The Theories on Families

Mind Map by maddy.burgess, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by maddy.burgess over 4 years ago


AS Sociology/Unit 1/Families and Households

Resource summary

The Theories on Families
1 Functionalist
1.1 Argues that the Nuclear Family is the most efficient family type in meeting societys 'Functional Pre Requisits'
1.2 Murdoch 1949
1.2.1 Four main functions of the family: 1.Sexual - Expressing sexuality in a socially approved relationship 2.Reproduction - Providing stability for the reproduction and rearing of children 3.Socialisation - Where children learn socially acceptable behaviour and the culture of their society 4.Economic - The family provides food and shelter for its members
1.2.2 Say the 4 functions are necessary in every society, and that the nuclear family is universal (the best family type in every society)
1.2.3 however, the nuclear family is not the only family arrangement able to carry out these functions, and many institutions may take over some functions eg Socialisation - School
1.3 Functional Fit
1.3.1 Funtionalist believe the nuclear family has replaced the classic extended family and the main type of family. The family has become: Socially Isolated from extended kin More reliant on Welfare State and NHS Geographically separated from the wider kin More reliant on schools and nurseries for childcare
1.3.2 Functionalists argue that the family is self-contained and inward looking with little contacts with neighbours and community. Home leisure via TV etc have made us more home-centred and leisure time now tends to be shared
1.4 Parsons
1.4.1 Said that there has been a loss of functions since industrialisation, and that now functions were being fulfilled by institutions such as the NHS and education
1.4.2 Refers to "two basic, irreducible functions" still performed by families 1.PRIMARY SOCIALISATION - Families act as factories in that they socialise children into societies norms and values. this inturn reinforces the value consensus. 2.STABILISATION OF ADULT PERSONALITIES- Stress and pressure utside of the family can threaten mental health/stability and order. Thus the family helps stabilise adults via marital supports or playing with children WARM BATH THEORY - Parson argues that the family offers a 'warm bath of psychological comfort' against a tough, competitive outside world
1.4.3 Argues that in pre-industrial society, the settled nature of the economy led to extended families
1.4.4 Industrial society require mobile work fare and small nuclear families woh are able to move quickly and simply - hence why they fit the needs of a modern industrial society best
1.5 The Button and the Button Hole Theory - he relationships between a man and a woman are complimentary to each other, 2 functions working together
1.5.1 Man - Instrumental Role - Works/Earns money for family
1.5.2 Woman - Expressive Role - Looks after children/nurtures etc
1.6 Fletcher 1966
1.6.1 Argues that the modern family has more functions - not less Greater pre-occupation with children's health by parents Greater responsibility for protecting children's since increased legislation Important role as unit of consumption
1.7 The family is a 'virtual institution' within society that meets certain Functionalist Pre-Requisits that ensures society's survival and keeps it functioning
2 The New Right
2.1 Argue that the traditional nuclear family is the best family type to fit with society's structure by performing essential functions
2.1.1 Traditional Nuclear Family - Male Instrumental Role/Female Expressive Role/Dependant Children
2.1.2 See Nuclear family as 'natural' due to 'fundamental biological differences' between the sexes
2.2 Conservative and Anti Feminist - Oppose diversity
2.2.1 See growth of family diversity as the cause of many social problems eg Crime Rates/Dependence on Welfare/Education Failure etc
2.3 Single Parent Families (SPF)
2.3.1 Viewed as unnatural and hamful
2.3.2 Mothers statistically get custody, resulting in lack of male role model for boys and thus higher levels of delinquency
2.3.3 Argue SPF cannot discipline children effectively
2.3.4 'Burden' on the welfare state, ineffective single mothers become married to the the state and dependant on welfare rather than a man
2.4 Attack on Feminism?
2.4.1 Disapproving of working mothers Believe woman should see caring for their family as 1st priority
2.4.2 View marriage (traditional, patriarchal) as the essential basis for rearing & socialising children into traditional gender roles
2.4.3 Cohabitation and divorce rates create family instability making it easier for adults to avoid responsibility and commitment - negative effect on children
2.4.4 Benson 2006 Found that 3000 of 15,000 childrens mothers had become lone parents during the first 3 years of their child's life Only 6% were married couples as opposed to 20% cohabiting couples and 74% of these 'closely involved' but not living together
2.5 Charles Murray
2.5.1 1. The New Rabble - Long term unemployed, benefit claimants, single mums etc ll serving to create a 'dependency culture'
2.5.2 Identified an 'underclass' in his native america and saw that one was emerging in the UK, he saw 2 main groups:
2.5.3 His solutions calls for an end to single parent benefits - he sees this as being the answer to the welfare dependeny
2.5.4 2. The New Victorians - Middle Classists who marry, work hard, pay taxes and raise their children 'properly'
2.6 Owen Jones - says that 'chavs' are a scapegoat to distact attention from the real economic inequalities
3 Marxism
3.1 View the family within a framework of capitalist society
3.1.1 Believe the family serves the pyramid scheme
3.2 Role of the family
3.2.1 Family reproduces unequal relationships and works to 'clamp-down' inevitable social conflict
3.2.2 Nuclear families duty is concerned with socialising its members to obey capitalism
3.3 Disagrees with current system
3.4 Women in the Family
3.4.1 Engels - Views the monogamous nuclear family as a way to pass on property rights
3.4.2 Woman are 'Chattels' (personal property)
3.4.3 Engels is the earliest Marxist-Feminist, he basically says capitalism has turned women into this. He says the family is only used to pass thing down which remains within the bourgeoisie which should be shared.


