Using the material from Item 2b and eslewhere, assess the views that the nuclear family is no longer the norm

Essay that got me 22/24, could be used as a model answer.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Using material from Item 2b and elsewhere, assess the
views that the nuclear family is no longer the norm
The nuclear family consists of two generations living together, all related by blood or law.
Oakley calls this the conventional family, because he believes it is universal and works
effectively as part of a community. Leach calls this the `cereal packet family' which is
advertised to us as the perfect family, where everyone is valued. Despite this one structure
of family being seen as the norm since the 70s, society today appears to moving towards a
more diverse variety of family structures.
On the other hand, about 20% of households in the UK still fit this structure, it may no longer
be the majority but many people still value it as the norm in society. It is also the most
desirable family structure. This view is supported by both the Functionalists and New Right.
Parsons, a functionalist, believed that the expressive female and instrumental male roles in
the family work as a team. This sexual division in the family present the woman as the
child-rearer and the man as the breadwinner. This can be positive in the way that it provides
an effective team that keeps the household secure, and in that the parents of the family
only have to take on one respective role. Parsons also thinks that gender-role socialisation
is important, this is an aspect of socialisation where the child learns what is expected of
each gender. From an early age children are taught which toys and colours a boy or girl
should like and what they should aspire to do when they grow up. Since children see their
mother in the kitchen or clearing up, they think it is the done thing for girls to be busy with
such responsibilities, and the boys learn that having a job would their role in the family. In
family structures other than nuclear, the children would not have the opportunity to see how
the male and female roles in the family divide the work necessary to keep a family together.
On the other hand, our culture and media show children the `cereal packet' family so children
still grow up believing that the nuclear family is the norm and knowing how it works.
A second functionalist, Murdock, would encourage a nuclear family because a necessary
function of the family is reproduction, where the nuclear family unit is the best form for
reproduction of future productions. This is because the husband can support his wife and
their baby. Economically, Murdock thought the family was a necessary unit of food and
shelter for the individual. The item supports this by saying that `Murdock saw the family as
meeting its member's economic needs'. With husband and wife working as a team e.g the
husband earning the money for the food, the wife buying and cooking the food, it seems the
unit was very efficient in keeping their children and each-other safe from starvation or
homelessness. With only one parent, it could be quite hard to support the family. Such
criticisms of his theory are the success of lone-parent families in passing on the norms and
values of society, preserving society's collective conscience. Most lone-parent families
bring up happy, healthy children and turn to grandparents or other relatives to help with
housework and childcare. Families like this get a lot of support from the state in the form of
free nurseries and benefits.
However New Right would say that this support from the state is often misused by people in
lone-parent families, Charles Murray argues that these families form an underclass of
society. After the rise in lone-parent families in the 80s they were blamed as causing within
society like youth crime (e.g London Riots), educational underachievement and teenage
pregnancy. They say that this is because of lone-parent families providing poor discipline in
the home and poor socialisation, for instance the lack of male role models. New Right say
that the nuclear family is more desirable because it provides a child with all these things i.e
stronger discipline and better socialisation.
Kelda Leevers 12A

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011
However according to the Rapoports the conventional family no longer makes up the
majority, in fact 35% are couple only households and 10% are lone parent households. This
change has occurred due to a number of factors.
Allan and Crow identify how a growing trend of diversity has arisen from a changes in
marriage and divorce patterns. They say that people now follow an unpredictable pattern of
cohabitaion, marriage, divorce, periods living alone and re-marriage.…read more

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011
increase in same sex families and an increase on divorce as marriage loses its value, which
of course leads to a rise in lone parent-hood.
Life Course
Whilst diversity in family structure is evident, the nuclear family still exists and is seen by the
government as the most desirable and acceptable. Chester says the family has adapted to
become neo-conventional. Sommerville-item Supported by Chester.…read more

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