possible questions for sociology unit 1- the family

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Possible sociology questions
January 2012
Item 2A
Sociologists analyse the domestic division of labour in many different ways. Parsons
describes the division of labour in the traditional nuclear family in terms of an expressive role
and an instrumental role. However, this traditional arrangement may have changed as
families have changed, and many feminists use the term `dual burden' to describe the
woman's role in the family today.
Item 2B
Government policies and laws include tax and benefit policies as well as legislation such as
relating to divorce and marriage. Sociologists have different views on the impact of these
policies and laws on families. For example, feminists argue that social policies assume that
the ideal family is a patriarchal nuclear family, and that government policies and laws
therefore favour this sort of family. On the other hand, the New Right argue that the benefit
system undermines traditional nuclear families by actively encouraging lone parents.
0 6 Explain what is meant by the `dual burden' (Item 2A). (2 marks)
0 7 Explain the difference between the expressive role and the instrumental role (Item 2A).
(4 marks)
0 8 Suggest three ways in which the differences between children and adults are becoming
less clear in society today. (6 marks)
0 9 Examine the reasons for, and the effects of, changes in family size over the past 100
years or so. (24 marks)
1 0 Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere, assess sociological views of the impact of
government policies and laws on family life.
Item 2A
Over the past 40 years or so, there has been a decline in the number of first marriages in the
United Kingdom. One of the reasons for this decline is the change in the role of women in
society. In order to develop their careers, women may be rejecting the notion of marriage
altogether and remaining single. Over the same period, there has been an increase in the
number of matrifocal families.
Item 2B
The New Right see the decline of the traditional nuclear family and the growth of family
diversity as negative trends in modern society. For example, they point to the rising number
of couples cohabiting and the large number of children born outside marriage. From the New
Right perspective, these changes have undermined the family and are the cause of many
social problems in Britain today. Other sociologists suggest that changes to the family are
exaggerated. For example, if we take a lifecycle approach to the study of families, then we
will see that in fact most people marry and most have children within marriage.
0 6 Explain what is meant by the `matrifocal family' (Item 2A). (2 marks)
0 7 Suggest two reasons for the decline in the number of first marriages over the past
40 years or so, apart from those referred to in Item 2A. (4 marks)
0 8 Suggest three effects on society of an ageing population. (6 marks)
0 9 Examine different sociological views on changes in the experience of childhood in the
past 50 years or so. (24 marks)
1 0 Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere, assess the view that the growth of family
diversity has led to the decline of the traditional nuclear family. (24 marks)
January 2010 Item 2A
Over the last one hundred years, there has been a general decline in the birth rate.

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One factor causing this is the decline in the fertility rate, partly due to women choosing to delay
having children. These changes have affected the position and status of children in society. Some
sociologists suggest that these changes have led to an improvement in the position of children, while
other sociologists are more cautious about any such improvement.
Item 2B
Marxists see all social institutions as serving the interests of capitalism.…read more

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Some sociologists argue that a number of changes have taken place in gender roles and
relationships within families. They suggest that changing attitudes to gender roles and
increased participation by women in the labour market have led to more equality in modern
family life. For example, Gershuny (1992) found that men were making more of an effort to do
housework when their wives were in fulltime employment. However, feminists are much
more cautious about drawing such a conclusion.…read more

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However, some sociologists suggest that feminist theories ignore
the extent of family diversity. In fact, family roles and relationships are varied and therefore
women's experiences of family life are more diverse than some feminists suggest.
0 6 Explain what is meant by the `social construction' of childhood (Item 2A). (2 marks)
0 7 Suggest two ways, apart from those mentioned in Item 2A, in which government
policies and/or laws may shape the experiences of children today.…read more

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Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere assess the functionalist
theory of the family. (24 marks)
(a)Examine the relationship between the nuclear family and social
policy. (24 marks)
Examine the ways in which government policies and laws may affect the
nature and extent of family diversity. (24 marks
Item B- There have been some major changes in the family in the last 30 or 40
years in Britain.…read more

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According to Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (1995), individuals today
are increasingly required to make choices about how they live. They argue that
this trend has important consequences for the stability of marriage. In the past,
individuals had little choice: everyone was expected to marry and once married,
the gender division of labour fixed their roles. Though unequal, such marriages
offered security and stability.
Nowadays, however, both society and marriage are more equal,
especially in terms of gender.…read more

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This growing proportion of elderly people and a relatively smaller proportion of
young people has a number of effects on family life. For example, there are
signs that the extended family may be making a comeback although this may
mean extra work for women.
(a)Using material from Item B and elsewhere, assess the effect
on society and family life of an ageing population. (24
Item B- Women are having fewer children today than in the past.…read more

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Marriage, and the roles and relationships within it, continue to be an unequal
`partnership'. The domestic division of labour may not be as clear-cut as it once
was, but it is still a highly gendered division in most marriages. Just as the
employment structure continues to discriminate against women in the
opportunities available for well-paid work, so too the tasks of childcare and
housework remain defined predominantly as female ones.…read more

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Item 2B- A popular image of the family has been the `cereal
packet' nuclear family norm of a married couple and two children
who are the couple's biological offspring. The husband is the main
breadwinner and the wife is primarily concerned with housework
and childcare. It could be argued that this nuclear family is no
longer the norm. A number of changes have taken place, such as
the rise in the number of same-sex couples and of lone parents.…read more

Page 10

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ís vulnerability means that they need to be shielded from the dangers and
responsibilities of the adult world. Childhood has become a specially protected
and privileged time of life.
Yet children were not always viewed this way. Until the 17th century, childhood
was regarded as a brief period of primary socialisation, after which the individual
was ready to enter the wider world.…read more


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