First 532 words of the document:
Assess the view that industrialisation led to the nuclear family replacing the extended family as the
main form of household structure.
A functionalist, Parsons, believes that the modern family form is nuclear due to the process of
industrialisation (the period of transition between being a mainly agricultural society, to one which
becomes urbanised and factory dependent) breaking up the previous extended family type.
However, there have been many criticisms of his theory and evidence has been presented to dispute
that the modern family type is predominantly nuclear.
Parsons said in 1984, before industrialisation, that the predominant family type was the extended
family to accommodate for the large demand for agricultural labour. The whole family, mother,
daughter, father, son, grandparents, worked together and either lived in the same village or even
house. The life cycle for people living in the extended family was mapped out for them and hard to
escape, until industrialisation. With industrialisation came a newly found geographical mobility for the
working class, which in turn allowed social mobility. The factories in Britain began to bring a vast
amount of money into the economy which was then invested in public transport & other ways of
travelling. This then gave people the freedom to move throughout the country with ease, and
Parson's believes this is what led to the nuclear family replacing the extended family. Men would
leave their parents behind and go and pursue a career in the factory industry and only take their
wives and children (nuclear family). This was the start of being able to achieve class or promotions in
a job, which before industrialising was difficult as only people who were ascribed were able to.
Laslett on the other hand, argues that the nuclear family was predominant in pre-industrial Britain as
the elderly died young, making the family smaller. Also, Anderson argues that there was also
extended family after industrialisation as poverty was still wide spread. The extended family acted
as mutual aid for one another, and not only did a family look after their own but also other families.
Wilmott and Young (1950) agree with Anderson as they believe the classic extended family was
dominant due to poverty and unemployment. However, Wilmott and Young contradict themselves in
1970 by agreeing with Parsons and saying the family has become mainly nuclear symmetrical and
privatised. This means that both men and women are working and share conjugal roles.
Another criticism of Parson's argument would be that he fails to acknowledge the cultural diversities
in Britain, such as Asian families who tend to have extended families. Also, demographics show that
we are living in an ageing population, which means an increase in elderly people and decrease in
younger, independents. This results in the families looking after their elders, which is classed as an
So overall, industrialisation has not led to the nuclear family replacing the extended family as there is
still a huge amount of evidence proving that the extended still very much exists.