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Functionalist Peter Murdock argues that the nuclear family consisting typically of a
married man and women and their offspring, who share common residence is the most
basic type of family.
Murdock studied 250 different societies and found that the nuclear family existed in
some form or the other in all of them. Therefore he argued that the nuclear family was a
universal institution
He identified 4 functions of the nuclear family:
1. Economic: in the past the family was a unit of production e.g. Working together on a
family farm
2. Educational: the family as the primary agent of socialisation, transmitting societal
norms values and patterns of behaviour
3. Sexual: the family must contain a monogamous couple in order to keep society stable
4. Reproductive: people need to reproduce in families this is essential for the survival of
Talcott Parsons argues that the nuclear family emerged in industrial societies.
Parsons argues that in pre-industrial societies families were extended. The nuclear
family was a better `fit' for society as an industrial society required a geographically
mobile workforce that was able to move around where there were employment
opportunities. It was far easier to therefore uproot a small nuclear family than a large
extended family. Parsons argue that the nuclear family performs two basic irreducible
functions, these are:
1. The primary socialisation of children
2. The stabilisation of Adult personalities. The married couple keep each other
emotionally and mentally balances thus enabling them to cope with the stresses of…read more

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Although many people in the UK do not live in extended
families adults usually keep in regular contact with their
parents. Support and practical help can be exchanged
especially between mothers and their daughters this is
continues evidence of the Demeter bond. Janet Finch
identifies 5 types of assistance:
1. Economic Support: parents frequently help adult children with
loans, gifts, finding employment for them and through their
2. Accommodation: many young adults still live with parents or
return temporarily after domestic crisis
3. Personal Care : elderly and disabled parents are often
frequently cared for by their daughters and younger disabled
adults by their parents
4. Practice support: grandmothers often help daughters with
childcare and domestic tasks. About a quarter of preschool
children are cared for by grandparents while mothers work far
more than those who go to nurseries of to registered
childminders…read more

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Birth rate is declining in Britain leading to a reduction in
Family Size. The main reasons for smaller families are:
1. Contraception: more effective safer and cheaper birth
control had lead to fewer children
2. Compulsory Education: children were banned from work
and education became compulsory in 1880, this means
that they can no longer bring in money, but instead use
much more. This means that it makes economic sense to
have a smaller family.
3. Changing position of Women: Many women now want a
career of their own rather than care for s large family
compared to before when a women role was to do so.
4. Decline in Infant Mortality Rate: fewer people die in their
childhood than ever before this means that less families
are compensating by having more children.
5. Geographically Mobile Labour Force: The modern labour
force needs to be very mobile. This is an incentive for…read more

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Number of marriages MARRIAGE
According to the office of national statistics 2010 a long term decline in the number of marriages has
been recorded since 1972, although there have been some increases between 2002 and 2004 and
2007/8. The decreases in marriage is likely to be the consequence of the increasing number of
couples choosing to cohabit rather than enter into marriage.(Beaujouan & Bhrolchain)
The number of marriages registered in England and Wales rose by 3.7% in 2010 to 241,100
compared with 232,443 in 2009.
The marriage figure for 2010 represents the largest percentage increase in marriages since the 5.7%
rise recorded between 2002-2003.
The increase in the n.o of marriages between 2009 and 2010 could be due to a reduction in the n.o
of residents of England and Wales marrying abroad.
The ONS report that there has been an 8% decrease in the estimated n.o of marriages abroad from
an estimated 80,200 marriages in the year to mid 2009 to 74,000 in mid 2010.
Marriages which would otherwise occur abroad may have taken place in England and Wales
instead. It is not possible to determine at this stage whether the small increase in the number of
marriages in 2010 signifies an end to the long term decline if marriages or whether such increases
will continue.
Age at Marriage
According to the ONS (10) women tend to marry at a younger age than men. Men tend to marry
when they are a lot older. This pattern reflects the trend that on average, men tend to form
relationships with women younger than themselves. In 2010 the n.o of marriages was highest among
men and women ages 25-29.
Over the period 1970 to 2008 the mean age of marriage for both men and women generally
increased. For grooms the mean age of marriage in the 1970 was 27.2 years compared with 36.2…read more

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ONS (2011) the number of divorces generally increased between 1970 and 2003 as a
result of changes in behaviour and attitudes and the divorce Reform act 1969 which
came into affect in England and Wales 1st Jan 1971 making it easier for couples to
divorce upon separation. However in 2011 the number of divorces decreased by 1.7%
to 177,588 compared with 199,589 in 2010. this continues the general decline in
divorces science 2003 when there was 153,065.
Wilson and Smallwood argue compared with figures from 2005 the proportion of
marriages ending in divorce had decreased from 45% in 2005 to 42% in 2010. This be
related to the following two factors:
1. The age at 1st marriage has been increasing and previous research has shown that
those marrying at older ages have a lower risk of divorce
2. Cohabitation has increased in recent years. It is often a precursor to marriage and
may act to filter out weaker relationships from progressing to marriage.
Key Facts about Divorce
3. The number of divorces generally increased between 1931 an 1990 as a result of
changes in behaviour and attitudes and the number of feminisation of the labour
market which meant women were no longer financially dependant o their husbands.
4. The large increase in divorce observed during the 1970s was associated with the
divorce reform act 1969 which made it easier for couples to divorce upon separation
5. It is clear that women divorce men at a younger age where males petition for a
divorce at an older age. This pattern reflects the differences seen in age at marriage
of men and women. Women in their late 20s had the highest divorce rates of all
female age groups. This continues the general patterns seen over the last to
6. Since 1985 the mean ages at divorce for men and women have increased by 7.1
years for men and 7.2 years for women. The average age for divorce was 42.1
years for women and 45.5 years in me in 2011
7. The average duration of marriage was 11.5 years in 2011
8. In 2011 of all decrees granted to one partner rather that jointly to both 66% were…read more

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