Theories of Family


Includes: - Functionalist perspective (FUNC.) - The New Right - The Marxist perspective (MARX.) - Soviet Communism (S.COM.) (as related to Marxism) - Feminism (FEM.) - Personal Life Perspective (PLP)
Summer Pearce
Flashcards by Summer Pearce, updated more than 1 year ago
Summer Pearce
Created by Summer Pearce over 8 years ago

Resource summary

Question Answer
Name the four functions of family according to George Peter Murdock (1949). (FUNC.) 1) Stable satisfaction of the sex drive 2) Primary socialisation of the young 3) Reproduction of the next generation 4) Meeting the family's economic needs
What are the problems with Murdock's functions of the family? (FUNC.) 1) Not all families involve a sexual relationship (eg. asexuality, empty shell marriages) 2) Family doesn't always succeed in socialising children (eg. Genie Wiley) 3) A married or gay couple are still family 4) Some families are supported through benefits from the Government
Who devised the (FUNC.) 'functional fit' theory? Talcott Parsons (1955)
What is the functional fit theory? (FUNC.) Families perform the functions that need performing in the society they are in
What did Parsons say affected the structure of family to change from extended to nuclear? (FUNC.) Social changes such as industrialisation and urbanisation, which leads to society having different needs and thus the family a different function
What are the two structures defined by Parsons? (FUNC.) 1) Nuclear family: parents and their dependent children 2) Extended family: three generations living under one roof
What are the two types of society recognised by Parsons? (FUNC.) Pre-Industrial (traditional) and Industrial (modern)
What family structure can be found in Parson's 'Pre-Industrial' society. (FUNC.) Extended family
What family structure can be found in Parson's 'Industrial' society. (FUNC.) Nuclear family
What are the two needs of Industrial society according to Parsons? (FUNC.) Geographically mobile and socially mobile
What is geographical mobility? (FUNC.) Extent to which families are willing to move around the country in order to find work.
What is social mobility? (FUNC.) Extent to which individuals can achieve different status and move up and down the social ladder.
Why did the nuclear family become more common that the extended family during the Industrial revolution? (FUNC.) It's easier for nuclear families to move around than extended families.
Why does Industrial society need to be more socially mobile than traditional society? (FUNC.) In order for the most talented, skilled workers to be doing the most skill-demanding jobs, people must be able to move up the social order.
How does the nuclear family encourage social mobility? (FUNC.) A father who is a labourer and a son who is a doctor will have differing statuses. The father will have higher ascribed status as the head of the family. However, the son will have higher socially achieved status, and this may cause conflicts if both father and son live under the same roof.
Why is the nuclear family 'structurally isolated'? (FUNC.) The nuclear family is separated from their 'extended kin' (relatives). Relatives don't have any obligation to help each other in terms of financial crises or emotional support.
What were the functions of Pre-Industrial society? (FUNC.) - unit of production (family worked together) - unit of consumption (clothes and food) - providing for health and welfare - meeting most individual and social needs
What happens to the functions of family as a society industrialises? (FUNC.) They decrease eg) because of the increase of factories, the family no longer needs to be a unit of production eg) the Government, schools and hospitals take more responsibility for social, economic and healthcare needs
What are the essential or 'irreducible' functions of the Industrial nuclear family? (FUNC.) 1) Stabilisation of adult personalities; family helps adults to be refreshed and prepared for work 2) Primary socialisation of children; learning norms and values of the culture
Why did Young and Willmott criticise Parsons' theory? (FUNC.) - pre-industrial families were nuclear because of low life expectancy and having children later in life - early industrial society gave way to the increase of 'mum-centred' extended families where mothers and daughters maintained strong ties where they relied on each other for emotional support and financial needs
Why did Peter Laslett criticise Parsons' theory? (FUNC.) He conducted a study in 1972 of English households from 1564 to 1821 and found most the families were nuclear.
What is the exchange theory? Families maintain/break family ties because of the cost/benefits.
Why does Michael Anderson criticise Parsons' theory? (FUNC.) He uses the exchange theory in his study of 19th Century Preston to explain the popularity of the extended family structure. He explained that harsh conditions of the time (poverty, sickness, early death and absence of the welfare state) meant the benefits of cutting family ties where low.
Why do Young and Willmott show partial support for Parson's theory? (FUNC.) They recognise that social changes (married women working, the creation of the welfare state, better living standards and housing) mean that the support of the extended family is less important.
Why are extended families still present in modern society? (FUNC.) It still performs some functions, eg) providing financial aid, helping with childcare and emotional support.
