SOC 233 October 7, 2011
Functions of Family (Parsons studied Nuclear Family)
Q – How does the family contribute to the maintenance of the larger social system?
Q – In what ways is the social insititution of the family affected by its relationship to the larger social
-Eufunctional - Dysfunctional
-One parent (father) in workforce. -Two parents in workforce.
Rearing of Children
Socialization; women can teach children how to be well-integrated citizens of society.
Teach them about their future social roles so they can function in society.
Regulate sexual activity; avoid sexual deviance.
Family helps to maintain social organization; parents will teach children social place.
Material (father) and emotional (mother) security.
Functions of Family
1. Socialization – Mothers teach children how to be well-integrated citizens of society.
2. Regulate Sexual Activity – Avoid sexual deviance.
3. Material and Emotional Security – Father is material; mother is emotional.
Note – It is through our family that we learn about race, class, gender, and all of these have certain
placements; INEQUALITY IS FUNCTIONAL.
Example – Parent/Child Relationships
How children and roles affect relationships within the family.
How do children affect marital satisfaction over the life cycle?
How do children help to promote relationships between kinship groups (i.e., grandparents,
aunts and uncles, cousins)?
How do children contribute to and/or affect the relationships between families in a
Note – Review the slide on this. I only added the first three points/questions.
Quick Review on Functionalism (thus far):
Macro (structural) – How institutions interrelate and function in society.
Interdependence and equilibrium – Maintain stability in society through slow changes.
Evolutionary change – Change is gradual and orderly; different parts (i.e., institutions) will
slowly adapt to remain functional.
Structures – Social system is having needs in and of itself, not just within institutions.
Consensus – Norms and values; no conflict; nothing would function if we did not share these
norms and values. Note – If you do not follow norms and values, there are sanctions put in place to maintain stability.
Limitations of Functionalism
Reification of society and social institutions – Treating something like a “thing” (e.g., talking
about things as though they are alive).
Tautological reasoning – Circular reasoning; a statement that contains its own proof (e.g., we
know something is functional because it exists, and it exists because it is functional).
Cannot explain rapid social change – How do we explain
Implicit support for the political and economic status quo – We keep things the way they are
because they’re functional; What about trying to eliminate the inequalities in society (e.g., race,
Promoted middle range theories.
His Criticisms: Functional unity, universal functionalism, indispensability.
Introduced concepts “dysfunction,” and “nonfunction.”
Developed concept of deviance.
Note- By bringing things to middle range, we are able to study things empirically; more empirically-
Merton’s Criticisms on (original) Functionalism: