Post-modernism and the Family

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  • Post-modernism and the Family
    • Modernist approaches: to the family such as Functionalist and the New Right, they emphasise the dominance of one family type - the nuclear family - in modern society.
      • These approaches are structural and see the family as a structure that shapes the behaviour of it's members so that they can preform the functions society requires
    • Sociologists who are influenced by the social action and post-modernist views argue that structural of modernist approaches are limited and ignore two key facts:
      • As individual social actors, we make choices about our family life and relationships, Structural approaches wrongly assume that our actions are shaped and dictated by the "needs of society"
        • Therefore if we want to understand the family we need to look at family members and how they make their choices
          • We now have much greater choice about our personal relationships and this has increased family diversity so much that we can no longer talk about a single "best" or dominant step, or even a set of types
      • We now have much greater choice about our personal relationships and this has increased family diversity so much that we can no longer talk about a single "best" or dominant step, or even a set of types
    • Family Diversity:
      • As a result family life has become more diverse thean ever, which has its  advantages and disadvantage-es
        • Advantage:
          • It gives individuals greater freedom to plat their own life course - to choose the kind of family and personal relationships that meet their needs.
        • Disadvantage:
          • But greater freedom of choice in relationships means a greater risk of instability, since these relationships are more likely to break up.
      • Giddens (1992) Choice and Equality:
        • The family and marriage have been transformed by great choice and a more equal relationship between men and women. This transformation has occurred because:
          • Contraception has allows sex and intimacy rather then reproduction to become the main reason for the relationship's exsistance.
          • Women have gained independence as a result of feminism and because of greater opportunities in education and work
        • This is what he called a "pure relationship" one that exists to meet each others partners needs.
        • So couples stay together because of love, happiness, or sexual attraction rather than a sense of duty or for the sake of the children
        • For example a couple nowadays can choose to cohabitt rather than marry
        • However Gidden's does recognise that with more choice, personal relationships inevitably became less stable and can be ended more easily.
        • As a result the basis of marriage and the family has changed into one in which the could are free to define their relationship themselves, rather than simply acting out roles that are defined by law or tradition
    • "Life Course Analysis"
      • Hareven (1978)
        • It is in relation to the choices and decisions they make, and in the timing and sequence of events and turning points in their lives.
        • Hareven uses "life course analysis", which starts from the idea that there is flexibility and variation in family lives,
        • For example, these might include the decision to have a baby, come out as gay, or move into sheltered accommodation
      • Holdsworth and Morgan (2005)
        • examined the experiences of young people leaving home, for example in relation to what it means to be "independent" or and "adult" and in terms of how others such as parents and friends influence their decisions.
      • "Life course analysis" therefore focuses on the meanings people give to these life events and choices,
      • Strengths of "life course analysis"
        • Morgan (1996)
          • The concept of family practices allows us to see why conflict many exsst within families - because different memebrs may hold different beliefs or expectations about each others repsonsibiliti-es
          • Went on to use the concepts of "family practices" to describe the routine actions through which we create out sense of "being a family member" such as feeling the children or doing the DIY.
        • Tamara Hareven (1978)
          • In the choices and decisions they make and the timing and sequence of events and the turning points in their lives
          • This idea that there is flexibility and variations in peoples family lives
        • Functionalists see "the family" as clear-cut, distinct structure separate from other aspects of society.
        • Morgan (2007)
          • argues that today's society is more fragmented, networks such as family, friendship and other kinds of relationships become less clear cut and boundaries between them become blurred.
    • Beck 1992 "Risk Society"
      • Although a traditional patriarchal family is unequal and oppressive, it did provide a stable and predictable basis for family life by defining each members role and responsibility-es
      • Beck says that tradition has less influence, making choices involves calculation of the risks and the rewards if the different courses of action available.
      • Beck and Beck - Gernsheim (1995)
        • They enter the relationship of a equal basis.
        • Called this the "negotiated family", those who do not conform to the traditional family norm, but vary according to the wishes and expectations of their members, who dicided what is best for themselves by negotiation.
        • So although the negotiated family is more equal in terms of patriarchy it is less stable as people are free to leave at any time.
      • In the past people were expected to marry, men were expected to play the role of the breadwinner and disciplinarian and to make the important financial decisions, whilst women took responsibility for the housework and childcare.
    • Stacy (1998) "The Divorce Extended Family"
      • She found that women rather than men have been the main agents of changed in the family.
      • Many of the women had rejected the traditional housewife- mother role, they had worked, returned to education, divorced and re-married
      • Stacey used life history interviews to constructed a series of case studies of post modern families in  silicon Valley, California.
      • One of the new family types created was the "divorce extended family", whose members are connected by divorce rather than marriage
      • This greater choice has benefitted women and enabled them to free themselves from patriarchal oppression and to shape their family arrangements to meet their family needs.
      • The key members are usually female and many include formed in-laws such as other - and daughter - in law, or a man's ex-wife and his new partner
      • This illustrated the idea that postmodern families are diverse and that their shape depends on the active choices people make about how to live their lives for example, whether to get divorced, cohabit, come out as gay etc..
    • For or Against Diversity:
      • Against
        • As such they see the nuclear family best equipped to meet the needs of society and it's members.
        • This is the traditional patriarchal nuclear family consisting of a married couple and their dependent children, with a division of labour between and "instrumental" male breadwinner role and an "expressive"female house wife tole.
        • It's supporters see the nuclear family as "natural" - based on the biological differences between men and women that suit them to their different roles
        • It is based on the belief that there is only one "best" or "normal" types of family.
        • By contrast, other family types are seen as unnatural and dysfunctional. For example New Right see lone-parent families as not being able to bring up children properly.
        • The first view opposes greater family diversity.
      • For
        • In this view it is not "natural" but rather socially constructed by it's members.
        • Instead writers such as Weeks take the view that the family is simply whatever arrangements those involved choose to call family.
        • Writers such as Stacey see diversity as desirable as it brings people the freedom to choose the personal relationships and the ways of living that meets their needs.
        • Held by post-modernists and feminists, it rejects the New Right view that only the nuclear family is the "proper" family.
        • In particular it enables women to liberate themselves from the oppression of the traditional patriarchal family many sociologists recognise the trend to greater diversity and choice, they also see the continuing importance of factors such as patriarchy and class inequality in restricting peoples choices and shaping family life
    • Weeks (2000)
      • Identifies a long-term shift in attitudes since the 1050's, which has linked to a decline in sexual morality and the influence of the church.
      • There is an acceptance of family diversity, cohabitation and homosexuality in the under 35's.
      • However, even though this is the case most people still iive as a family, and most children are brought up by couples
      • Although the New Right continue to fight the increase in family diversity, Weeks feels that the New Right are fighting a loosing battle

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