Functions of Family

The Family:

The family, almost without question, is the most important one of any of the groups that human experience offers. We join other groups for long or short period of time for the satisfaction of some interests. But the family is always with us or rather we are with it.

Really, family is a unique social institution for which there is no substitute. It is the most permanent and most pervasive of all social institutions. The word 'family' has come from Latin word 'famulus' which means the servant. The family is a small group consisting of father, mother, one or more children and some relatives.

Maclver defined family as "a group defined by sex relationship sufficiently precise, and enduring to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children.”

Eliot says" Family is the biological social unit composed of husband, wife and children."

Nimkoff says "Family is a more or less durable association of husband and wife with or without child, or of a man or woman alone, with children."

Functions of the Family:

Family is the most important primary group in society. It is an outstanding primary group, because the child develops its basic attitudes in the family. Family, as a social institution performs several functions.

Maclver classifies its functions into two types: (1) Essential or primary and (2) non-essential or secondary.

Essential / Primary Functions

The essential functions of family are:

(1) Stable Satisfaction of Sex need:

This is the Primary and essential function of family. Sex instinct is the natural urge of human being. The satisfaction of this need requires that both male and female should live together as life partners. It is the family where the husband and wife can satisfy their sex instincts easily and comfortably. Without family the satisfaction of sex need is almost socially quite impossible. A family not only satisfies but also provides the appropriate mechanism through marriage to regulate sexual behavior of husband and wife.

(2) Reproduction or procreation:

Reproduction or procreation is another essential function of family. The family along with regulating the sexual behavior in relation to the satisfaction of sexual needs secures a legitimate basis for procreation. Since the inception of family, it has been performing this fundamental function. This function of family contributes to the continuity of family and ultimately perpetuates the human race as a whole.

(3) Protection and care of the young:

Protection and care of the children is another essential function of family. It is regarded as an institution par excellence for the production and rearing of children. It is true that no other institution can take required care of the child like family. The child at birth is complete helpless and cannot survive at all without the help of the family. It is the family which provides care, protection, security (Physical, mental) and fulfills all other needs to make him fit in the society.

(4) Socializing Functions:

Family is one of the primary agents of socialization. Family members teach the child the norms, value morals, beliefs and ideals of society. In the family the children first learn what is good and bad, what is right and wrong. They develop specific habits, traits of character, attitudes and values. The senior members of the family pass the family culture to the new generation thought socialization process. Thus, family acts an instrument of culture transmission.

(5) Provision of a home:

Family makes a provision of a home or a common habitation for its members. Here both husband and if live together for procreation, protection and care of the children. It is a place of multifarious activities. All the members of the family depend on home for comfort, protection and peace. It is that institution which provides the mental or the emotional satisfaction. Members of the family exchange their love, sympathy and affection among themselves.

Non-essential / Secondary Functions

The non-essential functions of family are:

(1) Economic function:

The family fulfils the economic needs of its members. This has been traditional function of family. Family fulfils all the economic needs of its members such as food, clothing, shelter etc. The goods required by its members are produced at home.

(2) Educational function:

Mazzin says, "The first lesson of child is learnt between mother's kiss and father's care". Family is regarded as the first school of children. The family provides the basis for the child's formal learning and gives the child his basic training in the social attitudes and habits.

(3) Religious function:

The family is a centre for the religious training of the children. The family used to teach the children the religious values, moral precepts etc. It is through the family the religious inheritance is passed on to the next generation.

(4) Recreational functions:

Family is the centre of recreation. It serves as a centre of all recreational activities like singing, dancing, playing indoor games etc. The small children are the source of recreation for the elders.

(5) Protective function:

Family always looks after the health of its members both young and old. It takes up the responsibility of its members and maintains sound and good health.
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