Functions of the family (part 2)
However For Parsons (1951) the function of the family has changed and now only has two basic functions of :
primary socialisation of children
- stabilisation of adult personalities
Primary socialisation is the socialisation which occurs during the early years of childhood. During the process of socialisation a child’s personality is moulded so that the core values of the society it’s immersed in become part of that child. Parsons argued families act like factories with the processes and systems available to it to continually ‘reproduce human personalities’ in a warm secure environment.
Stabilisation of adult personalities emphasises the emotional security found within marital relationships This acts to balance out the stresses and strains of everyday life faced by most adults. In addition the function of the family is to allow adults to ‘act out’ the ‘childish’ dimension of their personality by playing with their children, using their toys etc.
The stabilisation of adult personalities is also aided by the sexual division of labour within particularly as the family is an isolated nuclear unit. Within the isolated nuclear family members are allocated particular roles (role allocation) in order for it function correctly. The sexual division of labour achieves these ends. By identifying two distinct roles for the husband and wife within the family this structure stabilises family members allowing the family to function.
For Parsons’ women’s role in the family is an ‘expressive role’. What he meant by this is a woman’s familial role is to provide care, love, affection, security and all the necessary emotional support a family member might need.
In contrast for Parsons’ men have an ‘instrumental role’ as the bread winner. Such a role is very arduous and is such a stressful, anxious challenge that it can cause men to breakdown. Therefore a woman’s function is to relieve this burden or tension from the men’s shoulders by providing love and understanding as well as continuing to be the primary carer irrespective of their own circumstances.
Therefore the sexual division of labour is about men and women having ‘expressive’ and ‘instrumental’ roles in the family so that it functions correctly.
The best way to understand Parson’s view is to imagine living in the ideal family as similar to entering a warm bath. Indeed it’s useful to understand Parson’s view of family life as being a ‘warm bath theory.
As industrialisation grew kinship-based society broke-up which had a direct impact on family structures. Out went the classic extended family and in came the ‘isolated nuclear family’ as a ‘productive unit’.
The termed ‘isolated’ comes from functionalist Talcott Parsons who identified the families in modern industrial society as being isolated nuclear families because they’re no longer connected to wider kinship relations.
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