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Changing Family Structure in America from a Functionalist Perspective

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“Leave it to Beaver” was a popular sitcom about a traditional nuclear family played out through the perspective of an adolescent boy whose curiosity and antics often got him into trouble (TV.com). Despite the show promoting positive family values, it also inadvertently shed light on a historically dark period of time in American history. One such instance was the lack of diversity on the show. Nearly 100% of the show’s characters were white throughout the six-season, 234 episode series. In the single episode that depicted an African-American, the character was a servant, further a reflection of the times when African-Americans where predominantly seen and treated as second-class citizens (Leaveittobeaver.org). However, this 1950’s ideal serves as a reference point to what typical families looked like and how vastly different they look now. In chronicling how the family structure has changed in America, it is important to understanding how family was actually defined. When referencing Leave it to Beaver (further referred to as LITB) times, family took on a substantive definition, or the idea that family was equivalent to relative, or related by blood or law. While this definition of family served the time period, it failed to evolve with society. For that reason, sociologists set out to determine a “more inclusive functionalist definition,” that focuses on what families do. “A functionalist definition of families focuses on how families provide for the physical, social, and emotional needs of individuals and of society as a whole” (Witt). With that, the functionalist perspective identifies six primary functions, which include reproduction, socialization, protection, regulation of sexual behavior, affection and companionship, and... ... middle of paper ... ...Many Kinds of Family Structures in Our Communities." . N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2014. . Henslin, James M.. "The Sociological Perspective." Essentials of sociology: a down-to-earth approach. 8th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2008. . Print. "Leave It to Beaver." TV.com. TV.com, Web. 10 May 2014. . "Leave It To Beaver FAQ." Leave It To Beaver FAQ. Leaveittobeaver.org. Web. 10 May 2014. . Nolan, Sarah. "Gloria Steinem & The Second Wave of Feminism." YouTube. YouTube, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 May 2014. . "Roe v. Wade in PBS' The Supreme Court." YouTube. YouTube, 1 Dec. 2008. Web. 10 May 2014. . Witt, Jon. SOC 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.
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