The Importance of Structural Functionalism in Community Development

On this page, we find out, what are the importance of structural functionalism in the development of community.

Structural functionalism, a framework primarily associated with sociologists like Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons, posits that society is akin to a complex system where different parts function together to maintain stability and social order. In the context of community development, this perspective provides useful insights into the functions of social institutions, the cohesion of community members, and the overall harmonious growth of the community.

The Importance of Structural Functionalism in Community Development

Let’s explore some of the key areas where structural functionalism plays a pivotal role below:

  1. Understanding Social Order and Stability

Structural functionalism emphasizes the interconnectivity and interdependence of different social institutions like family, education, religion, and government. By highlighting the specific roles and functions of these institutions, this perspective allows us to understand how stability and social order are maintained within a community. For example, education prepares individuals for future employment, contributing to the economy, while religious institutions can promote moral standards and cohesion.

  1. Fostering Social Cohesion and Solidarity

Structural functionalism underscores the importance of shared norms, values, and beliefs in promoting social cohesion and solidarity. It suggests that shared cultural practices or collective activities like community events or festivals can strengthen bonds among members, foster a sense of belonging, and contribute to the overall harmony and development of the community.

  1. Guiding Community Development Initiatives

Understanding the functional aspects of social institutions can guide community development initiatives. For instance, by recognizing the role of education in socializing individuals and equipping them with necessary skills, community leaders can focus on improving educational infrastructure and access as a key developmental goal. Similarly, acknowledging the role of local government in maintaining order can lead to initiatives aimed at strengthening governance.

  1. Identifying Disfunctions and Making Adjustments

While structural functionalism primarily focuses on the harmonious aspects of society, it also acknowledges the possibility of dysfunctions – aspects that may not contribute to social equilibrium. These dysfunctions could manifest as social inequalities, crime, or lack of access to necessary services. Identifying these areas and understanding their impact on the community can be crucial in devising effective interventions and promoting community development.

Understanding more about Structural Functionalism

Structural functionalism is a theoretical framework often used in sociology and anthropology, providing a way to view society as a complex system with interdependent parts that work together to promote social stability and harmony. The origins, applications, usefulness, and criticisms of structural functionalism provide a comprehensive understanding of this theory.


The concept of structural functionalism originated in the sociological studies of Émile Durkheim in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Durkheim viewed society as a structure with interdependent parts that work together to maintain stability. This concept was later developed and expanded by sociologists such as Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Merton in the mid-20th century. Parsons, in particular, focused on social structures and their functions in maintaining social order.

Examples of Structural Functionalism

  1. Education System: The educational system prepares individuals for future roles in society. By providing knowledge and skills, it functions to maintain social order by preparing individuals for work, which, in turn, supports the economy. It also helps in the transmission of societal norms and values to younger generations.
  2. Family Structure: The family, as a social institution, has various functions including socialization of children, emotional support, and economic support. It helps maintain order by defining relationships between individuals and establishing roles and responsibilities.

The usefulness of Structural Functionalism

Structural functionalism is useful in understanding how different elements of society work together to maintain social order. It allows for a broad perspective that takes into account various social institutions and their roles. This framework is particularly helpful in explaining the stability of social systems over time and how social institutions contribute to societal cohesion.

Criticisms of Structural Functionalism

Despite its significant contributions to sociological understanding, structural functionalism has faced several criticisms:

  1. Overemphasis on Stability and Order: Critics argue that structural functionalism places too much emphasis on social stability and harmony, neglecting societal conflicts, inequalities, and change. By focusing on social order, it tends to ignore the impact of power dynamics, exploitation, and social injustice.
  2. Resistance to Change: Structural functionalism has been critiqued for its perceived conservative bias, with critics suggesting that it supports the status quo and is resistant to social change. It often fails to adequately address the processes of social change and transformation.
  3. Deterministic Approach: Critics also contend that structural functionalism takes a deterministic approach to individual behavior, suggesting that individuals simply fill roles in society rather than shaping society through their actions and choices.

Structural functionalism offers a comprehensive perspective for understanding how different parts of society work together to maintain social stability. However, it is not without its critics, who argue that it oversimplifies complex societal dynamics and neglects the realities of social inequality and change. Despite these criticisms, it continues to be a valuable tool in sociological analysis and provides a foundation upon which other theories have been built.

Structural functionalism offers a lens through which we can understand the intricacies of community development. By emphasizing the interrelated roles of social institutions and the importance of shared norms and values, it sheds light on the pathways to social cohesion, stability, and harmonious development. At the same time, recognizing potential dysfunctions provides opportunities to address community challenges proactively, leading to more equitable and sustainable development. Understanding these dynamics, community leaders, social workers, and policymakers can create interventions and strategies that genuinely reflect the community’s needs and aspirations.

Looking for something specific?


Related Posts