Functions of Family
On the basis of the categorization of Mac Iver and Kingsley Davis, we can divide the functions of family into two broad categories:
Under the essential functions of family, we are to include sexual, reproduction & maintenance, placement and socialization.
Under the non-essential functions, economic, educational, religious health and recreation care of the aged, civic, political control and social functions are included.
- Essential Functions:
The Institutionalisation of mating and the channeling of the sexual outlets, thus establishing a legal father for a woman’s children and a legal mother for a man’s children, each acquire a ‘monopoly’ in the sexuality of the other. ‘Manu’ regarded sexual satisfaction as the aim of the family. ‘Vatsyayan’ also looked upon sexual satisfaction as the primary objective of the family. The failure of sexual harmony, the family structure rests on nothing. It is bound to disintegrate.
The entire upbringing of a child since his birth is known as socialization. Parents are the permanent agents of socialization; the playmates, teachers, relatives, colleagues stand next to them as the agents of socialization process.
Reproduction & Maintenance of the Child:
The inevitable result of sexual satisfaction is procreation. The nurture and basic enculturation of the young in an atmosphere of intimacy, preparing them to accept the statuses that will come to them as the heir of theirs; established parents and kinsmen.
The children are reared up in accordance to the norms of the society and they are ultimately to be placed in the society. This may be considered as the major contribution of a family to the society at large.
- Non-essential functions:
In former days the members of the family were all engaged in the familial industry i.e. agriculture. It was then a unit of production and the centre of economic activities. Now the old pattern has been changed due to the conversion of the traditional agro-based economy to cash economy. The members of a family are at present engaged in different activities. Yet, they help in the economic adjustment of the family. Property is an important economic institution which is protected and maintained by the family. The use and transmission of this property usually follow the prescribed rules of the society.
It is also a non-essential function of the family. It helps in developing the religious characters of man. Thus, family may be regarded as the centre for religious training. The modern families attach little importance to this activity of the family. They become secular in outlook.
Another non-essential function performed by the family is the education of the children. The family behaves like an important educational agent. The child learns the first lesson at home under the guidance of the parents. The modern families have delegated the task of educating their children to different school, colleges and technical institutes.
Care of the Aged:
This is something unique in the eastern countries including India, Japan, China. Age old parents are given proper care and attention by their sons, their wives and daughters and this act of reciprocity actually balances the tenderly emotional feeling that exists among these two generations.
Health and Recreation:
In former days the functions relating to health were performed in the traditional family which has now been shifted to hospitals and clinics. Formerly, a sick man was cared for in the family but at present he is admitted in the hospital and looked after by the nurses. The family creates such a cozy atmosphere which soothes the inmates after their return from hard day’s work. Different familial functions have recreational value too.
The family is the school of civic virtues. The child learns the first lesson of citizenship in the family. The virtues of love, co-operation, tolerance, sacrifice, obedience and discipline are first learnt by the child in the family which enables him to become a good citizen.
Some families may have some control over the local politics. The family members jointly share the politics. The family members jointly share the political endeavors of the family and enjoy the benefit derived there from. The freedom fighters’ families of our country had to suffer a lot during the British regime and the family pensions and other benefits offered to them by our National government are being enjoyed by the members of those families at present.
It is the solemn duty of all the adult male members of the family to protect its children, females and old persons from any physical threat or assault or insult.
Social: Family imparts the knowledge of social customs, more etc. to the coming generation. It exercises social control over its members. It stops the sex relations among its members by exercising family exogamy rule.