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Marriage and Family - Theoretical Perspectives

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Autor:   •  December 4, 2016  •  Coursework  •  479 Words (2 Pages)  •  373 Views

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Marriage and Family: Theoretical Perspectives

        What is marriage? What is the structure of marriage? What are the functions? Who holds authority in the marriage? Surprisingly, these answers are not universal and vary between societies. The same goes for the definition of family. Even though all societies construct its members into families, there is a large array in the family arrangement. There is polygyny where men have more than one wife, and there is polyandry where the woman has more than one husband, and there is also nuclear families which consists of a husband, wife, and child(ren). Different groups have diverse ways of tracing decent, partner selection and parents’ responsibility also vary between cultures.  Although these differences may seem peculiar to us as Americans, each group recognizes their form of marriage and family as normal.

Functionalists look at family and marriage not by their definition or structure behind them, but by how having family and marriage contributes to society. So even though most societies definition of marriage and family is different, family itself is universal. Functionalist believe that family executes six fundamental needs that are necessary for society to survive. The six needs that functionalists see as most important for the survival of society are 1. Economic production 2. Socialization of children 3. Care of the sick and aged 4. Recreation 5. Sexual control and, 6. Reproduction. Functionalists view the incest taboo as a way to refrain from confusing the roles of each family member. Incest would create a lot of questions within the family beginning with how each member should respect, or treat the other members. Incest also forces exogamy. Exogamy was particularly useful in tribal societies by forcing alliances between feuding tribes, and by expanding social networks for the two joining families. Despite the positives of having a nuclear family, functionalists point out that there are still a few dysfunctions, such as emotional overload and relative isolation. These dysfunctions could cause quite the conflict.

When it comes to family, no matter what type, and marriage, conflict is inevitable. Who has the power in the relationship seems to be the main reason of conflict in most marriages. In today’s American society it seems that women are gaining more power, and making more decisions for the family. Women today are also spending more time at work, resulting in men having to pitch in more with housework and childcare. Things that were once referred to as “women’s work” no longer hold that stigma. Marriage is now more equal, which could help lessen the amount of conflict. In today’s society studies have shown that men and women spend less time on house work, less time at paid work, more time on child care and family responsibilities. With these changing times it is evident that marital responsibilities will only become more equal in the future.


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