Family Functions: A
Closer Look at Families around the world
Sexual Gratification: All societies have norms governing
behavior. Some societies have strict ideas about this
others impose very few limitations on the behavior.
within socities, families play a role in the establishing the
norms. Most societies typically prohibit sexual intercourse
the family, but beyond that, there is great variation
societies around the world. For example, in the 1990-1993
survey, the question was asked"Do you and your spouse share
same sexual attitudes?". Thirty- six countries were examined
this survey. Here are a few of the results:
of spouses that responded "yes"
it suprising that more than 2/3 of icelanders replied yes, 65% of
and 62% of Canadians, while in Japan, only 21% of
responded yes? It is clear that sexual attitudes and the
of families providing sexual gratification varies widely. This
true among many other family functions as well.
Economic Support: In most societies, the economic well-being
lies primarily within the family unit, with the exception
residents of the Kibbutz. In primitive societies, adults would
out and hunt the food, and then bring it back to the family.
modern societies, caregivers as well as other family members
able to provide economically for the rest of the family. The
chart examines varying societies attitudes regarding
neccessity of an adequate income for marital happiness.
an adequate income very imporant for a successful marriage?"
less developed nations with low per capita income dominate
top of this distribution. In contrast, only relatively small
in scandanavian nations think income is very important
successfull marriages. This is probably due to the fact that these
possess unusually large welfare systems that have essentially
the family unit as the primary source of economic support.
Support:In most societies, the family unit is reponsible
the emotional well being, security, and personal sense of worth
its members. Of course not all families are able to provide
the needs of its members, as child abuse, extramarital affairs,
etc. might suggest. In the 1981-1983 surveys, families
the world were asked to report on the relationship between
indicated that their mother and father were very close
Direct comments and questions to
this chart, it can be seen that S.Africa has the closest reported
relationships. Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. are fairly close,
Japan rates very low(29%). From what we have seen,
differ somewhat in their attitudes toward family as
to their Western counterparts. From the 1990-1993 world
survey,it was reported that only 12% of Japanese people are
with their home life. This can be understood on the basis
the degree in which the family imposes upon the individual
*The charts and information
from this page
was taken from Sociology
by Rodney Stark
created by Liz Burlein.
What is the definition
to Sociology by Rodney Stark, the most consistant efforts to define
what the family is has drawn on the functionalist perspective.
Anthropologists and Sociologists claim that the family is a universal social
institution, and therefore, it must do something vital for human beings.
Functionalists attempt to define the family on the basis of the functions
that the family performs. In 1949, George Peter Murdock defined
the family as "a social group characterized by common residence, economic
cooperation, and reproduction. " He added that the family "includes adults
of both sexes , at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual
relationship, and one or more children". Murdock went on to describe
four main functions of the family which included:
cooperation among members
of infants and children
definition came under attack for a number of reasons. First of all,
many people pointed out that there were many societies that were exceptions
to Murdock's stated functions.
people thought that Murdocks functions were too narrow. It can also
be seen that in the present day, Murdock's definition does not cover the
types of family that differ from the traditional family structure.
Eventually most sociologists adopted a definition based on the idea of
kinship and limited to the function of childcare. Weiss(1988) defines the
family as a "small kinship structured group with the key function of nurturant
socialization of the newborn."
1960' and 70's there was little reliable data about family life in previous
times. Untl that time, our ideas about family
came from novels, letters, autobiographies, and diaries written from the
times. These sources only represented
portion of society(the wealthy and literate). To undestand the nature
the average family, scholars have had to labor hard to find out this information.
What was discovered would be a shock
many. The typical family was far from the warm, intimate and caring
most people have long celebrated. In Shorter's book The
Making of the Modern
shorter found out a great deal about the traditional European family.
Composition: Shorter discovered that the extended family living
in a single
was not typical except in wealthy, urban and rural homes. The typical
household did include members outside of the nuclear family, but they were
members, lodgers, or hired hands. Also, while wealthy households contained
ten+ people, the typical households had on average 5 or 6 members.
women did give birth to many children, there was a high infant mortality
rate, and children were often sent off early
make a life for themselves. Many households had few elderly, and
not have both parents living. Suprisingly enough, female-headed households
are just as common now as they were back then(just for different reasons).
The majority of European families lived in one room. Rural families
sometimes shared their one-room households with livestock, and urban dwellers
usually had someone outside of their home living with them.
Many rural households had
hired hands. Urban households had lodgers. Sometimes, several
unrelated families shared one room. The traditional family lacked
privacy and well-defined boundaries. Families ate, slept, gave birth,
dressed, and engaged in sex in front of
another. These crowded living conditions undermined family relations.
Care: Countless numbers of child abuse was reported in journals
kept by local doctors. Parents left their children alone by themselves,
and many infants died from neglect, sickness, and even from being eaten
by farm animals. Even when parents were around their children, they
very frequently attended to thier emotional needs. There were very
high rates of
mortality, and so very few families
to form close attachments with their children.
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