– In the functionalists view, families must perform certain vital ‘functions’ in order for society to work and for those living in it to benefit. Functionalists strongly believe families are ‘a key institution’ for several reasons, they in many ways, keep society stable and help maintain a healthy living environment through the ‘functions’.
Murdock was a functionalist sociologist, in 1949 he said there are four basic functions that the family carries out these are; reproductive, socialisation, economic and sexual, these contribute to ensure society functions well. This is just one sociologists view, ‘Parsons’ is another functionalist sociologist that believes that the two KEY functions these being; ‘the primary socialisation’ and ‘the stabilisation of adult personalities’ (these key functions are explained above).
In order for these functions to be performed, functionalists believe that there should be both a male and also a female role model in the household in order to guide and show children the roles each of these two should carry out. In the males case; he should be the ‘breadwinner’ and earn the main wage and do the most work outside of the house, whereas the female member is for more comfort and emotional support.
Functionalists believe that these functions and roles are best carried out in what is known as a ‘nuclear family’, they believe that this type of family fits society best. The nuclear family is usually seen as the ‘typical family’, of two children, the mother and father, but no other generations of the family, or this would be known as an ‘extended family’. The nuclear family is seen by functionalists as the best suited family for this generation as it is what’s known as a ‘socially mobile workforce’. This was needed after society became industrialised because lots of families had to move out and away to look for work in new places, with the nuclear family this was much easier than trying to move with more than two generations of a family so it became, and has stayed the most common form of family. A downside of the nuclear family though is that with fewer members there is a lot less support coming in from other family members.
We usually define the word "family" with a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household but to many sociologists, this definition is narrow and is not a very accurate way of describing a family. According to Murdock (1949) the family is a "social group" which is identified by common "residence", "economic" and "reproduction" whereas Giddens (1993) states that the family ...
This is the view of the functionalist, but other sociologist may disagree such as Marxists and feminists, they do not agree with parsons ‘functional fit’ theory and other views of functionalists.