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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

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.

why should we study a theory which has become obsolete
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

terms
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

functionalism and the family
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

main contemporary problems addressed
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

limitations of structural functionalism
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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