What Is an Example of Structural Functionalism?

An example of structural functionalism is a family unit where the father works a job outside the home to raise money and the mother stays home to care for the children.

Structural functionalism, which is also referred to as functionalism, or the functionalist perspective, is one of the large-scale forces that sociologists credit with shaping society. The other is conflict theory. Macrosociology is concerned with the big picture in societies and how they are shaped. Some of the larger events that shape a society are social institutions, social structures and changes in politics and economics. Macrosociologists study major changes that influence the different directions that a society takes and how those changes affect people on an individual level. Macrosociology, like microsociology, considers society as a collection of parts that work together to help a society function as a whole. Microsociologists, on the other hand, study small-scale events. They study interactions between individuals, families, coworkers and communities to understand the motives behind those interactions and what those interactions mean. Macrosociology and microsociology study essentially the same interactions, but they view them through different lenses. Collectively, their views provide a more intricate understanding of how a society operates on all levels.

Facets of Functionalism Macrosociology ascribes several main beliefs and assumptions to structural functionalism. Functionalism asserts that social stability is an essential part of a strong and healthy society and that sufficient social interactions and cooperation among members of a society are necessary to give society stability. The various institutions within a society perform different functions to help achieve that social stability. Functionalism states that slow social change is beneficial to a society’s health, while rapid change can damage society.

Origins of Functionalism Functionalism arose in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was shaped by the French Revolution in 1789 and the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. Following the French Revolution, which devastated France, members of the aristocracy across Europe worried that the same social upheaval would take place in their countries. Intellectuals at the time also feared that social order was disintegrating. In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution heightened those concerns. Economic prosperity and job opportunities led to people moving closer to cities. As city populations grew, competition for resources increased, which led to outbreaks of violence and property destruction.

Components of a Stable Society In response to the events of the two Revolutions, intellectuals asserted the need for social structure and order with rules and regulations to encourage good health and function. Their solution was functionalism, which checked the power of individuals through the two mechanisms of socialization and social integration. Socialization teaches people the rules of their society and why cooperation is so important. Social integration connects individuals with social institutions to promote integration with society and develop an appreciation for its values. Examples of this are family and religion. Another characteristic of functionalism is that it is wary of fast social change. Functionalists assert that rapid social change is generally nonsensical and threatens the society’s peace and stability. For that reason, functionalism is viewed as a conservative perspective that supports the status quo. Along with conflict theory, which asserts that society is shaped by inherent inequality in class, gender and other factors, functionalism explains the rationale behind a society’s function on a large scale.