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Isolated nuclear family of Talcott Parsons

Talcott Parsons in his, The structure of family 1959-  A study of American families, wrote that isolated nuclear family is family of modern industrial societies. It is structurally isolated, as it doesn’t form a part of the wider system of kinship relations. Though there are relations with the kin groups but they are more of a matter of choice then binding obligations. He sees his theory of isolated nuclear family as an extension of his wider evolutionary theory of societies. As a society undergoes a process of structural differentiation new specialized institutions come up to perform many of the functions of a family. Talcott Parsons further argues that there is a functional relationship between the isolated nuclear family and economic system in the industrial societies. Isolated nuclear family evolves to meet the needs of new economic system, as it requires a geographical mobile family. It ceases to be an economic unit of production as production shifts to industries. In modern industrial society status is achieved and more not ascribed. Isolated nuclear family is the best form of family structure for a society based on achieved status as individuals are now judged on universalistic values. Parsons also goes on to define the roles of members in this isolated nuclear family. According to him husbands or fathers play instrumental roles of bread earning and wives or mothers play affectional role and rear children.


According to him though status outside the family is achieved one it is ascribed one within family. Due to structural isolation conjugal bond between husband and wife is strengthened. Although specialized institutions now perform many functions, stabilization of personalities and some other basic irreducible functions are still performed by the family. Feminist sociologists argue that Parsons branding of roles for male and female is prejudiced. Others like William Goode argue that growth of nuclear family is not due to industrialization but it is the result of the ideology of nuclear family itself. The degree of independence it affords and a premium that we put on it in modern western societies has led to growth of nuclear families. Eugene Litwak argues that isolated nuclear family is not a proper term to define the industrial family and instead modified extended family should be used which is a coalition of nuclear families in a state of bit partial dependency, nuclear family still exchanging significant services each other and not structurally isolated.

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