Is the New Right left or right wing politics? Right wing (with conservatism and fascism)
What are the claims of the New Right towards marriage and families? - Being a lone parent family may result in educational failure - Lone parenthood is linked to high crime rates - All parents should be married - Mothers should stay at home and look after the children - Families should not receive benefits
What are the criticisms of these claims of the New Right? - no causal link between lone parenthood and educational failure, education is free, success is dependent on how hard the child works - again, no causal link.. crime depends on discipline, not family structure. Could be correlated; lone parenthood is common in poorer areas, and poverty leads to crime - empty shell marriages aren't beneficial, also gay couples cannot get married, weddings are expensive, couple may not be able to afford it - mothers aren't always the better parent, family may need another source of income - children should be supported
What is the 'correct' type of family according to functionalism and the New Right? Nuclear
Why does the New Right say that the nuclear family is important? - prevents social problems such as crime - more disciplined than lone parents - children have both male and female role models, and this leads to educational success, and low rates of delinquency and social instability. - based on biological differences between men and women - prevents social disintegration and damage to children
Why do people criticise the New Right in terms of their view on the nuclear family? - feminists say that the nuclear family is based on patriarchy and makes women financially dependent on men - no evidence to suggest that delinquency is a result of lone parenthood - usually one parent in the nuclear family disciplines, the children receive the same amount in both family structures - Ann Oakley (1997) uses cross-cultural studies to argue that there is great variation in gender roles across the world (so women aren't genetically disposed for being housewives) - no evidence to suggest that children from lone parent families are unstable
What are the similarities between functionalism and the New Right? Both of them prefer the nuclear family as the ideal family structure.. They believe that this family structure keeps society stably functioning.
Marxists think social institutions (e.g. family) contribute to maintaining... ...class inequality and capitalism
How does the Marxist view contrast with the functionalist view of the family? Marxism says the family benefits the bourgeoisie and allows capitalism to continue, whilst functionalists see the family as beneficial to society as a whole and individuals within the family.
What did Karl Marx call the earliest classless society? What was it like? Primitive communism There was no private property - i.e. everyone owned everything
What was family structure like during primitive communism? Completely unstructured. There were no restrictions on sexual relationships, therefore society was 'organised' in what Engels called a 'promiscuous horde'.
Why did family structure evolve from 'promiscuous horde' to the monogamous, patriarchal nuclear family according to Engels? (MARX.) The means of production increased and became privately owned. Men now owned private property and needed to pass their possessions on to an heir when they died. It was easiest to pass this on to their children, as the children had no hidden agendas or commitments elsewhere, therefore the property would most likely stay in the family. Men had to be sure children were theirs, so the concept of marriage ensured women were monogamous to one man.
What do Marxists argue would happen if capitalism was overthrown? Women would be liberated from patriarchal control. There would no longer be private property, therefore there would be no need for men to be sure of their paternity. In theory, society would return to being a promiscuous horde.
What do Marxists mean by ideology? A set of ideas or beliefs that justify inequality and maintain the capitalist system, by persuading them that it is fair, natural and unchangeable.
How does the family perform ideological functions for capitalism? (MARX.) - Families socialise their children with the ideas that inequality is inevitable and persuades them they have the mobility to move up and down the social hierarchy. - Parental (usually paternal) control teaches children that there always has to be someone in charge (usually a man), which prepares them to be exploited by their bosses at work and accept that this is how things are/should be.
Eli Zaretsky says the family performs another ideological function. What is it? (MARX.) The family acts as a 'haven' where people can escape from the alienation they are confronted with at work. The private life refreshes people's minds in order to be able to return to their jobs with a slightly better attitude towards their exploitation. Zaretsky argues this is just an illusion, because the family is incapable of meeting all of its members' needs (e.g) family not a haven for women, as their work is within the home
How else does the family maintain capitalism? (MARX.) For the bourgeoisie to make a profit, consumers must buy their commodities. The family is the place where people are encouraged to buy rapidly depleting objects that soon are out of date. (According to Zaretsky.) e.g) The media targets children to pester their parents for the latest toy, until they give in and buy it e.g) Children who lack the latest clothes or electronic devices are mocked by their peers
How can the Marxist perspective of the family be criticised? - Marxism assumes that the dominant family type is nuclear, and this ignores the wide diversity of family structures in society today. - Feminists argue that Marxists focus too much on the economy and the conflict between the rich and the poor, when the real conflict in families is between the genders. - Functionalists argue that Marxism ignores the benefits the family provides for its members.
