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.
The essential functions of family are:
(1) Satisfaction of sex need:
Vatsayana, the author of Kamasutra, has stated that sexual satisfaction is one of the main aims of family life. Satisfaction of sex desire is the most essential function which the family performs. The satisfaction of sex desire requires that the male and female should live together so that their sex instinct can be easily and comfortably satisfied.
The result of satisfaction of sex need is reproduction, which is an essential function of family. It is the desire of every man and woman to have his or her own children. The desire is satisfied in the family.
(3) Production and care of children:
The family gives individual a life and a chance to survive. The child at his birth is completely helpless and cannot survive without the help of family. Family not only takes care of the newly born babies, it also takes care of the unborn babies. Family also protects child from various types of diseases.
(4) Provision of a home:
Family provides the home for its members. Children are born and brought up in homes only. Though often children are born in hospitals, they are nursed in the homes only. Even the parents who work outside are dependent on home lor comfort, protection and peace.
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.