Theories of The Family

  • Created by: iiStevey
  • Created on: 20-05-19 11:16

Functionalism: Murdock

4 Key Functions:

  • Socialisation of Young - Teach them norms and values
  • Sex Drive - Gratify the needs of husband 
  • Economic Needs - Creates breadwinner idea - men need to go work
  • Reproduction - Having children - makes next generation


  • Presents the nuclear family as positive ignoring the darkside such as domestic abuse.
  • Ignores family diveristy - outdated theory as progressed since theory developed.
  • Deterministic - assumes all follow this family type structure.
1 of 7

Functionalism: Parsons

Now live in nuclear families rather than extended - modern industrial society 

Family Performs 2 Functions:

  • Socialisation of Children - Need primary socialisation from parents - adapt to norms and values of the society they're growing up in - learn to fit in.
  • Stablisation of Adult Personalities - Living in a nuclear family allows them to embrace a childish personality to provide a distraction from the streneous adult lifestyle - nuclear family is the most effective.


  • Parsons says nuclear is ideal but diversity is happening - what is ideal for one isn't ideal for all - choose what family type they want.
  • Only 25% live in nuclear and feminists would state functionalist is sexist - don't need separate roles.
2 of 7

New Right: Murray


  • Agree with functionalism with a need for a nuclear family but benefits undermine it and are the issue in family.
  • Believe we need to get rid of the benefits system.
  • Dependancy culture has been created in the underclass - creates issues such are lone parent family types occuring with boys not having father figures to socialise them correctly - will be less successive.
  • Governments need to promote marriage and provide incentives towards nuclear families.


  • Many people rely on benefits to have a stable and healthy life meaning we need to keep the benefits system.
  • Also no evidence for lone parent and non-nuclear family types for being worse than nuclear families - same in terms of aspects like class, incomes etc.
3 of 7

Marxism: Cooper


  • Family is a heirarchy with children at the bottom - children learn heirarchy is inevitable which is transmitted to the world of work - they also learn to accept the capiltalist structure and have realisation that inequality is normal and can't be avoided.


  • Assumes primary family structure is nuclear when in modern society other family types exist - rising statistics of families such as lone parent.
  • Focuses on family life in Western capiltalist societies.
4 of 7

Marxism: Zaretksy


  • 'Women are takers of ****' because they have to provide a safe haven for men - family provides a cushioning effect from work - allows males to relax after work and take their stress out on women.


  • Assumes women stay at home when in reality in contemporary society they are startimg to go out to work - taking the breadwinner role and aren't reliant upon men.
5 of 7

Radical & Liberal Feminist


  • Men dominate the family and are the main beneficiaries of a womens performance.
  • Need for political lesbianism (focus on a womens sexuality and ignore heterosexuality) and patriarchal terrorism (challenge the sexist heirarchy and empower women).  

Evaluate with Liberal Feminism:

  • Liberal feminism - there is a march of progress i.e. they have achieved equal rights, pay and laws against discrimination.
  • Believe process and gradual reform is more benefical and radical change isn't required.
6 of 7



  • Believe that we now have more choice and negotation within the family as we aren't restricted by expectations and traditional values - choice of diversity and can negotiate own ideal family i.e. woman going to work in a homosexual setting.


  • Class is still considered as one of the most signicant factors restricting and structuring family types - an upper class family will be able to have more opportunities and restrict choice.
7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Families and households resources »