In this essay the functionalist’s perspective will be examined on their viewpoint of the family. Also Marxists, feminists and new rights perspective will be taken into consideration. The overall functionalist theory on the family is that it performs positive functions for individuals and society. One of the most influential functionalists was Talcott parson whose understanding of the family was that it provides the primary socialisation of children, which means to teach the culture of society to the child. Another of his perspectives on the family was that it stabilises the adult personalities of the population of the society, which means that family life provides adults with emotional security that they need. However Marxists such as Althusser and Poulantzas counter attack this theory stating that families are reproducing capitalists and socialising pro-capitalist ideology to the children saying that hierarchy and inequality are inevitable.
One Marxist called Freidrich Engels had a perspective on families that they were created when people started to value property, therefore men made sure they had sons to pass property down the family line. This links to Althusser and Poulantzas theory that families have an ideology of capitalism and one of the ways to fulfil capitalism is through inheritance of property as Engels has mentioned. Engels also mentioned that this ideology of inheritance of property has turned women into mere instruments for the production of children. However a functionalist such as Murdock would reject Engels perspective because he believed that the functions of the family was to maintain sexual stability in society, provide society with new members, strengthen the bond between spouses and provide a division of labour and finally parents having the responsibilities to teach children social norms and way of life.
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Marxist feminists argue that the main cause of women’s oppression in the family is not men but capitalism and that the family reproduces patriarchy. A Marxist feminist called Margaret Benston believed that the family provides the basic commodities for capitalism such as labour power in which women reproduce the next workforce with little cost to the capitalism class. The women are a ‘reserve army’ of cheap labour. Fran Ansley has also stated that women are the ‘takers of shit’ which links to that women absorb anger. However feminists in general have been criticised about their perspectives because they do not account for the economic and social changes such as more women having a job in the economy compared to in the 1950’s.
They are also criticised for not observing the positive side of the family some women may want to raise children and run/control a home. New right perspective on the family is that they believe the government is weakening the family’s self-reliance by giving out welfare benefits. New right link this to raising crime rates in young people because the growth of lone parent families increase in popularity due to increased benefits therefore young children will grow up without a male/female role model which therefore leads to rising crime rates in young males and females. However feminists say that new right want to bring back a traditional nuclear family which they believe keeps women confined to a domestic role. In summary the analysis of the perspective of the family has many theories which can be argued however all the structural perspectives have the functions to which they believe a family fulfils.