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During this essay I will start by looking briefly at the background of Talcott Parsons I will continue by outlining his theory of the role of the nuclear family in modern society beginning with a definition of the nuclear family how it evolved and what purposes it serves both for the individual family members and for society as a whole I will then discuss challenges to Parsonian theory from feminism and from other sociological theorists Finally I will consider what relevance Parsons theory has today Talcott Parsons was born in Colorado USA in 1902 He graduated from Amherst College in 1924 and went on to spend a year at the LSE before gaining his PHD at Heidelberg University in 1927 In 1931 he began to teach sociology at Harvard University He stayed there until his retirement in 1973 and died in 1979 in Munich His work was very influential within the United States during the 1940s and 50s and is generally considered to constitute an entire school of social theory It drew on elements from European theorists such as Durkheim Weber Marshall and Pareto and was concerned not with the internal field of the personality like Weber but with the external institutions that are developed by society He is still considered a leading exponent within the functionalist paradigm Electric Library 2000 It is important to define the concept of the nuclear family both as Parsons intended it to mean and contemporarily as society sees it today For Parsons nuclear family meant parents who lived with their dependent children His model was basically the white middle-class suburban family Jackson 1999 p161 and was opposed to extended family where more than two generations live together or in close proximity usually forming a single household Parsons also saw the nuclear family as relatively isolated that is to say when a couple marries there is never nor can there be it would seem a complete
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