Structural – Functionalist view of the family

Structural Functionalism is a broad perspective employed in the disciplines of anthropology and sociology in interpreting society as structural body with interrelated parts and constituent elements namely; such as norms, , institutions,  traditions and customs among others. According to Marxist, the family is a superstructure operating within capitalist society not in the interests its members equally but in the interests of the capitalist system and of the capitalist class existing within that system. Marxists argue:

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  1. Families rear and give forth to the coming  generation of children to become the next labor generation to establish power for the capitalist system at relatively low cost to that system;
  2. Family helps in  socialization of children to accepting authority unquestioningly thereby making them ready to accept capitalist authority structures in the work place;
  3. Existence of families consumption unit aids in promoting the capitalist system which helps to maintain and increase capitalist profit;
  4. Families may provide emotional support and a focus for loyalty without which greater worker solidarity might eventually result in a challenge to the capitalist system as a whole.

Marxist Feminists pointed to ways in which it is women specifically who are exploited in the capitalist family. They argue “that it is women who provide emotional support in families and women become the major victims of domestic abuse normally caused ultimately by the frustrations generated by the capitalist system.”

Nevertheless, with industrialization and more women joining the job market roles in nuclear families are divided between wives and husbands according to instrumental characteristics often assumed by males and become part of female expressive characteristics. This implies that the functions become weaker with time. Industrialization contributed to structural differentiation implying that specialized social institutions such as hospitals, factories and schools have taken over some of the primary functions of families.

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