a universal institution (it exists everywhere) hat performs four major functions: Stable satisfaction of the sex drive with the same partner, preventing the social disruption caused by sexual ‘free-for- all’. Reproduction of the next generation, without which society would not be able to continue. Solicitation of the young into society’s shared norms and values. Meeting its members’ economic needs, such as shelter and food. However, other sociologists have criticizes his functionalist approach.

Marxist and Feminists reject his ‘rose-tinted’ consensus view that the family meets the needs of both wider society and all members of the family. They argue that functionalism neglects conflict and exploitation: For example, feminists see the family as serving the needs of men and oppressing women. Similarly, Marxist argue that it meets the needs of capitalism, not those of family members or society as a whole. Tailcoat Parsons: the functions of the family parsons believes that every family in every society has two ‘basic and irreducible’ functions: the primary solicitation of children and the stabilization of adult personalities. The initial or primary socialist Zion takes place in the early years of a child’s life within the family group.

During this erred the child learns the basic elements of the culture into which she or he has been born. However, Parsons view of the solicitation process can be criticizes for being too deterministic, with children being pumped full of culture and their personalities being molded by all-powerful adults. He ignores the possibility of solicitation being a two-way process in which roles are negotiated or that attempts at solicitation can be resisted by children. The second basic and irreducible function is the stabilization of the adult’s personality. The family gives the individual adult a ‘safety valve’, a place where he or he can relax, escape the stresses and strains of the world outside and feel emotionally secure.

However, the Marxist Caretaker argues that the family only provides this emotional support in order to encourage its members to con tinge to work another day under the harsh realities of capitalism. The family is therefore a servant of the capitalist state which looks after the needs of exploited workers at no cost to employers. Tailcoat Parsons: the theory of ‘fit’ Parsons argues that the dominant structure of the family best suits the needs of the economy at the time. This means that nuclear families ‘fit’ an industrial economy because they are geographically mobile and not reliant on wider kin. This is because family members can easily move to new centre of production. Parsons concludes that only the nuclear family could provide the achievement-orientated and geographically mobile workforce required by modern economies.

However, according to Wolcott and Young the pre-industrial family tended to be nuclear, not extended as claimed by Parsons, with parents and children working together in cottage industries such as weaving. They also argues that he hardship of the early industrialized period gave rise to the mother- centered working class extended family, based on ties between mothers and their married daughters, who relied on each other for financial, practical and emotional support. Similarly, Tamari Wharves concludes that the extended family, not the nuclear as claimed by Parsons, was the structure best equipped to meet the needs of early industrial society.

Her research showed how extended migrant families in America in the 19th century acted as a source of support and mutual aid, as well as promoting geographical mobility y helping newcomers to find work. Overall evaluation of functionalist theories 1 . Functionalist analyses of the nuclear family tend to be based on middle class and American versions of the family and they consequently neglect other influences such as ethnicity, social class or religion. For example, Parsons does not consider the fact that wealth or poverty may determine whether women stay at home to after children or not. Since parsons wrote in the in the asses, many western societies, including the I-J, have become multicultural. Religious and ethnic subcultures differences may mean that Parsons’ version of the family is no longer relevant in contemporary society. 2.

Feminists argue that as a result of this picture of the family, functionalists tend to ignore the ‘dark side’ Of the family – conflict between husband and wife, male dominance, child abuse, and so on. They give insufficient attention to the dysfunctions of the family – the harmful effects it may have on the wider society. 3. From an interpretative point of view, functionalists tend to neglect the meanings families have for individuals and how family members interpret family relationships. Marxist theories Marxism is a conflict theory which sees all society institutions, such as the education system, the media, religion and the state, as helping to maintain class inequality and capitalism.

