Family diversity

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  • Family Diversity
    • Modernism and the nuclear
      • Functionalism (modernist+The new Right)
        • Talcott Parsons- there is a 'functional fit' between the nuclear family and modern society.
          • Nuclear family= uniquely suited to meeting the needs of modern society for a geographically and socially mobile workforce
            • Performing two functions: the primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of a adult personalities
              • Can generalise about the ope of family in modern society- a nuclear family with a division of labour between husband and wife
      • The New Right- Conservative view and anti feminist perspective
        • Firmly opposed to family diversity= (like functionalists) only one correct normal family type= Nuclear family with clear cut division of labour between breadwinner husband and homemaker wife
          • The nuclear family is natural and based on fundamental biological differences= family is the cornerstone (important quality) of society, a place of refuge, contentment and harmony
            • Ann Oakley- wrong to assume that husbands and wives roles' are fixed by biology
          • Opposed lone parent families/ gay marriage= cause of social problems
            • Lone mothers cannot discipline their children properly
              • No evidence that children in lone parent families are any more delinquent than those in two-parent family of same social class
            • Lone parent families leave boys without an adult male role model= educational failure, delinquency and social instability
            • Likely to be poor and therefore a burden on the welfare state and taxpayers
        • Cohabitation vs marriage
          • Claim the main cause of lone-parent families is the collapse of relationships between cohabiting couples
            • For example, Harry Benson - analysed date on parents of 15,000+ babies= within the first three years of the baby's life the rate of family breakdown was 20% in cohabiting couples & 6% among married couples
              • =Only marriage can provide a stable environment in which to bring up children
              • Couples are more stable when married eg. the rate of divorce among married couples is lower than breakups between cohabiting couples
                • More stable= requires a deliberate commitment to each other whereas cohabitation allows partners to avoid commitment and responsibility
                • The rate of cohabitation is higher among poorer social groups- Carol Smart= may be poverty causing breakdown of relationships rather than deciding not to marry
          • New Right thinkers and conservative politicians- family and society at large are broken
            • Only  a return to traditional values including the value of marriage can prevent social disintegration and damage to children
            • Regard laws and policies such as, easy access to divorcee, gay marriage and availability to welfare benefits= undermining the conventional family
              • Benson -'Need to encourage marriage by means of policies'
              • Feminists- conventional nuclear family- based on the patriarchal oppression of women and is a fundamental cause of gender inequality
    • Chester: the net-conventional family- doesn't see family diversity as important or negative
      • Only important change is a move from dominance o the traditional/conventional family (division of labour) to a net-conventional family
        • Neo-conventional family= dual-earner family in which both spouses go out to work- similar to the symmetrical family by Y&W
        • No other major changes= Most people are not choosing to live in alternative to the nuclear family (e.g. lone-parent families) on a long-term basis and the nuclear family remains the ideal to which most people aspire
          • Most people live in a household headed by a married couple
          • Most adults marry and have children. Most children are reared by their two natural parents
          • Most marriages continue until death- divorce has increased but most divorcees remarry
          • Cohabitation increased but is temporary phase before marrying or re-marrying
          • Although birth outside marriage have increased, most are jointly registered suggesting that the parents are committed to bringing up children as a couple
      • Extent of family diversity has been exaggerated
    • The Rapoports: five type of family diversity
      • Rhona and Robert Rapoport- society has moved away from the traditional nuclear family to a range
        • Families in Britain have adapted to a pluralistic society- one with more diverse cultures and lifestyles= reflects greater freedom& widespread acceptance of diff cultures and ways of life
        • Types of family diversity in Britain: Organisational diversity= differences in ways family roles are organised eg. some have joint conjugal roles& others segregated
          • Cultural diversity- different cultural, religious and ethnic groups have diff family structures eg. higher proportion of female headed lone parent families among African Caribbean households and a higher proportion of extended families among Asians
          • Social class diversity- differences in family structure are partly the result of income differences between households of diff social classes
