Glossary of key families and household key words

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Asymmetrical family
Term used by Willmott and Young to describe the fourth stage of the family where
the men become more work-oriented, spending less leisure time at home while the
women take the major responsibility for the home & children.
Attenuated Extended Family
A network of nuclear families who tend to be geographically dispersed but who feel
attached by a sense of obligation to each other. Physical contact between these
families is probably infrequent because of distance, but they have symbolic contact
on birthdays, at Christmas etc. and come together in times of family crisis such as
funerals or family celebrations such as weddings.
Beanpole Family
A new type of family brought about by the fact that more women are working and
marrying later in life, along with a falling birth rate and a rise in divorce. It is
essentially a nuclear family but with fewer children (1.8) and older family members
living longer. Children themselves will have fewer children when they become adults.
The beanpole family is also likely to be characterised by cohabitation rather than
Births Outside of Marriage
In the year 2000, 37% of babies were born outside of marriage. The New Right
suggest that the fact that births outside marriage have increased and that the UK has
the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe are symptoms of family breakdown
and moral decline. The media have supported such anxieties by creating moral panics
around the subject of school girl mothers. However, the available evidence
contradicts the New Right argument ­ only 3% of lone parents are teenagers.
Birth Rate
The number of live births per 1000 of the population per year.
Cereal-packet family or norm
A nuclear family idealised by the media where there is a father, mother, 2 children
(Girl & boy) and the father is the breadwinner whilst the mother stays at home.
Child Abuse
A collective term for a range of offences committed against children by parents and
relatives. Such offences include neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. It is
difficult to measure the true extent of child abuse. As Taylor notes, neglect and
physical abuse are more likely to arouse suspicion than sexual abuse. Radical
psychiatrists have suggested that `emotional abuse' should be added to our
understanding of child abuse. They point out that warring parents often use children
as emotional weapons and this can psychologically damage children.
The period of biological and psychological development before adulthood. Also a
social experience structured by strong cultural expectations in regard to the
relationship between adults and children. Some sociologists, notably Aries, suggest
that childhood is a recent social invention in western societies. There is evidence that
childhood in its present highly protected and controlled state in the west, with its
associated paraphernalia of toys, games, books, laws etc., did not come about until the
middle of the 20th century and that this model does not exist in pre-industrial and

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Experience of childhood is also relative to experience of
social class, gender and ethnicity.
Child Support Agency
A government agency established in 1993 by the Conservative Government to help
reduce the growing cost to the taxpayer of providing financial support for lone
parents and their children. The main task of the CSA was tracing absent parents who
were not contributing to the upkeep of their children, assessing maintenance and
ensuring payment.…read more

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Death of the Family
An expression used to indicate that the family as an institution is "dying". The New
Right tend to see evidence for this in the increase in divorce and cohabitation, the
rise in illegitimate births and the greater numbers of single parent families. Murray
sees this breakdown of the nuclear family as the main cause of the development of
the underclass.
Death rate
The number of deaths per 1000 of the live population per year.…read more

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It is probably impossible to assess the true extent of
domestic violence, although sociologists estimate that one on four married women are
likely to experience it. Feminists suggest that domestic violence reflects gendered
power differences between men and women in that it is still acceptable in patriarchal
societies for men to exercise control and power over women using violence.
Dual Burden
The fact that some women, despite holding down full-time jobs, are still responsible
for the bulk of housework and childcare within families.…read more

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A family unit that contains relatives beyond the core of the nuclear family unit living
in the same house, street or area. A vertical extended family includes at least three
generations (e.g. grandparents, parents and children) under the same roof or in the
immediate neighbourhood. Horizontal extended families contain aunts, uncles and
cousins living under the same roof. Janet Foster records examples of vertical
extended families living in the East End of London in the 1980s whilst Sikhs tend to
live in horizontal extended units.…read more

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Sociological perspectives which examine social phenomena from the viewpoint of
women. There are a number of different types ranging from liberal feminism to
socialist and Marxist feminisms.
Fertility Rate
The number of live births in a population per 1000 women of childbearing age.
This refers to the social and cultural attributes of men and women, i.e. masculinity
and femininity.…read more

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This is work undertaken, usually by women, to support the running of a home. It
includes domestic jobs like cleaning and may be extended to include shopping and
childcare. Oakley claims housework is regarded as non-work in patriarchal societies
and as a result is unpaid, isolated and makes women economically dependent on men.
Ideology of family or familism
This refers to a powerful set of beliefs that exist in society about what constitutes
`good' family life and therefore the `ideal family'.…read more

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However, some
sociologists, notably functionalists, see such networks as less important in western
societies, which are characterised by isolated nuclear families. However, recent
evidence from sociologists such as Finch and Mason suggest that kinship networks
still flourish across all social classes and ethnic groups in modern societies.
Liberal Feminism
A feminist perspective that argues for equal rights for women and has consequently
advocated legislation in order to prevent discrimination against women, especially in
the workplace.…read more

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The legal union of a man and woman, although in some countries, e.g. the Netherlands,
it is now legally possible for people of the same sex to be married. Monogamy is the
norm in the UK and bigamy (marriage to more than one person at the same time) is
illegal. Sociologists have noted declining rates of marriage in the UK. New Right
sociologists see this trend as a symptom both of moral decline and family life being
under attack.…read more

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New Man
A term applied to men who take on more expressive roles and share tasks in the home.
These men are supposedly more in touch with their feminine emotional side. Some
people see such a concept as a media creation.
New Right
A sociological perspective, influenced by Charles Murray, which promotes freedom
of the individual, the free market and self-reliance. The New Right believe that an
underclass has appeared in the UK's inner cities characterised by dysfunctional
families.…read more


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