Alternatives to Western Families


Functionalists like Murdock (949) claim that the nuclear family is such an important social institution which plays such a vital function that is found in almost every type of society. It is a universal institution.

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Lakker People of Burma

The Lakker people of Burma do not see biological relationships between mothers and children in the same way as Western cultures.

Mothers are seen as 'containers' in which a child grows but this is not seen as a blood relationship so mothers and children can have sexual relationships and this is not considered to be incest.

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Some cultures in Tahiti, in the South Pacific Ocean, do not see women as being ready for relationship with a man until they have had one or two children.

These children are given up for apodtion and consider their adoptive parents their 'real parents'

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Ashanti of Ghana, West Africa

The Ashanti of Ghana, West Africa have a matrilineal society.

Fathers have no legal authority but is responsible for their education and clothing. A childs inheritance comes from the mothers brother.

Only about one third of married women live with their husbands.

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Alternative Family Structures - Nayar

  • Girls were getting maried before hitting puberity and not living with their husbands, they could be ended by either the husband or wife.
  • Males would make very little econimic contribution to children they had and women would have shared care of them.
  • Siblings would often form an economic unit.
  • Men were often seen as those theat spend a lot of time away from villiages. They often visited women who had hit puberty and had a tail-husband and men were known as sandbanham husbands.
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Alternative Family Structures - Oneida

  • The aim was to have a sprituak, economic and sexual equality.
  • A system of economix communism was set up with group marriag, allowing everyone to contribute equally.
  • The communty introduced an eugenic breeeding programme, where thos considered suitable were allowed to reproduce.
  • Mothers would raise children for the early years, before they were raised and treated equally by the community.
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Alternative Family Structures - Kibbutz

  • In the 1940s in Israel, childrearing and collective awareness ownership helped set up collective settlements based on the system.
  • Children were living in dormitaries of other children similar, all whom were raised by educators and carers.
  • An hour a day was spent seeing their parents.
  • Siblings were never blood related to them and made up of those of a similar age.
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Alternative Family Structures - New World Black Fa

  • Families in the US and the Caribbean are become largely more popular as mother, children and grandmother.
  • It suggest that the basic family unit was farmed under slavery after the father was sold seprately.
  • Others argue the men could not afford to maintain a family and therefore making sense for the women to do sexual favours.
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Felicity Edholm

Felicity Edholm (1982) claimed that the nuclear family is not normal or natural.

It is based on culture rather than biology so is socially contructed.

She said "Relatives are not born but made".

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David Cheal

If families are so comples and different from each other, how can we properly define what a family is?

David Cheal (1999) said:

"We have 4 options:

  • Give up! Its impossible to define 'family'.
  • See all families as extensions or reductions of the nuclear family.
  • Abandon the idea of a family and replace it with another word like 'primary relationships'.
  • Ask people to define their situation themselves.
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