Functions of the Family

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Family and Culture:
Functions of the Family
Objectives
Having viewed this slide show you should be aware of:

The ‘loss of functions’ thesis.

The functions of the family.

That in late modernity or postmodern society the family is taking on
new functions.

There is a growth in people seeking alternatives to the family or
choosing alternative styles of family life.
2
Introduction
Ronald Fletcher (1966)
talked of the
'multifunctional family',
but he was equally
aware of the family
being stripped of its
secondary functions.
The modern nuclear family, he felt, was left with ‘residual’
functions.
3
George Murdock’s Universal Residual
Functions
George Murdock (1949) conducted a survey
of 250 societies and claimed there are four
universal residual functions of the family:
sexual
(by education he really
meant socialisation)
education
economic
reproductive
4
Talcott Parsons: Family
Stripped of its Functions
Talcott Parsons sees the modern family
as “stripped” to just two ‘basic and
irreducible’ functions:
Socialisation
of children
Stabilisation
of adult
personalities
5
Critique of Functionalist View
Both Murdock and
Parsons reflect the
functionalist perspective
on family functions
The family functions in an
over-romantic and
idealised way.
This referred to as the
‘warm bath theory’ of
family.
6
Family Adaptation in Postmodern
Society
In Post-modern society the family is
modifying itself to meet the changed
circumstances of contemporary society.
The family has become more childcentred, but with fewer children
However, many couples are
choosing to stay childless
7
Source of Emotional Support
Families are seen as functioning to
provide warmth and security,
emotional support.
All family members benefit from the
loving relationships that they share
with each other.
8
Family as Source of Identity
The family provides a sense
of identity.
This is clearly important to
family members as
evidenced by recent
interest both by individuals
and the media in family
histories.
Family and Culture Week 3
9
Family as Leisure
Families also provide shared
leisure, family holidays, special
occasions e.g. weddings,
birthdays, outings, cultural and
educational visits (cinema,
theatre, museums, etc.).
10
Alternatives to the Traditional
Family
An increasing number of people
are rejecting the traditional
family: singlehood, gay families,
childless couples.
Family and Culture Week 3
11
Singlehood
There has been a dramatic
increase in the proportion of oneperson households in the past 40
years.
12% of people
in Great Britain
now live alone.
Many of these
are elderly
widowed, but
not all!
Singlehood is
much more
popular in the
white population
than ethnic
minorities
12
Singlehood (continued)
Single people now account for
just under a third of households
(29 per cent) in Britain.
They include professional young
men and women.
And divorced people
13
Factors Behind Singlehood
Growth of 'FITT
women' with
careers and
education success
Women no longer need to be
financially dependent upon a man
Creative
singlehood reflects
the growth of the
affluent young.
Increased divorce rate and
separations from cohabitation.
More fashionable 'singles'
accommodation is available.
Delay or rejection of
marriage/cohabitation
14
Childless Couples
Childless couples reflect the fact that
there is less pressure on people to
have children.
Couples may put lifestyle choice
above starting a family.
Some couples may be put off by the
cost of bringing up a child (over
£50,000 from birth to age of 18)
15
Gay and Lesbian Relationships
Gay and lesbian
couples are
often childless
But this nontraditional family
form is also slowly
becoming less of
a rarity
In 2002 the Government announced
plans to make it easier for same-sex
couples to adopt children.
Medical technology (e.g. surrogacy)
allows people to conceive children in
non-traditional ways.
16
Conclusions

There is general support for the loss of functions thesis that
argues the family has been stripped of many of its functions.

George Murdock sees the family performing 4 universal
residual functions: sexual, reproductive, economic and
education (socialisation).

Talcott Parsons sees the family performing two ‘basic and
irreducible functions’ socialisation of children, stabilisation of
adult personalities.
Family and Culture Week 3
17
Conclusions (continued)

There has been a growth in people rejecting traditional
family.

12% of people in Britain now live on their own (almost a
third of households).

Couples account for almost a third of households too.

In a less homophobic society there has been a growth of
gay and lesbian relationships.
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End of Presentation
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