contemporary diversity in the structure of the family Essay

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Q: Examine the sociological evidence concerning the idea that there is contemporary diversity in the structure of the family.

The family is often seen as the corner stone of society. In pre-modern and modern societies alike it has been regarded as the most basic unit of social organisation and one that carries out vital tasks, such as the socialisation of children.

Functionalists’ approaches to the family are based on the assumption that society operates on the basis of consensus and that there is a balance between various parts of society so that they work together harmoniously. Functionalists assume that social institutions must have a function or purpose; therefore the family is examined in terms of the functions it performs for
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If we accept this claim there is evidence to show that in societies such as the Nayar society of southern India or Matrifocal societies the nuclear family does not and never has existed.

There are undoubtedly differences between now and the recent past, however, there are also strong continuities.

Edmund Leach, critic of the nuclear family argues that the ‘isolation and the close-knit nature of contemporary family life incubates hate which finds expression in conflict in the wider community.’ The families in which people huddle together create barriers between them and the wider society. The privatised family creates suspicion and fear of the outside world. Only when individuals can break out of the prison of the nuclear family, rejoin their fellows and give and receive support will the ills of society begin to diminish. Leach’s conclusion is diametrically opposed to functionalist’s view of the family. He stated that ‘far from being the basis of the good society, the family, with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all our discontents.

Another critic of the nuclear family R.D. Laing, views the family in terms of sets of interactions. Individuals form alliances, adopt various strategies and play one ore more
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