AQA Family and Households

  • Created by: elshooper
  • Created on: 29-04-19 09:34


The Welfare State 1948

People eligible for flate-rate pensions, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit and funeral benefit 

- provided single parents the opportunity to provide for their children without needing a partner

Divorce Reform Act 1969

A marriage could end in a divorce if it was proved to have "irrevitably broken down"

- allowed people to escape bad marriages, led to increase of monoparental families

Equal Pay Act 1970

'the right to equal pay for equal work'

- allowed women to access the work place easier: women delayed having children for their careers and, in turn, had less children

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1901: 512 divorces in England and Wales

1993: 165,000 divorces

2013: 42% of all marriages ended in divorce

Divorce Acts

  • 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act: allowed ordinary people to divorce but proof had to be provided
  • 1970 Divorce Reform Act: allowed a divorce if couple had been separated for 2+ years

Reasons for Increase

  • changes in laws
  • reduced stigma and changin values
  • secularisation
  • ideology of romantic love
  • economic imporvements
  • feminism
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Rates at their lowest since the 1920s

'Marriage rate': number of married per 1,000 unmarried 16+

Higher proportion of re-marriages

2012: 1/3 of all marriaged were re-marriages

Average age of first marriage risen

1971: men 25, women 23

2012: men 32, women 30


1981: 60% had religious ceremonies

2010: only 30% involved religious ceremony

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Fastest growing type of family in the UK

1960s: less than 1 in 100 adults estimated to have been cohabiting

2010: 1 in 6


alternative to marriage or a preparation

Reasons for increase

  • changing role of women
  • reduced functions of the family
  • changing attitudes/reduced stigma
  • secularisation
  • rising divorce rate
  • reducing risk
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40% of mothers will experience being a lone parent

75% of lone mothers will form stepfamilies

90% of stepfamilies involve children living with mother + new male partner

Reasons for growth

  • divorce and separation - increase
  • increasing trend towards serial monogamy 

Complexities of life

  • women have to balance triple threat: paid employment, domestic labour and childcare, and emotional management
  • sense of unity present in nuclear families (e.g. shared family history) not necessarily evident
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47% of children born outside of marriage --- 2 times as many as in 1986

Women are having children later: average age of first child is 28

Women having fewer children: average number decresed from 2.95 (1964) to 1.94 (2010)


  • decline in stigma: only 28% of 25-34 yo think marriage should come before parenthood
  • increase in cohabitation
  • increased opportunities for women: education, careers, finacial independence
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Lone parenthood

The proportion of families in the UK headed by a single parent is around 1/4 

Proportion of lone parent families

  • never cohabited 18%
  • widowed 5%
  • divorced 25%
  • previously cohabiting 37%
  • separated 15%

Growth sincre the 1970s

1972: 7% of families were classified as lone parent families

Since 1996: 25% of families with children are headed by single parents

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Murdock: 4 main functions

  • Sexual
  • Reproduction
  • Socialisation
  • Economic

Parsons: 2 main functions

  • Primary socialisation
  • Stabilisation of human personalities — sexual division of labour, expressive and instrumental roles

Nuclear family and modern society

Classic extended family replaced by privatised nuclear family/ modified extended family

Parsons: privatised nuclear family = structurally isolated


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Reasons for decline of extended family

  • Geographical mobility
  • Social mobility
  • Growth in wealth and income
  • Growth in meritocracy
  • Avoidance of conflict caused by economic/ status differences
  • Strengthening bonds between married/ cohabiting partners
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Changing functions

  • Functions transferred to other specialised institutions 
  • Structural differentiation (Parsons): modern family only has 2 main functions

Case against the loss of function

Fletcher: family has more responsibilities — unit of consumption, 

Feminists: unit of production — unpaid domestic labour 

Traditional functions and how they’ve changed

Reproduction Increase outside of family

ProductionFamilies don’t produce goods — wages to buy

Maintenance of childrenReplaced by welfare services

Help & care Shared with welfare state

Primary socialisation No longer restricted to family

Social control‘’

EducationReplaced by the state

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New Right

Welfare state: encourages a culture of dependency

Divorce: undermines nuclear family — creates underclass of female lone parents — lack of role models for boys

Single parent families: cause of crime

Decline of traditional family + growth of family diversity: cause of social problems


  • Children from broken homes 5x likely to develop behavioural issues
  • Children with split parents 3x more likely to behave aggressively
  • Lone parent families 2x more likely to be in poverty
  • Children from broken homes 9x more likely to become young offenders


Accused of romanticising family: ignoring dark side

Feminism: divorce allows women an escape from detrimental marriages


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  • Agency of social control
  • Tool of the ruling class
  • Keeps capitalism and inequality in place

Engelsinheritance of property

Althussersocialised to accept inequality

Zaretskyfamily source of profit

Benefits capitalism but not family members


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'Personal life' Perspective

Interactionist perspective

Criticises structural perspectives:

  1. Assume nuclear family is dominant type
  2. Assume individuals are puppets manipulated by structure of society

Carol Smart: relationships

  • Relationships with friends
  • Fictive kin
  • Gay and lesbian ‘chosen families’ 
  • Dead relatives
  • Pets 
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'Personal life' perspective

Donor-conceived children

Nordqvist and Smart

Found that the issue of blood and genes raised a range of feelings

Some parents emphasised the importance of social relationships over genetic ones

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