Essay on Defining the Family

Submitted By Livy-Graham
Words: 782
Pages: 4

Defining the Family
There are many conclusions which could define the word family but family is one of the organisations or institutions which have the biggest influence on individual’s behaviour or socialisation. This socialisation is named primary socialisation this is where individuals learn the roles and responsibilities of life. Most people would define their family by the identity of which they consider to be members of their family which would include their mother and father, brothers and sisters, any children and most likely less close relatives such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. Individuals are related to each other through genetic links (blood) or by marriage. Also individuals can be defined as family if they are also adopted which would mean that they are not connected through blood.
Functionalist sociologist George Peter Murdock (1949) definition of family was that a family was ‘a social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. This includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexually relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults’ this means that Murdock’s definition was that it only includes members of the nuclear family which represents two generations, heterosexual couple (parents) and their offspring (their children). Also Murdock includes the extended family which are other relations linked by blood or marriage from other generations i.e. grandparents and the siblings of the parents, aunts and uncles of the children also more distant relatives such as their cousins. Many Politian’s in the UK believe that Murdock’s definition of the family is the ideal idea of a family.
Universal institution means found in all societies making it necessary for the smooth functioning and survival of any society.
A problem with Murdock’s definition of the family is that a range of societies have many different domestic arrangements to those he describes such as the nuclear/extended family. These examples could suggest that the family is not universal. An example to support the problem shows that a woman named Kathleen Gough (1959) found research into the Nayar (members of a society in southern India) showing that wives didn’t live with the man they married (tali husband) but instead have several visiting husband (sandbanham husbands). Sandbanham husbands slept with a wife but did not live with her permanently as the husbands were normally warriors they would arrive at their wife’s house at night but would have to leave if another man was already at her house first and had left his spear outside the house. But these men would have several wives. This is one example that Murdock’s definition of society didn’t have a family as the fathers didn’t live with their children.
Research provided from the Caribbean, parts of Central America and the USA found by their research that a substantial proportion of households didn’t contain a male in the household. These matrifocal families or female lead families appear to be an exception to Murdock’s beliefs that the…