Functionalist and New Right views of the family workbook answers


How have functionalist and New Right thinkers explained family life and the relationship between families and social change?



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How have functionalist and New Right thinkers explained family life and the relationship between families and social change?

1 The organic analogy refers to the extended comparison made by functionalists between the human or other living body and society, with the organs of the body equivalent to institutions and structures in society.

2 Primary socialisation refers to the first and most important stage of the socialisation process by which young children absorb the norms and values of their culture, mainly from their parents.

Note: make sure your answer explains both ‘primary’ and ‘socialisation’.



3 One way in which the nuclear family is more suited than other types of family to modern industrial society is that it allows for geographical mobility; it is easier to move a nuclear family to a new area for, say, a new job than to move an extended family. A second way is that the division of roles by gender means that the male breadwinner can work long hours in a workplace while his wife cares for the children and home.

Note: the word ‘suggest’ in the question indicates that you do not have to provide evidence that your answers are correct. There will be more than two possible answers.



4 One change that New Right thinkers would see as undermining the traditional nuclear family is the growth of cohabitation (living with a partner outside marriage) because the bond between the two adults is not as strong as it would be if they were married. A second change is the growth of lone parent families; they are seen by the New Right as less effective than the nuclear family in socialising children because the lone parent has to try to carry out both the instrumental and expressive roles. Finally, the New Right would see the increase in the number of mothers of young children in full-time work as threatening the nuclear family because they would doubt that these mothers could fulfil the expressive role well enough for the wellbeing of the children.

Note: there are many possible answers, including:



It is not necessary to explain your answers (because the question doesn’t tell you to do this) but to do so can help you to be sure that your answer is right and to convince an examiner that your arguments are tenable. Be careful though not to write too much — you have other questions to answer.

5 This is not an exam-style question; it is included here to get you to think about the theoretical perspectives, not only in terms of what they say but why they should do so. This helps you to practise the skill of analysis. Points you could make include:

  • Belief that the nuclear family is the type of family that provides greatest stability both to families and their members, and to society as a whole.

  • This can be used to show how the New Right share some of the assumptions of functionalists.

  • Belief that the instrumental and expressive roles suit the natures of males and females respectively.

  • Belief that the nuclear family is essential for socialisation and so for society’s survival.

  • Concern that changes in families and relationships are undermining the nuclear family.

  • Belief that society was more stable during the ‘golden age’ of the nuclear family and that social problems such as rising crime are associated with the decline of the nuclear family.

  • Research evidence supporting these claims.


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