The Marxist and Functionalist Perspectives on the Family
For the purpose of this essay question I will discuss the Marxist and
the Functionalist perspectives on the Family. I will compare and
contrast them and give a critical analysis of each and place them in
historical context as well as modern day. In Britain today there are
many different types of families. A social unit living together
defines what a family is. The family resembles the core feature of
society. Both Marxist and Functionalist perspectives believe the
family is what holds society together and helps socialise the future
There are three types of family existing in today’s society. The
nuclear family resembles a family unit made up of no more than two
generations, stereotyped as a mother, father and children. The
extended family refers to a family unit made of many three generations
or more who live with each other or near by. This type is typical of
pre-industrial or ‘primitive’ societies. The third type of family is
the reconstituted. This type has become more apparent in modern day
society. It refers to adults who have married before and have brought
their children from the first marriage to the second, creating a new
family unit. It is important to note that not every household includes
a family – for example student flats.
The functionalist perspective believe society is like a machine in
that all its institutions sustain continuity and consensus and keep
society running smoothly. Functionalists believe the family
contributes to society’s basic needs and helps maintain social order.
Functionalists have been criticised for placing too much ...
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...e into existence with the invention of private property. Both
Murdock and Parsons paint a very ‘rosy’ picture of family life. They
fail to take in account the darker side of society and family issues
such as domestic abuse etc. Parsons views on men and women in
relationships are often out dated. A lot of women these days are the
breadwinners in the family and therefore the husband and wife roles
have been reversed. Functionalist do not recognise that women suffer
from the sexual division of labour while Marxists highlight this is
their theory. Marxists also come under scrutiny for exaggerating the
importance of the family life as being a refuge from the capitalist
society. Marxists also underestimate darker issues such as violence
within the home etc. Zaretsky overemphasises the fact that family and
work are separated.
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