  • Bourgeoisie - (in Marxist contexts) the capitalist class who own most of society's wealth and means of production.
3.4.4 Wives position was almost akin to a prostitute - in exchange for financial security she provides sex and heirs


  • Akin - means similar to
3.5 Functions of the Family
3.5.1 Reproduce the labour force
3.5.2 Socialising children to accept the inequalities of capitalism
3.5.3 Consume the goods of capitalism
3.5.4 Provide emotional support for workers
3.6 Engels
3.6.1 In earliest societies he suggested there had been no restrictions on sexual behaviour. As societies became more complex more restrictions were placed on sexuality .
3.6.2 Argued that in the earliest societies women held power, but as humans learned to heard animals, men took control of the livestock and thus became the first property owners
3.6.3 Argued that societies developed through several stages / in an evolutionary
3.6.4 First writers to apply Marxism to family in 1884
3.6.5 Didn't want to see family abolished - he had weak evidence, his ideas on evolution of families evolution was criticised
3.6.6 First Marxists to state families are shaped by the economic system
3.7 Zaretsky 1976
3.7.1 Responsiblities of family life stops workers from striking for a better deal or leaving jobs
3.7.2 Family ties the working class man to his work as he need to work hard to provide for his family
3.7.3 Says that families serve capitalism by The family provides a haven for alienated workers Providing unpaid domestic labour of housewives / creating a new generation on workers Families consume the commodities of capitalism
3.7.4 Argues that the family is the main prop to the capitalist system
3.7.5 In the working man's 'castle' he can escape the the fustrations of work
3.8 Cooper
3.8.1 Family makes you less independently thinking and you have to have the same views as your family otherwise you wont get along
3.8.2 Sees the family and a ideological conditioning institution
3.8.3 Family forces you into believing you are a worker not an owner
3.9 Althusser 1971
3.9.1 Argued that in order for capitalism to survive the working class must submit to the ruling class
3.9.2 The ruling class cons us into accepting their ideology, resulting in false class consciousness
3.9.3 He said that the family is part of the Ideological State Apparatus, which controls us by transmitting riling class ideology
4 Feminist
4.1 Believe that women have suffered prejudice and discrimination simply because of their gender
4.2 Think women need to feel free from these injustices of patriarchy and particularly the sphere of family, home and work
4.3 Feminism and Patriarchy
4.3.1 Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aiming at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic, cultural and social rights for women
4.3.2 Central to the feminist approach is the idea of patriarchy or male dominance of society
4.3.3 It is argued that patriarchy is established and reinforced in family relationships
4.3.4 Feminists argue that men benefit from families at the expense of women because the family sustain patriarchy
4.4 Despite different feminist approaches they all believe that women occupy a subordinate position in the family and are exploited
4.5 Marxist Feminist
4.5.1 Women are seen as cheap and exploitable in the labour market where constraints of childcare keep them concentrated
4.5.2 Advocate the overthrow of capitalism as being necessary to free men and women from a position of slavery
4.5.3 Women provide male workers with food, drink and relaxation, enabling them to go back to work refreshed
4.5.4 'Reserve army labour' to be called upon when needed
4.6 Liberal Feminists
4.6.1 Advocate change through legislation and education Equal Pay Act 1970 / Sex and Discrimination Act 1975 / Equality Act 2010 Equality in maternity and paternity leave from 2015
4.6.2 Believe that neither sexes benefit from the gender inequalities in society
4.6.3 Believe things are slowly getting better
4.7 Radical Feminists
4.7.1 Family is a site of domestic violence
4.7.2 Believe patriarchy is the source of all our discontents in society
4.7.3 Women must fight for their rights
4.7.4 Men exploit women as husbands, brothers, sons etc
4.7.5 Family Ideology is forced upon people
4.7.6 Greer 2007 - argues that the family is an exploitive institution
4.7.7 Some advocate separatism or political lesbianism
4.7.8 'Family' excludes those who persue different lifestyles
4.8 Difference Feminists
4.8.1 Feel that other feminist 'flavours' have ignoored the differences that exist between men and women
4.8.2 Many varies cultural and religious issues faced by women of colour
4.8.3 eg Why do African-Carribean women have such high rate of single parenting?
5 Postmodern
Show full summary Hide full summary


The Functionalist perspective on education
Phoebe Fletcher
Camera Angles
Sociology: Crime and Deviance Flash cards
Beth Morley
Sociology - Crime and Deviance - Feminists
Bowlby's Theory of Attachment
Jessica Phillips
Functionalist Theory of Crime
Realist Theories
Sociology for the MCAT
Sarah Egan
Research Methods
cheyenne warwick