GCSE Sociology - Studying Families Summary Notes AQA

here are notes on the whole of the families topic :)

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Families Revision
What is a family?
It is difficult to produce an adequate definition of a `family' that captures the variety of families in
What types of household and families are there in Britain today?
Households ­ compromises either one person who lives alone or a group of people who live at the same
address and who share at least one meal a day or facilities e.g. living room.
1. Nuclear family ­ consists of a father, mother and their children, containing two generations living in
the same house. The parents may be married or cohabitating
2. Gay/Lesbian family ­ a family which a same-sex couple live together with their children.
3. Extended families ­ a group of relatives extending beyond the nuclear family.
4. Vertically extended family ­ contains three generations who either live under the same roof or nearby.
5. Horizontally extended family ­ contains uncles, aunts or cousins living together.
6. Modified extended family ­ extended family that live apart geographically but maintain regular contact
and provide support for each other.
7. Lone-parent family ­ a family consisting of one parent and their children who live together.
8. Reconstituted family ­ step families, where one or both partners have children from a previous
relationship living with them e.g. step brothers and sisters.
How does a person's family or household setting change over their life course?
Individuals will live in many different family and households situations during their lifetime.
How do functionalists approach the family?
Nuclear family = positive, as it is a key institution in society, as it performs essential functions for
individuals and society as a whole.
The four main functions of a nuclear family:
1. Reproduction ­ reproduces human race and future workforce and helps regulate adult sexual
2. Primary Socialization ­ new members become familiar with the culture and the way of life, we learn
how to fit in and conform. Also acts as an agency of social control ­ enduring we behave according to
3. Emotional support and nurture ­ provides us with emotional and psychological support, a place of
safety and security for our wellbeing.
4. Economic provision ­ financial support with food, shelter, especially for the young and elderly.
How does New Right approach the family?
- More recent version of the functionalists approach
- Nuclear family = best type of family because children are more likely to develop into stable adults.
They believe that family values are important- 4 main aspects of family values:
1. Based on the view that there is a `normal' family type = nuclear family
2. The women = carer and nurturer and the man=breadwinner and protector.
3. Duty to provide for each other, look after the old, sick, and unemployed members of the family.
4. Tend to oppose gay and lesbian rights, types of sex education, sexual freedoms and abortion
(especially the US).
They believe that family values are declining, and has put the family in crisis.
How do critical approaches view the family?
Capitalist society- working-class is forced to work for the higher-class in order to survive.
- The nuclear family allows social inequalities to continue from one generation to the next e.g. rich pass
on huge amounts of money to their family members.
- Educational advantages are also passed down through families e.g. wealthy people can afford private

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The socialisation process within the family may cause working-class people to accept their lower
position in society.
Families have a negative impact on the lives of women- gender inequalities.
- Families contribute the creation of differences through primary socialisation- the way girls and boys
dress and the toys they play with.
- Young children learn how they are expected to behave ­ girls see mothers cleaning and boys see
fathers washing the car ­ preparing them for a male-dominated society.…read more

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Is the symmetrical family reality or a myth?
Dual-earner household ­ a household in which two adults work in paid in employment.
Male-breadwinner household ­ a household where the adult male works in paid employment and earns
the bulk of the household income.
- Some would say men's involvement in housework has not increased to the same extent as women's
involvement in paid work.…read more

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Increasing geographical mobility and women's involvement in full-time work have meant that family
members see each other less often. So wider family is becoming less important and family ties are
- But some say family members continue to depend on each other e.g. grandparents were involved in
caring for grandchildren, adult children caring for their parents etc.
- Some also say extended family is flourishing e.g. young couples begin their married life with one set of
parents.…read more

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Family, relationships, ethnicity and social class:
- Popular belief = British Asian families are based on unequal, male-dominated relationships.
- BUT, some say these beliefs are based on prejudice and prejudgments.
- Some sociologists say relationships within the family vary according to social class.
- Popular images = working-class families are male dominated. There is some evidence to suggest this.
- BUT, other evidence = working-class fathers are more involved in childcare than middle-class ones.…read more

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There will be more retired people ­ financial burden for tax payers to meet demand for facilities e.g.
social services, nursing homes etc. Also, the government will need more money to fund state pensions,
or our tax will increase.
3. Growth in one-person households.
4. Growth in beanpole families ­ families that have 3 or more generations.
5. Pivot generation under pressure ­ have burdens of caring for members of different generations.…read more

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Conflict between couple may continue after divorce: due to issues e.g. parenting and property.
4. Lead to loss of income for the partners: lone-parent families with dependent children are at risk of
5. May experience loss of emotional support: their friends and kinship networks may change (especially
The remarriage rate has decreased markedly. People remarry for a number of reasons:
1. If they have young children, they may want a partner to help them bring up their children.
2.…read more

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Caroline Gatrell (2008) ­ found that many fathers play a greater role in the lives of their children than
in the past, but also found that this causes tension for women who don't want to see their traditional
maternal role eroded.
Jan Pahl (1989) ­ compared to 30 years ago, more couples share decisions concerning the spending of
income, but there are still many marriages where the husband controls finance.
Pryor & Trinder (2004) ­ class differences in the relationships between parents and children.…read more


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