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Structural Functionalism. Kingsbury, N., & Scanzoni, J. (1993). Structural-functionalism. In P. G. Boss, W. J. Doherty, R. LaRossa, W. R. Schumm, & S. K. Steinmetz (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theories and methods: A contextual approach (pp. 195-217). New York: Plenum Press.

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Structural Functionalism

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Structural functionalism l.jpg

Structural Functionalism

Kingsbury, N., & Scanzoni, J. (1993). Structural-functionalism. In P. G. Boss, W. J. Doherty, R. LaRossa, W. R. Schumm, & S. K. Steinmetz (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theories and methods: A contextual approach (pp. 195-217). New York: Plenum Press.


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Why Should We Study a Theory Which Has Become Obsolete?

  • It has been historically significant in family studies.

  • Functionalist assumptions continue to influence family studies, although some dispute the influence.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


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Terms

  • Definition of function: contribution that a part of a system makes to the maintenance of the whole.

  • Definition of structure: arrangement of roles in a system.

  • Properties of a social system, such as family:

    • Specialized or differentiated roles.

    • Roles are organized around shared vales and norms which establish rights and responsibilities.

    • Systems maintain their boundaries.

    • Systems tend toward homeostasis or equilibrium.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


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Functionalism and the Family

  • The family was conceived of as the structure best able to satisfy the physical and psychological needs of its members.

  • The family also contributes to maintenance of the society because it instills children with social values and norms.

  • Roles in the family:

    • Two roles:

      • Instrumental: task-oriented duties such as breadwinner role.

      • Expressive: person-oriented duties such as nurturing.

    • Deviance from roles, according to Parsons, contributed to family disorganization.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


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Main Contemporary Problems Addressed

  • Alternative life-styles:

    • This research compares diverse family forms or experiences to traditional versions of “the family.”

    • If the structure is outside the mainstream, it is often described in pejorative terms.

  • Family stress perspectives: response to structural changes is associated with disorganization and reorganization.

  • Remaking relationships: Evolution versus choice and control

    • Functionalist theorists suggest that social changes are the result of social evolution, suggesting that social forces dominate individuals.

    • Alternatively, other theorists suggest that social change occurs because individuals make personal decisions to challenge social norms which lead to acceptance of different structures.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


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Limitations of Structural-Functionalism

  • Scientific

    • Research continues to demonstrate that there are not “natural “ family structures.

    • Research demonstrates that families regularly experience conflict rather than equilibrium (e.g., Olson and McCubbin, 1988, noted that husbands and wives disagree about major variables, as do parents and adolescents).

    • It is difficult to clearly distinguish between instrumental and expressive roles.

  • Public policies/Political implications: functionalist theories supported existing structures.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


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