Sex Roles in Parsons Family Essay

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Sex Roles in Parsons Family


Talcott Parsons wrote the agenda for almost all the earlier post-war sociologies of the family. It is hard to find a text book on the family which does not, at some stage, give a list of the functions of the family. Consequently, an outline of Parsons' ideas concerning the family is a useful starting point for understanding the sociology of the family.

You are not expected to agree with Parsons, but if you disagree make sure you can explain why you disagree.

Parsons argued that:

- Societies evolve as the result of functional adaptations to the problems presented by inter-relationships between (and within) systems that make up the social
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Some families may fit this description, though many will not.

The basis of sex roles ----------------------

The most important function performed by Parsons family is the stabilisation of the adult personality and the socialisation of children. This takes place through a four fold role model that constitutes the structure of the family.

Parsons argues that there are certain universal social prerequisites of ‘normal’ personality development, particularly those related to the existence of sexuality in infants and the sexual attributes of parents. Since these are universal and inescapable, the groups in which personality formation takes place, which is usually the family, will have to be organised on primarily ascriptive lines - that is, in terms of ‘natural’ attributes that an individual cannot control.

The two axes derive from 'Bales' work with small groups in experimental settings who when faced with tasks responded by differentiating roles along instrumental/expressive lines. The axes are argued to represent fundamental human group responses to problems.

Clearly, socialization is seen to be intimately connected to sex role differentiation. Thus, the basis for sex role differentiation is biology.

Supporting research -------------------

Parsons ideas on sex roles within the family derive from three different research traditions:

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