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Социология Functions of the Family: Do We Really Need the Family?
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Authority Patterns: Who Rules?

Family Residence: Where Do We Live?

Descent Patterns: To Whom Are We Related?

The state of being related to others is called kinship.The family and the kin group are not necessarily the same. While the family is a household unit, kin do not always live or function together. Kin groups include aunts, cousins, in-laws, and so forth.

Formally, a married couple is expected to establish a separate household. However, if we take a cross-cultural view, it is relatively uncommon. In many societies, the bride and groom live either with his or her parents. The reason for it is that the new couples need the emotional support and especially the economic support of their kinfolk.

Imagine that you are recently married and must begin to make decisions about the future of your new family. Immediately, an issue is raised: «Who has the power to make the decision?», in simpler terms, who rules the family?

Societies vary in the way that power within the family is distributed. If a society expects males to dominate in all family decision making, it is termeda patriarchy. Women hold low status in such societies. By contrast, ina matriarchy, women have greater authority than men. But researchers have come to the conclusion that in modern history there is not a society which truly has this pattern of family organization.

Some marital relationships may be neither male-dominated nor female-dominated. The third type of authority pattern,the egalitarian family, is one in which spouses are regarded as equals. This does not mean, however, that each decision is shared in such families. Mothers may hold authority in some spheres, fathers in others. In the view of many sociologists, the egalitarian family has begun to replace the patriarchal family as the social norm.

A century ago Frederick Engels, a colleague of Karl Marx, described the family as «the ultimate source of social inequality». More recently other theorists have stated that the family contributes to social injustice, denies opportunities to women, and limits freedom in sexual expression and mate selection.

In order to evaluate such issues, it is helpful to examine the functions the family fulfills. There are six of them:

1.Reproduction. For a society to maintain itself, it must replace dying members.

2.Protection. Human infants need constant care, economic security, upbringing.

3.Socialization. Parents and other kin monitor a child's behavior and transmit the norms, values and language of a culture to the child.

4.Regulation of sexual behavior. Standards of sexual behavior are most clearly defined within the family circle.

5.Affection and companionship. The family is obliged to serve the emotional needs of its members. We expect our relatives to understand us, to care for us, and to be there with us when we need them.

6.Providing of social status. We inherit a social position because of the «family background» and reputation of our parents. Moreover, the family resources affect our ability to pursue certain opportunities such as higher education and specialized lessons.