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Sociology The Family
Family and Household's
There are many definitions of what a family is. A common held view is that the family is a social
group with legal or blood ties. This means that adopted children are married partners make up a
family. This makes the idea of Kinship into a family, and allows family ties to continue without
sharing a common residence.
Murdock argues that the family is a social group with two adults, who shared a socially
approved sexual relationship, with or without children (who may be blood related or legally
related), and share a common residence with a shared say in economic activity. This type of
family that Murdock focuses on is know as the "Nuclear Family"
Households are generally regarded as one or more people who share a common residence. For
example a house of students. It is often argued that for it to be a household their must be some
shared activity in economic activity and domestic activity.
Dominant Familial Ideology
The nuclear family unit is said to be the dominant family type. Chester argues that during ones
lifetime people generally do not seek any alternative to the nuclear family and that the majority
aim to be in a nuclear family. It is argued that social policy and the media encourage this.
Leach argues that the nuclear family unit is the "cereal packet" image of the family. This means
that it is simply an ideal family image created by the media, which in reality is not all that
convenient. Leach's opinion of the family is clearly not a positive one as he argues that the family
causes mental disorders and eating disorders due to large amounts of isolation.
Murdock studied large amounts of societies and found that the nuclear family unit is found in
most societies in different shapes or forms.
Social policy often encourages the nuclear family unit. Harding argues that the majority of
houses are designed to fit the nuclear family. This is true as most houses will have enough rooms
to fit a double bed for the parents and a room for children. He also argued that nuclear family
units are given more priority with council houses and are given better and more desirable
The Child Support Agency encourages that the nuclear family is best. It discourages marital
breakup as it places large financial costs on absent fathers, making it more convenient for them
to stay together. On the other hand, feminists will argue that it is ineffective and doesn't help
Functionalism and the Nuclear Family
Functionalists argue that the nuclear family is "best fit" to the needs of society. In preindustrial
times the "best fit" family unit was the extended family unit. Willmott and Young argue that over
the past 50 years the extended family unit has been replaced by the isolated nuclear family.
Parsons states that the reason for this change is that the family previously had more roles to
play. They originally had to provide financial support, health care, etc. However Parsons has
identified that these roles have been taken over by the state through public schools, benefits and
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He says that the families current role is to provide vital primary socialization
and mental stability for adults. Parsons calls this mentally stability the "warm bath" theory, as the
family provides a place of comfort and relaxation for the male when he returns home from work.
It also allows the parents in the family to express their childish side through interaction with
children. Parsons view is patriarchal as the male takes the role as the "breadwinner" and the
female takes the role of the "housewife".…read more
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The Decline in Family
Over recent years the family has been somewhat in decline. There has been an increase in
divorce, a growth in single parents, a decrease in marriage and a decrease in the fertility rate of
society while the average age of motherhood is increasing.
Divorce rates have increased for many reasons. Firstly legislation has made it much easier.
Women are now allowed to ask for a divorce, which allows them to leave "empty shell"
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Throughout history class has greatly impacted childhood. Aries identified that during
industrialization working class children as young as five were being viewed as "young adults"
and were often seen to be "economically assets" by their parents. Proof of this is that young
children were often found working in mines or factories. The middle class however, began to
developing loving parental and marital relationships, as a result of less working hours and more
Culture can have a large effect on the family.…read more