After the Russian revolution in 1917, what did Communists think of people spending time at home? This practice was too privatised and it went against the community spirit of the Communist movement.
What was the intention for women? (S.COM.) To be engaged in 'social production'. The traditionally female roles such as child-rearing, preparing food and washing clothes should be undertaken by the state. Lenin argued that this would free women from drudgery and put them in touch with Communist values.
Why did was the family deconstructed under Soviet Communism? - Maintaining individual households was not cost effective - Rearing children in communal houses connected to the adult quarters would free the mothers for work and accustom the children to collective life
Describe the views of the radical reformer, L.M. Sabsovich. (S.COM.) - Children are the property of the state, therefore the state can require the children to live in children's towns at distance from their family. - In a new city, work and leisure would be arranged in collective forms - The family dwelling should be eliminated, to be replaced by individual rooms, adjoining rooms for married couples.
What were some of the changes in the law towards the family in Soviet Communist Russia? - Divorce became easier - Women given equal rights to men - Abortion was legalised (because state run dining halls, nurseries and laundries could not be established, women were still housewives, this was to free them) - Childless couples were not allowed to adopt (as it encouraged traditional family)
What were the effects of these laws? (S.COM.) - The birth rate fell - Men casually divorced their wives, leaving their children unsupported - Insufficient state sanctions for orphans, leading to vagrancy and delinquency
How did Josef Stalin solve these issues in 1934? (S.COM.) - denounced divorce and sexual freedom - made abortion illegal again - legitimised the family with the name 'the Soviet socialist family'. - Propaganda encouraged large families, to assimilate children into communal lifestyle - Stalin redefined housework as socially useful labour
According to Eli Zaretsky, describe the division of labour between the sexes from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. (MARX.) LATE MIDDLE AGES - women worked alongside men in cottage industries and had a wide range of trades EARLY INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION - lower class men, women and children worked together in factories LATE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION - legislation restricted child labour, and cut women off of paid labour, therefore women were forced to take a domestic role
What is the function of the family according to Zaretsky? (MARX.) - because working hours decreased and jobs are less interesting, alienated men look to their family for relaxation and personal fulfilment. - increased wages made the family a site of consumption of rapidly obsolete goods
Expand on the idea that the family is site of consumption; ie) how does it help capitalism? (MARX.) - Cheap housewares and fashions distract workers from their frustration and alienation. - Advertising increases the sense that our identity does not lie within our employment, but in the lifestyles we pursue at home in our leisure time
Explain some of Zaretsky's feministic ideas in terms of the ideal future solution. (MARX.) - All domestic labour and care of children, the elderly and the sick should be carried out by neighbourhood services carried out by both sexes. - Women would leave the private sphere to join a workforce along communist lines with a shorter working week to encourage mixing with the community. - Class divisions would disappear and integrate and both sexes would personally develop through social activity and enhanced family life.
What are some of the problems with Zaretsky's future ideals? (MARX.) - Jewish Kibbutzim children were raised communally and were not sexually attracted to one another once they reached puberty. - Zaretsky claims that the disappearance of class divisions would integrate people as one, but people may just find different ways of defining themselves and new inequalities would arise.
What do radical feminists believe is the root of women's oppression? The family, as it is entirely patriarchal. The domestic labour and sexual restriction within marriage and the traditional nuclear family directly benefits men.
What does Germaine Greer suggest is a solution for women's oppression within the family? (FEM.) She urges women to adopt the practice of separatism (i.e. living completely independently of men). She argues over turning the entire idea of a family structure is the only way to achieve equality within the family.
Define 'political lesbianism.' (FEM.) Greer suggests that instead of patriarchal family structures, women should live in matrilocal or all female households.
What is similar between Marxist feminist ideas and radical feminist ideas of the family? They both agree that far reaching changes to social structures are needed to achieve equality in the family. In order to do this, both theories discuss reason for the abolition of the traditional family structure.
Give strengths and limitations of radical feminist ideas of family. STRENGTH: recognises that women have yet to achieve equality and the need for 'family-friendly' flexible employment LIMITATION: fails to recognise women's achievement in equality. Separatism is impractical because of instinctual heterosexual attraction.
What do Marxist feminists believe about the family? The family oppresses women, but this is not the fault of men - it is caused by capitalism. Marxist feminists believe women represent the proletariat in the family and their husbands represent the bourgeoisie.
What functions does women's oppression perform to benefit capitalism? - Reproducing a new labour force (for free!) - absorb the anger of their alienated husbands - reserve of cheap labour
What do Marxist feminists believe must happen in order to achieve gender equality in families? Family must be abolished at the same time as a socialist revolution, to replace capitalism with a classless, and family-less society.
