Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay

Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


For the purpose of the assignment title I aim to explain four sociological perspectives of the family and the household. I will also try and evaluate each perspective and give my own opinions of their views. I will then go onto explaining how children’s roles and the roles and relationships have changed within the family over time, and give a brief overview of how the family in today’s society has changed through diversity and multi-cultural structures.Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


Functionalists view the family as a nuclear family structure, i.e. a mother, father and 1 or 2 children. Murdock surveyed 250 societies from the small hunting tribes to the large industrialised societies. He found that in every society there was some form of a nuclear family, he concluded from this study that the nuclear family was universal. Murdock’s definition of a nuclear family is The nuclear family is a universal human social grouping. Either as the sole prevailing form of the family or as the basic unit from which more complex forms are compounded. It exists as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society, (Murdock cited in Haralambos, M. 1985. 326). Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay

Within the framework of the nuclear family, Murdock identified with four family functions which if were ignored, society would not exist. Sexual, Reproduction, Economic and Education were the four functions. Similar to Murdock, Tallcott Parsons another functionalist had his own views of what functions the nuclear family should contribute to society. He believed that there were two important roles within the family – Expressive and Instrumental. The women’s role was the Expressive role as she was the one who raised, nurtured and taught the children the norms and values within the home. The man’s role was the Instrumental role because he went out to work to provide financial security for his family. Parsons also identified the family as being the primary agent of socialisation and came up with the ‘warm bath theory’ – primary socialisation (norms and values) and stabilisation of adult personalities (support and love for the adults within the family.Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


Functionalist’s view of the family is similar to a fairy tale, because they ignore the family dynamics and in some families the darker side i.e. abuse, neglect and violence through male domination.


A Marxist perspective of the family saw the family as a means of production and cheap labour whereby they are influenced by capitalism in a capitalist society. Marxists identified three main functions which they saw as a way for the family to fulfil for capitalism. Inheritance of Property – means that in order for property to be handed down to a legitimate heir, sexual relationships need to be restricted to one person, thus the offspring would be blood related. For this to happen, The monogamous nuclear family developed with the emergence of private property, in particular the private ownership of the forces of production, and the advent of the state, (cited in Haralambos, M. 1985. 340). Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


The second function is the Ideological Functions which families need to fulfil by socialising children with the ideas that there will always be bosses and workers within a capitalist society. The last function looks at the Unit of Consumption whereby families work to produce goods, which are bought by the families to enable them to be fed and clothed, which bring greater profit for the capitalists.


Marxists ignore the different structures of families which are found in today’s society and with this the different roles within the family.


Feministic views of the family are split into 3 groups, similar to that of the key perspectives. Liberal feminists believe that both the male and the females have equal roles within the family when it comes to the household chores and childcare. Marxist feminists view the women as the producer of future workers and women’s oppression stems from capitalism and not the family. Radical feminist’s view of the family structure is one of patriarchal and that men are seen as the enemy. This type of family within society is also seen by feminists as the key institution in its contribution to maintaining social control. Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


All three branches of feminism view the nuclear family as the most dominant unit within society, as well as believing that all members of the family serve society, performing different functions.

Post Modernist

A post modernistic view of the family is at the opposite ends of the scale to functionalism. Post modernists believe that in most societies there are diverse and multi-cultural types of families where members within these units are free to make their own life choices as to how, what and where they live, work and socialise within society. Post modernists also believe that everyone is entitled to the same opportunities in education, healthcare and family support as in their view, there are no class divisions (working and ruling classes), in most societies. Zietlin et al summarises this view of the world, The post modern world is shaped by pluralism, democracy, religious freedom, consumerism, mobility and increasing access to news and entertainment, (Zietlin class handout 2009. 92)Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


Because of their views of equal opportunities and freedom of speech and choices they ignore the fact that some people can and do make wrong choices with regards to ignoring the norms and values which are passed down the generations which inevitably upsets the social control aspects in some societies.

How the roles and relationships of the family have change over time.

Sociologists view childhood as Social Construction because they are biologically distinct from adults, (Harris, M. 2008.44)

For this reason I will explain the question in two parts.Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


The role of the child within a pre-industrial family (pre 1750), was one of equal standing. As soon as the child could walk and talk they were taught the family trade and were expected to carry on the family tradition. After the industrial revolution came the emergence of the industrial family (1800-1900), when children as young as 6 or 7 were sent to work in factories and down coal mines to bring money into the family home, however this brought about higher mortality rates because children weren’t as strong as adults. The mortality rates went into decline when the modern industrial family emerged (1900-2000), this is because children were starting to be seen as children and not as cheap labour. Experiences of childhood began to emerge for the majority of children within families, however there are still some societies today that still send their children out to work, but this is now not the norm in today’s world.

Gender roles and relationships

During the pre-industrial years both men and women worked together with other family members. However this all changed between 1750 and 1900 when women were expected to stay at home and be responsible for household chores, childcare and producing the future workforce. This type of family structure was very patriarchal – the men had the power so they were the dominators in the family. However this started to change when the modern industrial family emerged between 1900 and 2000, as more women were given the opportunity to become educated, this led to more women in the workforce. This led the family to share the household chores and the childcare and sometimes swap roles within the family if the man became unemployed.Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay

Diversity of the contemporary family structure

What is a family? This question has been raised by many sociologists and the majority of these have all had different opinion. However in answer to this question, a family can be the nuclear or extended type of family, which are 2 or 3 generations living under one roof. This type of family was more common pre-1750 when families worked with and supported each other, and which still does happen in some cultures and societies i.e. Asian families. Other types of family structures which are more common in Britain today are the one parent families, the step families, the divorced families and the gay and lesbian families who have children. Families today are extremely diverse and multi-cultural through social influences from the media, education and global improvements.Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay


Throughout this assignment I have paid particular attention to the different views of Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Post Modernism. I have given an evaluation of each perspective and have briefly described the changes in roles, relationships and structures within families. I have concluded in my evaluation that my opinion of families and households is one that in today’s society of choice, freedom, diversity and multi-cultural structures that post modernism is by far the best view and explanation of society today.Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay

  • Haralambos, M & Heald, R. (1985) Sociology – Themes and Perspectives, (2nd ed), London, Unwin Hyman Limited.
  • Harris, S (2008) Sociology AS & A2 Revision, (3rd ed) Essex, Pearson Education Limited.
  • Ritzer, G (1996) Modern Sociological Theory, (4th ed) Singapore, McGraw-Hill Book Co.
  • Taylor, P. et al (1995) Sociology in Focus, Bath, Bath Press
  • Zietlin, M. et al (1995) Strengthening the Family Implications for International Development, Tokyo, United Nations University Press
  • Sociological Perspectives of Family and Household Essay
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