For Marxist, therefore, the functions of the family are performed solely for the benefit of the capitalist system. This view contrasts sharply with the functionalist view that the family benefits both society as a whole and the individual members of the family. Engel’s: the origin of the family Engel’s argued that the need for the family arose when societies started to value private property. With the rise of private property an organized system of inheritance became nieces Sara fathers needed to know who their offspring were in order to pass their property down the family line. With this, argues Engel’s, the need for monogamy arose one man married to one woman and hence the family was created.

Therefore the family serves the interests of the economy in this case the creation of ownership of property – while subjecting women to unequal power relations in the home. However, modern research has suggested that Engel’s’ interpretation of the development of the family are historically inaccurate. For example, monogamous marriage and the nuclear family are often found in hunter- gatherer groups. Since humans have spent the vast majority of their existence as hunter-gatherers, the idea that the nuclear family emerged as a response to private property is unlikely. Functionalists such as Parsons would reject Engel’s view of the development of the family. Rather than being a vehicle for passing down inherited wealth, the family plays an important role in socializing the young and stabilizing adult personalities.

Moreover, the division of labor in families reflects the tartar expressive, nurturing and caring roles of women, and the more instrumental, providing role of men. Caretaker: how the family benefits capitalism Caretaker suggests that the family serves capitalism by offering emotional security from the oppressive world of work, thus allowing such oppression to continue. However, in reality, it only provides emotional warmth to encourage its members to con tinge to live another day under the harsh realities of capitalism. However, the liberal feminist Jennifer Somerville argues that Caretaker exaggerates the importance of the family as a refuge from life in capitalist society. She suggests that Careerist underestimates the extent of cruelty, violence and incest within families.

She also argues that Caretaker ignores the fact that during the early stages of capitalism most working class women had to take paid work in order for the family to survive, and relatively few stayed at home as full-time housewives. Alters and Pollutants: the ideological role of the family Evaluation The family can be seen as serving the functions of an ideological state apparatus by socializing both pro-capitalist ideology and its own familiar ideology in order to maintain such family patterns over time. For example the family socializes its members into accepting gender roles, into accepting that it is ‘natural’ for men and women to get married and engage in separate roles and jobs in the home: an ATT etude that is passed down from generation to generation.

However, feminists argue that Alters and Pollutants ignore the fact that such a family ideology supports patriarchy since it suggests that men and women should have different roles in the family and society roles that lead to the subordination of women to men. Similarly, functionalists reject the view that the family socializes children into capitalist ideology. Instead, the family enables children to internalize the culture of society to enable them to become effective functioning adults. Overall evaluation Of Marxist theories Marxist views of the family follow logically from Marxist theory. If, for example, the family provides emotional support for workers, then this helps them to accept the injustices of the capitalist system. This makes sense if capitalism is seen as essentially unjust. However, many sociologists reject this view of capitalism and, as a result, Marxist view of the family.

Feminists argue that the Marxist emphasis on social class and capitalism underestimates the importance of gender inequalities within the family. For feminists, the family primarily serves the interests of men rather than By contrast, functionalists argue that Marxist ignore the very real benefits that the family provides for its members, such as intimacy and mutual support. From an interpretative point of view, Marxist tend to neglect the meanings families have for individuals and how family members interpret family relationships. For example, Marxist ignore accounts of family life in which some females suggest motherhood is a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Feminist theories Feminists take a critical view of the family, arguing that it oppresses women and reproduces patriarchy. As such, they have focused on the unequal division of domestic labor and domestic violence against women. They do not regard gender inequality as natural or inevitable, but as something created by society Marxist feminist Marxist feminists suggest that the nuclear family meets the needs of capitalism for the reproduction and maintenance of class and patriarchal inequality. It benefits the powerful at the expense of the working class and women. The Marxist feminist, Margaret Benson (1972), argues that the nuclear family provides the basic commodity required by capitalism, I. E. Barbour power by reproducing and rearing the future workforce at little cost to the capitalist class. It maintains the present workforces physical and emotional fitness through the wife’s domestic labor. Finally, women in families can be used as a reserve army Of labor to be used in times Of economic growth and pushed back into the home during times of economic slow-down. However, difference feminists would criticism Marxist feminists for assuming that all omen are exploited equally under capitalism. For example, lesbian and heterosexual women, black and white women, middle class and working class women have very different experiences from one another.

