This chapter examines one of the central concerns of family sociology: the characterisation of the form and role of the modern Western family and of its relationship to the wider society. The most notable of early accounts, that of Talcott Parsons, is outlined in Section 3.1. Parsons, as we shall see, characterises the modern family as a structurally isolated nuclear unit which cherishes husband-wife and parent-child bonds and has as its main ‘functions’ socialisation and the stabilisation of adult personality. He also depicts women as responsible for the family’s emotional well-being and men as responsible for its economic well-being. Writing from a functionalist perspective, Parsons sees this family unit as serving the ‘needs’ of technologically-advanced industrial urban economies.
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