Sociological Perspective Family

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This essay discusses how the family is viewed by two different sociological perspectives- functionalism and conflict theory. Firstly, ‘family’ is defined. Secondly, the main ideas of functionalism will be discussed followed by how this theory perceives the family. The main ideas of Conflict Theory will then be examined and how conflict theorists perceive the family.
The family can be defined as ‘any combination of two or more persons who are bound together by ties of mutual consent, birth and/or adoption and who, together, accept responsibility for the care and maintenance of group members through procreation or adoption, the socialisation of children and social control of members’ (UN, cited in McDonald 2003:80). However, the ‘family’ is
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The family preforms essential tasks that contribute to societies basic needs and helps to maintain social order (Giddens, 2009). Different societies have rules regarding who can marry who but the majority apply the incest taboo (a cultural norm forbidding sexual relations or marriage between particular relatives). Reproduction between close relatives could have negative effects of mental and physical health of offspring but Macionis and Plummer highlight the social reasons for the existence of this taboo. It minimises sexual rivalry within families by confining sexual relations to spouses. It forces people to form broader alliances by forcing people to marry outside their immediate families. It also keeps kinship intact (2002). A child’s identity is based on ethnicity, race, religion and social class and is ascribed at birth through the family. Families permit the transmission of wealth and status from parents to children. According to the American functionalist sociologist Talcott Parsons, the family’s main functions are ‘primary socialisation and personality stabilisation’. Primary socialisation is the processes in which children learn the cultural norms of the society they are born into. For Giddens, personality stabilisation refers to the role that the family plays in helping adult family members emotionally (2001). The family is considered exceptionally…show more content…
Conflict theory has different assumptions about the family as an institution. The theory interprets the family as a system of power relations that reinforces and reflects the inequalities within society. Conflict theorists are particularly interested in how families are effected by class, race and gender inequality. Families are important in the maintenance of social inequalities because they are the vehicles through which property and social status is acquired (Eitzen and Bacca Zinn, 2004). Marx and Engels looked at the role of families in the social reproduction of inequality. Through the socialisation of children, the family reproduces both labour power and a false ideology which keeps the capitalists system going. ‘Families thus support the concentration of wealth and reproduce the class structure in each succeeding generation (Macionis and Plummer 2002:440). Engles indicated that families turn women into the sexual and economic property of men. Woman perform unpaid work in the home that would otherwise cost a lot to those who benefit from it. Conflict theorists have seen the family as a social arrangement benefiting men more than women, allowing men to maintain a position of power. The traditional family form in most
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