Black feminists would argue that Marxist feminists emphasis on women’s role within capitalism ignores black and Asian women’s experience of racism which is not faced by white women. Radical feminist Radical feminists such as Kate Millet (1970) see modern societies and families as characterized by patriarchy a system of subordination and domination in which men exercise power over women and children. They argue that the family is the root of all women’s oppression and should be abolished. The only way to do this is through separatism – women must live independently of men. Diana Kittens refers to the concept of age patriarchy to describe adult domination of children, which may take the form of violence against both children and women.

Similarly, Delphi and Leonard see the family as a patriarchal institution in which women do most of the work and men get most of the benefit. Moreover, this patriarchal ideology stresses the primacy of the mother housewife role for women and the breadwinner the Emily as legitimating violence against women. However, some would argue that this model is dated in that it fails to consider recent trends such as the fenestration Of the workforce and women’s use of divorce laws. The liberal feminist Jenny Somerville also argues that separatism is unlikely to work because heterosexual attraction makes it unlikely that the conventional nuclear family will disappear.

Yakima (1995) argues that this model fails to consider that females might be exercising rational choices in choosing domestic roles. By contrast, functionalists argue that radical feminists ignore the very real unifies that the family provides for its members, such as intimacy and mutual support. Overall evaluation of Feminist theories Feminist theories Of the family have dated fairly badly, because they fail to account for recent economic and social changes, such as the fenestration of the economy, the educational success of young females, women’s use of divorce and many women’s rejection of domestic labor as their unique responsibility. Feminist also end to ignore the positive aspects of family life.

Critics argue that feminists are preoccupied with the negative side of family life. They Moore the possibility that many women enjoy running a home and raising chi lilied. Feminists tend to assume that families are manipulated in some way by the structure of society to reproduce and reinforce patriarchy through the gendered division of labor within families. Postmodernists, for example, would argue that feminists ignore the possibility that we have some choice in creating our family relationships. In fact, the diversity of family types found today reflects the fact that we can choose our domestic set up for ourselves. From an interpretative point of view, feminists tend to neglect the meanings relationships.

For example, feminists ignore accounts of family life in which Difference feminists would criticism feminists for assuming that all women share similar experiences. For example, lesbian and heterosexual women, black and white women, middle class and working class women have very different experiences of the family from one another. Black feminists would argue that by solely regarding the family as a source of oppression, white feminists neglect black and Asian women’s experience of racism. Instead, black feminists view the black family positively as a source of support and resistance to racism. Social Policy Although sociologists agree that social policy can have an important influence on family life, they hold different views about what kinds of effects it has and whether these are desirable.

We shall examine a range Of different sociological views or perspectives on the impact of social policy on families. Functionalist Functionalists see the state as acting in the interests of society as a whole and its social policies as being for the good of all. They see policies as helping families to perform their functions more effectively and make life better for their members. For example, Ronald Fletcher argues that the welfare state purports the family in performing its functions more effectively. For example, the existence of the National Health Service means that with the help of doctors, nurses, hospitals and medicines, the family today is better able to take care of its members when they are sick.

However, functionalists assume that all members of the family benefit from social policies, whereas feminists argue that policies often benefit men at the expense of women. Similarly, functionalists assume that there is a ‘march of progress’, with social policies steadily making family life better and better whereas Marxist argue that leslies can also turn the clock back and reverse progress previously made, for example by cutting welfare benefits to poor families. New Right The New Right criticism many existing government policies for undermining the family. In particular, they argue that governments often weaken the family’s self-reliance by providing generous welfare benefits. These include providing council housing for unmarried teenage mothers and cash payments to support lone-parent families.

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