Family is the most primary group in the society. It is the simplest and the most elementary form of the society. It is the first and the most immediate social environment to which a child is exposed. It is in the family that the child develops physically, psycho¬logically and socially.
The important role of family in human life must be examined from the point of view of the varied functions that are performed by family in human life and society.
Maclver classifies the functions of family into two categories :
1. Essential/Primary and
(i) Essential/Primary functions:
Stable satisfaction of sex needs : Sex desire is powerful in human beings. Family regulates the sexual behaviour of a man and a woman through marriage. Thus, it provides for the satisfaction of the sex need.
Reproduction and procreation : The process of reproduction is institutionalised in the family. Hence, it assumes regularity and a stability that all societies recognize as desirable. Family makes the act of reproduction as a legitimate act.
Upbringing of children : Family gives the individual his life and a chance to survive. All individuals owe their life to the family. No other institution can, as effectively bring up children, as family does.
Emotional function : Family, as an institution, provides for the mental or emotional satisfaction and security of its individual members. It is the family which provides the most intimate and dearest relationship to all its members.
(ii) Secondary functions:
Economic function : Family fulfills the economic needs of its members. This has been the traditional function of a family. The income generated by the members is used for the development and progress of the family.
Social-cultural function : Family guarantees not only biological continuity of the human race but also the cultural continuity of the society of which it is a part. It transmits ideas and ideologies, folkways, customs and traditions, beliefs and values from one generation to the next. It prepares the children for participation in larger world and acquaints them with a larger culture.
Educational function : Another important role of the family is to provide education and enable its members to socialize. Family provides the basis for a child’s formative learning. The culture and traditions of society, the dos and don’ts of society and its values are taught by parents at home. Family is also responsible for the shaping up of the personality of the individual members.