Family diversity

Modernism & the nuclear family

  • Functionalism - Parsons; The nuclear family is uniquely suited to meeting the needs of society as a geographically & socially mobile workforce, alongside the primary socialisation of children & the stabilisation of adult personalities. Other family types are deviant, dysfunctional/abnormal, & are less able to perform the functions required of the family. 
  • The New Right - Are opposed to family diversity, the correct family type is the patriarchal nuclear family, consisting of a married couple & their dependent children. There is a clear-cut devision of labour between the breadwinner-husbands & homemaker-wife.
  • They are concerned about growth of lone-parent families because lone mothers cannot discipline their children properly, there is a lack of male role models for boys leading to educational failure & deliquency, they are likely to be poor & a burden on the welfare state. 
  • Benson; the rate of family breakdown was much higher among cohabiting couples, only marriage can provide a stable environment to bring up children. The rate of breakups among cohabiting families is higher than the rate of divorce among married couples. 
  • Criticisms - Oakley (feminism); wrongly assume that husbands & wives' roles are fixed in biology, cross-cultural studies show a great variation of roles that women & men perform.
  • Some people see cohabitation as a permanent alternative to marriage. 
  • Carol Smart; poverty causes the breakdown of relationships, rather than not marrying.  
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Modernism & the nuclear family pt2

  • Neo-conventional family - Chester; a dual earner family in which both spouses go out to work, people are not choosing to live in alternatives of the nuclear family, it is just a result of life cycle, e.g, elderly widows. The nuclear family is still the most dominant type of family, but spouses do not play 'instrumental' & 'expressive role'. 
  • Five types of family diversity - The Rapoports
  • Organisational (some couples have joint conjugal roles, others have segregrated roles) 
  • Cultural (religious, ethnic, cultural differences) 
  • Social class 
  • Life-stage (widows, newly weds, retired couples who's children have left).
  • Generational (older & younger generations have different attitudes within the family, about family).
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Postmodernism & family diversity

  • There is more choice in lifestyle, personal relationships & family arrangements, it gives people more freedom to plot their own life course by choosing the types of relationships that meet their needs. However, there is more risk of instability because relationships are likely to break up. 
  • Postmodern families - Stacey; greater freedom & choice has benefited women, enabling them to free themselves from the patriarchal family. She interviewed families in California & found that women rejected the traditional house-wife role & re-educated themselves to improve job prospects.
  • They created the 'divorce-extended family' to suit their needs, keeping in touch with former in-laws, or a man's ex-wife & his new partner for financial/emotional support.
  • Morgan; it is pointless to make large-scale generalisations about 'the family', the family are arrangements that people choose to call family. 
  • The individualisation thesis - Beck & Ulrich; we have been freed (disembedded) from the traditional role structures, leaving us with more freedom in how we choose to live. 
  • Giddens; contraception has allowed sex & intimacy to become the main reason for a relationships existence & women have gained independence in education/work. Leading to a rise in 'pure relationships' of self-discovery & self-identity, these relationships are unstable & become a 'rolling contract', ended if individual needs are not met. 
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Postmodernism & family diversity pt2

  • Giddens; same-sex couples are pioneers because they aren't influenced by norms as much as the traditional hetero-sexual family. They built relationships on choice, leading them to create family structures that serve their own needs, Weeks; friendship networks function as kinship networks for gay men & lesbians. 
  • The negotiated family - Beck; we live in a 'risk' society where tradition has less influence & people have more choice, we are more aware of risks because we calculate the risks/rewards of the different options available.
  • This family type does not exist to conform to traditional family norms, it instead varies in terms of the wishes & expectations of members, who decide what is best for themselves by negotiation, entering the relationship on an equal basis. However, it is less stable because people are free to leave when their needs are not met.
  • The zombie family - Beck; the family appears to be alive but is actually dead, people want it to be a haven of security but it is actually insecure because of it's own instability. 
  • Criticisms - Personal life; exaggerates how much choice people have about family relationships, Budgeon; traditional norms still exist to limit people's relationship choices. 
  • Structural factors, e.g, social class & patriarchal gender norms limit/shape our relationship choices. May; Giddens & Beck are focusing on 'an idealised version of a white, middle class-man', not everyone is privileged enough to have choice in relationship. 
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The personal life perspective

  • The connectedness thesis - Carol Smart; we are fundamentally social beings whose choices are always made 'within a web of connectedness', not disembedded, isolated individuals. 'Where lives have become interwoven & embedded, it becomes impossible for relationships to simply end'. 
  • Fitch & Mason; although individuals can negotiate relationships to some extent, they are also embedded within family connections & obligations that restrict their freedom of choice. 
  • Class & gender - After a divorce gender norms dictate that women should have custody of their children, which may limit their opportunity to form new relationships. Compared to men who are freer to start new relationships & second families.
  • Men are better paid than women & this gives them greater feedom & choice in relationships.
  • Women & children are relatively powerless compared to men, meaning they lack freedom to choose & remain trapped in abusive relationships. 
  • The power of structures - May; structures are not disappearing they are being re-shaped, e.g, women in the past 150 years have gained important rights in voting, divorce, education & employment, that does not mean they now 'have it all'. 
  • Eindasdottir; whilst lesbianism is now tolerated, heteronormativity remains, so many lesbians 'remain in the closet' restricting their choices about lifestyle & relationship.
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