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What is the sociological definition of a family? Show more Show less
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The concept of “family” has evolved in recent decades. The intolerant view of a nuclear family, where a man and woman in wedlock have children and the male provides while the female undertakes child care responsibilities, no longer applies to many modern family units. So, what is a family?

Families are defined by what they do Show more Show less

Functionalists believe families are defined by what they do, rather than what they "are".
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Functional definitions of families are more inclusive

By defining families by what they do rather than what they are, we can include all the modern variations of a family unit in the sociological definition of a family.
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Limiting families to only those related by blood, those living in a shared accommodation, or those which raise children, are exclusive definitions of family which fail to accommodate all the nuanced family setups of the modern world.

The Argument

But allowing any unit that performs the core functions of a family unit to be classified as a family, the functional definition can be more inclusive. It means foster parents, that may not be legally or biologically related (or may not even be living under the same roof any longer) can still be classified as a family. It means people who did not form bonds with their biological parents or grandparents, but found a new “family” that provided support and shared resources have also entered a new family, as it provides all the functions of a family. It also means that whoever provides care for frail or elderly “family” members, whether they are biologically related, lifelong friends, or close companions, can meet the functional definition for a family.

Counter arguments


[P1] Modern families take many forms. [P2] Rather than focus on definitions that define what a family 'is', sociologists should focus on what they 'do'. [P3] This is the only way to include the many forms of a family unit in the sociological definition of a family.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Sunday, 28 Jun 2020 at 23:56 UTC

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