The Functionalist View of Society (‘four essential functions’ of the…
The Functionalist View of Society
Performing specific functions within a society to keep that society going, in the same way as the different organs of a human body perform different functions in order to maintain the whole.
Functionalists regard society as a system made up of different parts which depend on each other.
‘four essential functions’ of the family
The biological reproduction of the next generation – without which society cannot continue
Socialisation of the young – teaching basic norms and values
Stable satisfaction of the sex drive
. Meeting its members economic needs – producing food and shelter for example
Talcott Parsons – Functional Fit Theory
As society changes, the type of family that ‘fits’ that society, and the functions it performs change.
Over the last 200 years, society has moved from pre-industrial to industrial – and the main family type has changed from the extended family to the nuclear family.
A large family unit ‘fitted’ pre-industrial society as the family was entirely responsible for the education of children, producing food and caring for the sick
‘fits’ industrial societies because it required a mobile workforce. The extended family was too difficult to move when families needed to move to find work to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing and growing economy.
Parsons – The two essential or irreducible functions of the family
Although the nuclear family performs reduced functions, it is still the only institution that can perform two core functions in society
Primary Socialisation – The nuclear family is still responsible for teaching children the norms and values of society known as Primary Socialisation.
Boys learn to adopt the ‘instrumental role’ (also known as the ‘breadwinner role) – they go on to go out to work and earns money
Girls learn to adopt the ‘expressive role’ – doing all the ‘caring work’, housework and bringing up the children.
Industrial society is stressful and the family is a place where the working man can return and be ‘de-stressed’ by his wife, which reduces conflict in society.