          • Life-stage diversity- family structures differ according to the stage reached in the life cycle eg. young newlyweds, couples with dependent children, retired couples whose children have grown up and left home and widows who are living alone
          • Generational diversity- older and younger generations have diff attitudes and experiences that reflect the historical periods they have lived eg. may have diff views about the morality of divorce or cohabitation
    • Postmodernism and family diversity- David Cheal= no longer live in 'modern' society that was predictable &orderly - has entered a new chaotic, postmodern stage
      • Family structures have become fragmented into many diff types and individuals now have much more choice in their lifestyles, personal relationships and family arrangements
        • Advantage: gives individuals greater freedom to plot their own life course- to choose the kind of family and personal relationships that meet their needs
        • Disadvantage- Greater freedom of choice= greater risk of instability and more likely to break up
      • Judith Stacey- greater freedom and choice has enabled women to free themselves from patriarchal oppression and to share their family arrangementsto meet their needs
        • Case studies of postmodern families in Silicon Valley= women rather than men have been the main agents of changes in the family
          • Women rejected the traditional housewife-mother role but instead, worked, returned to education as adults, improved their job prospects, divorced and re-married= had often created new types of family that better suited their needs
            • 'Divorce-extended families'- members are connected by divorce rather than marriage- usually female such as ex mother and daughter in law
              • eg. Pam Gamma created a divorce-extended family. She married young, divorced, cohabited for several years before re-marrying, her second husband had already been married before. By her children were 20 she had formed a divorce-extended family with Shirley the women cohabiting with her ex husband- helped each other financially and domestically
                • Illustrate that postmodern families are diverse and that their shape depends on the active choices people make about how to live their lives
    • The connectedness thesis- Alternative to the individualisation thesis.
      • Instead of being disembodied,isolate with limitless choices, Smart argues we are fundamentally social beings whose choices are always made 'within a web of connectedness'
        • We live within networks of existing relationships and interwoven personal histories that strongly influence our range of options and choices in relationships
          • Finch & Mason study of extended families- although individuals can negotiate  the relationships they want ( to some extent) they are also embedded within family connections and obligations=restricting freedom of choice
            • Challenges 'pure relationship'. Families usually include more than just the couples that Giddens focuses on, couple relationships are not always 'pure' that we can walk away from at will
              • Eg.  Parents that separate remain linked by their children, often against their wishes. Smart- 'where lives have come interwoven and embedded it becomes impossible for relationships to simply end'
                • Smart- emphasises the importance of always putting individuals in the context of their past and the web of relationships that shape their choices and family patterns
      • Emphasises the role of the class and gender structures in which we are embedded. Limit our choices about the kinds of relationships, identities and families we can create for ourselves
        • Eg. after a divorce, gender norms dictate that women should have custody- may limit their choices to form new relationships whilst men are free to start new relationships/families
        • Men are generally paid better than women and this gives them greater freedom and choice in relationships
        • The relative powerlessness of women and children as compared with men means that many lack freedom to choose=remain trapped in abusive relationships
    • The power of structures
      • Beck and Giddens (individualism thesis) argue that there has been a disappearance/weakening of the structures of class, gender and family that traditionally controlled our lives and limited our choices
        • May argues- these structures are not disappearing but are being re-shaped
          • eg. while women in the past hundred years have gained important rights in relation to voting, divorced education and employment=doesn't meant they have it all
            • While women can pursue traditionally 'masculine' goals such as careers= still expected to be heterosexual
              • Anna Einasdottir- while lesbianism is now tolerated, heteronormativity (norms favouring heterosexuality) means that many lesbians feel forced to remain 'in the closet'= limits choice of relationship/lifestyles
      • Personal life perspective does not see increased diversity as a result of greater freedom of choice=instead emphasises the importance of sisal structures in shaping the freedoms many people now have to create more diverse types of families
        • Personal life perspective emphasises the continuing importance of structural factors such as patriarchy and class inequality in restricting choice and shaping family life

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