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Functionalist Perspectives
Functionalists emphasize the importance of the famine maintaining the stability of society and the well being of individuals. According to Emile Durkheim, marriage is a microcosmic replica of the larger society; both marriage and society involve a mental and moral fusion of physically distinct individuals (Lehmann. 1994). Durkheim also believed that a division of labor contributes to greater efficiency in all areas of life-including marriages and families-even though he acknowledged that this division imposes significant limitations on some people. In the United States. Talcott Parsons was a key figure in developing a functionalist model of the family. According to Parsons (1955). the husband/father fulfills the instrumental role (meeting the family's economic needs. making important decisions. and pro· viding leadership). whereas the wife/mother fulfills the expressive role: (running the household. caring for children, and meeting the emotional needs of family members). Contemporary functionalist perspectives on families derive their foundation from Durkheim. Division of labor makes it possible for families to fulfill a Nuremberg of functions that no other institution can perform as effectively. In advanced industrial societies. families serve four key functions: 1. Sexual regulation. families are expected to regulate the sexual activity of their members and thus Controller reproduction so that it occurs within specific boundaries. At the tabernacle, incest taboos prohibit sexual contact or marriage between certain relatives. For example. virtually all societies prohibit sexual relations between parents and their children and between brothers and sisters. 2. Socialization. Parents and other relatives arc responsible for teaching children the necessary knowledge and skills to survive. The smallness and intimacy of families make them best suited for providing children with the initial learning experiences they need. 3. Economic and psychological support. Families are responsible for providing economic and psychological support for members. In postindustrial societies, families are economic production units; in industrial societies, the economic security of families is tied to the workplace and to macro level economic systems. In recent years, psychological support and emotional security have been increasingly important functions of the family. ' 4.. Provision of social status. Families confer social status and reputation on their members. These statuses  include' the ascribed statuses with which individuals are born, such as race/ethnicity, nationality)" social class, and sometimes religious affiliation. One of the soft significant and compelling forms of social placement is the family's class position and the opportunities (or lack thereof) resulting from that position. Examples of class-related opportunities include access to quality health care, higher  education, and a safe place to live. Functionalist explanations of family problems examine the relationship between family troubles and a decline in other social institutions. Changes in the economy, in religion, in the educational system, and in the law or government programs can all contribute to family problems.

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