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A century ago Frederick Engels, a colleague of Karl Marx, described the family as «the ultimate source of social inequality». More recently other theorists have stated that the family contributes to social injustice, denies opportunities to women, and limits freedom in sexual expression and mate selection.
In order to evaluate such issues, it is helpful to examine the functions the family fulfills. There are six of them:
1. Reproduction. For a society to maintain itself, it must replace dying members.
2. Protection. Human infants need constant care, economic security, upbringing.
3. Socialization. Parents and other kin monitor a child's behavior and transmit the norms, values and language of a culture to the child.
4. Regulation of sexual behavior. Standards of sexual behavior are most clearly defined within the family circle.
5. Affection and companionship. The family is obliged to serve the emotional needs of its members. We expect our relatives to understand us, to care for us, and to be there with us when we need them.
6. Providing of social status. We inherit a social position because of the «family background» and reputation of our parents. Moreover, the family resources affect our ability to pursue certain opportunities such as higher education and specialized lessons.
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