What is the Functionalist View of the Family?

Published on 25th October 2016 by

What is the Functionalist view of the family?

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Video Questions Worksheet
Cornell Notes

Snippet from Video:

Functionalists adhere to the principle that a society creates a value consensus; or shared norms and values among its members which facilitates cooperation and harmony to meet societal needs and shared goals.

They regard society as a group of inter-dependent sub-systems that depend on one another for functional success and sustainment.

Think of this like the vital organs of the human body working to keep a person whole and alive like the heart, lungs and brain. For example, in society the family, education system and economy are dependent on each other to achieve the functional goal to socialize children as society sees fit.

If you would like to expand your knowledge on the Functionalist perspective then visit our Sociology of Crime and Deviance section.

Example content: Exchange Theory

Exchange Theory is when individuals either break away from, or stay with, family ties for financial benefits. Early industrialisation may have encouraged the development of extended families.

Michael Anderson used the 1851 census and studied 10% of households in Preston. He found 23% of households contained kin beyond nuclear family. Most of these were working class. Anderson found that the harsh working and living conditions meant that maintaining extended family ties was beneficial.

As conditions improved the extended family began to decline. Exchange Theory explained why in his study he found that staying in an extended family outweighed the costs of facing poverty, sickness and early death. The benefits were using family for childcare and taking in relatives to produce income for rent.

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