Give strengths and limitations of the Marxist feminist view of the family. STRENGTH: links social structure and women's oppression together (capitalism) LIMITATIONS: focuses too much on the economy, this is also known as economic determinism.
Describe the liberal feminist view of the family. Liberal feminists believe that although women are still unequal in families, because of the changes to the law and people's attitudes, equality is slowly being achieved.
Give strengths and limitations of the liberal feminist view of the family. STRENGTH: seeks to improve women's lives through policy and education LIMITATION: fails to challenge underlying causes of women's oppression. believes that changing the law and people's attitudes will be enough to achieve equality.
What is the difference feminist view on the family? Difference feminism is the belief that all women have different experiences, and so sociologists cannot generalise them. They believe that women around the world have completely different ideas of family depending on their ethnicity, religion, class, age and sexual orientation.
Give a strength and limitation of the difference feminist view of the family. STRENGTH: Acknowledges that women are all unique LIMITATION: ignores that women have many shared experiences not affected by other factors e.g) domestic violence and gender pay gap
What is the Personal Life Perspective of the family? To fully understand the family, we must look at the values and meanings individuals give to their personal relationships, as everyone has a different definition of family.
Why is a bottom-up approach sometimes more effective than a structural one? (PLP) Functionalism, Marxism and feminism all fail to recognise that the dominant family type is no longer the nuclear family, and do not even mention other family structures in society today. Functionalism doesn't offer criticisms of the family and Marxism is too economically deterministic.
Why is family more than just blood or marital relationships? (PLP) Today, people form close relationships with people (and animals!) who are not considered to be family in the traditional sense, but are close enough to that individual to be considered family.
Give examples of relationships that do not involve blood or marriage that people define as family. (PLP) - Pets: 90% of pet owners consider their pet to be part of the family. - Fictive kin: close friends who are treated as relatives (e.g. your mum's best friend that you call 'auntie'.) - Dead relatives: the memory of dead relatives can continue to shape a person's identity long after they die - Close friends: in some cases, people may have a closer relationship with friends than with blood relations - Gay or lesbian chosen families: a supportive network of ex-partners, close friends and others who form a sort of family
What did Becky Tipper study in 2011 and what did she find? (PLP) Children's view of the family. She found that children frequently saw their pets as part of the family.
What do Nordqvist and Smart argue about chosen families? (PLP) Gay and lesbian couples may choose to conceive a child through donor gametes. Egg and sperm donors may have may other donor-conceived children, meaning that these children could be considered siblings. Therefore, the existence of chosen families makes it incredibly difficult to finalise a concrete definition of family.
What are some of the challenges facing lesbian couples who decide to conceive using donor sperm through a fertility clinic? (PLP) - cost, fertility services are very expensive - the legality of their children; whose name goes in the father section on the birth certificate? what happens if the child wants to trace the donor at the age of 18? - choosing the right donor
What are some of the challenges facing lesbian couples who decide to conceive using donor sperm through a personal arrangement? (PLP) - receiving the donation can involve awkward intimacy - do they want the donor involved? As parent? Uncle? Or anonymous? - What happens if the donor decides he wants to raise the child? - complication of child having 3 parents
How does donor conception challenge Murdock's definition of the family? (PLP) - adults of only one sex - cohabitation, not marriage - lone parenthood - both partners are not biologically related to the children
Why could the circumstances of the family arrangement involving a donor conceived child change? (PLP) - death of partner - financial instability - break down of relationships - donor grandparents could want to be involved in child's life
Who might be considered family to a donor conceived child? (PLP) - donor's parents - they consider the child to be their grandchild - friends of the homosexual couple or lone parent - partner of biological parent
What is the legal status of a sperm donor in relation to a donor conceived child belonging to a lesbian couple? (PLP) The law says the donor is a father figure, however the child's mothers are its primary parents.
If there is conflict within a chosen family, what might a judge based their decisions on? (PLP) The best interests of the child
What does PLP say about the trend regarding friendships and family? - friendships have become more important than family - Sue Heath (uni of Southampton) studied 'neo-tribes' of 20-somethings who live communally and put off starting a family - we can form relationships with people we haven't met, via instant messaging and social media
What is a 'lat' relationship? (PLP) Living apart from you lover and visiting them rather than choosing to cohabit.
Give some criticisms of PLP. - Functionalists and the New Right favour the nuclear family, and PLP is accepting of all other family structures. - too broad a definition of family - ignores what is special about blood and marital ties
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