Family and Society

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Family and household

A family can be defined as a social unit connected by blood, marriage or adoption.

A household can be defined as 1 person living alone or a group of people who share the same address and living arrangements.

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Functions of the family

It provides a place where strong relationships are formed. These relationships satisfy our emotional needs for love and security. 

It provides a safe, secure place for children to be raised. The socialisation of children starts within the family. 

The family provides it's members with a cultural identity, a position in society and a set of values and beliefs

The family home provides shelter and protection and the address provides a base to access health, education and welfare services.

Family provides financial resources for it's members, particularly young. Basic needs for clothing and food.

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Structure of families and households

Nuclear family- Usually consists of 2 generations living together. They do not have daily contact with other family members such as grandparents.

Extended family- Usually consists of 3 generations living together or living close to other family members. They have daily contact with other family members.

Reconstituted family- Consists of a family unit in which one or both parents have been previously married and have children from that relationship.

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Structure of families and households

Lone parent family- Formed from a single male or female parent and dependent children living together. Most common reasons- divorce, separation

Gay and lesbian family- A same sex couple living together as a family with children

Single person household- A person living on their own. A significant number of these are female

Multiperson household- A group of people living together in one household

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Changing nature of the extended family

The traditional extended family is declining. Greater mobility, higher standards of living and the emergence of the welfare state have contributed to the decline of the extended family. 

Many families are becoming self-contained and self-reliant units. Today most families with dependent children live in nuclear families and due to devlopments in technology, links between family members are maintained.

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Changing roles within the family

The roles within a family are changing. Traditionally, the male role was to provide for the family and the female was to care for the family. 

Women are now much more likely to be working, making a significant contribution to the family income. Some men have taken over traditional female domestic roles and are 'househusbands'.

Changes in legislation have aimed to provide greater equality between the employment rights of men and women. However women earn on average less than men. Women are more likely to be employed in caring or service industries which are less well paid.

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Smaller family size

The number of births has declined since 1901. However, there was a sharp increase in births after the 1st and 2nd world wars

Devlopments in health care have reduced infant mortality so parents do not need to create large families to ensure that some children survive to adulthood.

The widespread availability of contraception and accessibility of abortion has been significant in reducing family size. 

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Increase in older mothers

The average age for a 1st child was 27 in 2005. The growth in the number of women continuing their education beyond 18 has contributed to the rise in later marriage and child bearing. 

The number of women having babies in their 40s has nearly doubled in 10 years.

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The changing divorce rate

Nearly half of all new marriages end in divorce and this may affect a significant number of children. Research has suggested that the effect of divorce on young children can cause emotional and behavioural problems. 

Divorce can also lead to stress and depression in adults. It can cause financial hardship and lead to extra demand for housing.

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