The Functionalist View of the Family.
Functionalists believed in a theory that the family is a positive institution. They hold the view that meets well with the needs of an advanced industrial society for a geographically and socially mobile workforce. Functionalists highlight the ideal family type in a modern society, as the nuclear family. The view of the nuclear family comprises of a breadwinner husband and dependant wife and children. US sociologists in particular have developed this approach, in particular Murdock, Parsons and Goode.
Critics have accused the functionalist view of the family as ideological in tone and representing a conservative stance. Some feministsâ€™ highlight the â€˜family ideologyâ€™ presents an image and ideal of family life that does not represent real experience, particularly that of women, whom feminists see as oppressed by the family. However, they defend the claim that the functionalist view of family life is shared by many people, if not only as an aspiration. The nuclear family is seen as traditional and positive.
Of all the sociological views of the family, the functionalist approach presents the most positive view of them all. The functionalist theory compares the family to a biological organism; this emphasises the order and stability that are key features of a successful society. The nuclear family is seen as the key social unit and the main institution in society.
Implicit in Anthropologists work has been the idea that the societies can be compared to biological organisms as the human body. The idea is that human bodies are composed of organs and related parts, such as the heart, the brain, the skeleton, the nervous system, etc. Each of these organs is interdependent and interconnected. Society can be seen in a similar way, but societyâ€™s â€˜componentsâ€™ or â€˜organsâ€™ are social institutions, such as family, education, social stratification, religion, the economic system and so on.