Family diversity

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  • Family diversity
    • Functionalists
      • 2 married heterosexual adults are needed to provide children with role models, and adults with emotional support ('warm bath' theory)
      • All family types offer benefits but mostly the traditional nuclear family
      • Parsons: nuclear family is needed for primary socialisation of children and stabilisation of adult personalities
    • Marxists
      • Nuclear family is a negative problem which makes people privatise their lives and ignore their class
      • Engels- the nuclear family props up capitalism:
        • Prepares children for future roles in capitalist workforce
        • Workers are afraid of losing their jobs and wages to provide for their family, making them easily controlled
        • Teaches kids the value of capitalism, e.g. obedience to authority
    • Feminists
      • Ann Oakley- the nuclear family is patriarchal, with women doing a dual burden of paid and domestic work
      • In the nuclear family, women do more housework, make fewer important decisions, and are exploited by men
    • Postmodernists
      • Diversity is good- old certainties and inequalities  are gone, and we have more choice about who we are and where we live. There is no 1 best family type
      • Ulrich Beck- we're in a 'risk society' without clear rules and institutions. We have negotiated families varying according to our wishes and expectations. Equal but less stable
      • Social action- no dominant family type- individual social actors choose
      • Judith Stacey- greater choices benefit women who can shape families to suit needs, e.g. divorce extended families where key members are typically female (daughter to ex-mother in law, etc.)
      • Jeffrey Weeks- despite long term shifts in attitudes and sexual and family diversity, family patterns are still fairly traditional
      • David Cheal- society has diversity and fragmentation, with rapid social change. Nuclear family is no longer dominant- individuals have greater freedom and risk of instability.
      • David Morgan- pointless to make large scale generalisations. Family practises are influenced by beliefs about rights and obligations. Families aren't structures, just what people do
    • New Right
      • More family diversity= more crime and unstable families. We are abandoning best family life, as 2 parents are needed for socialising kids and providing role models for masculinity and femininity
      • Nuclear family in decline due to:
        • Higher divorce rate and legislation
        • More single parent households
        • More cohabitation
        • Feminism
        • Equal opportunities legislation
        • Secularisation
        • Welfare provision
        • Contraception and abortion
        • Changing social attitudes and decline in morals
      • Attacks:
        • Same-sex- children under same-sex parents will have homosexual relationships
        • Single parents- children lack morals and discipline, turn to crime and boys won't become breadwinners or fathers (Charles Murray). Socialised into being benefit-dependent - forms a dependency culture
        • Working women- children experience maternal deprivation. No important bond= later psychological problems
        • Cohabitation- less stable than marriage
      • Social policy should be geared towards life in nuclear families


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