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  • Created on: 16-01-15 23:35

What do we mean by 'the family'?

The meanings are constantly changing

Schneider: Family is about the solidarities which exist between those who are taken to be related to one another through ties of blood or marriage

Cheal: A family is considered to be any group which consists of intimate relationships which are believed to endure over time/across generations

Family forms

- The different ways in which people live and relate together as family members varies
- Takes into account factors such as residence, kinship, distribution of resources/responsibilities, regular contact and interactions

1) Nuclear
2) Extended
3) Transnational

- There has also been changing family patterns in recent decades:
4) Stepfamilies
5) Lone parent family
6) Families of choice (gay/lesbian families)

- There are different cultural meanings of family

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Changing family forms

- Family forms are not static
- "Modification and change are not entirely normal, but they are built into the very nature of family life" (Allan et al. 2011)

Changing patterns of family formation over the last 50 years

- There have been increases in:
1) Births outside marriage
2) Cohabitation
3) Divorce
4) Lone parent households
5) Second/subsequent marriages
6) Stepfamilies
- The amount of people cohabitating in the UK has risen from just under 3 million in 1996 to just under 6 million in 2012 (Labour Force Survey, 2012)

How can these changes be explained?

1) Changes in conventional gender roles linked to the nuclear family due to greater educational/employment opportunities for women
2) Trends such as divorce, remarriage, cohabitation etc. indicates the process of individualisation
3) Separation of sex from reproduction

Social divisions: Gender families

- Traditional ideas about the division of labour between spouses (breadwinner/homemaker nuclear family prevalent in 1950s)
- Cultural expectations about gender may have changed but is there still a domestic division of labour?
- Compulsory heterosexuality still a thing? 

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Social divisions

Sexuality and families

- Historically, prejudice and inequality on the basis of the heterosexual/homosexual divide
- Hostility and alienation from biological family
- Families of choice
- Lesbian/gay movement since 1960s

Race/ethnicity and families

- Culutral practices
- Representational issues

Is belonging to a family only a personal matter, or is it also of public interest?

- Families and economic exchanges
- Changing family patterns and government policies

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Summary of key points

+ There are many different family forms in the UK

+ Family forms change over time

+ Sociologists provide descriptions of and explanations for these changes

+ Different explanations lead to debate about evidence/argument

+ Exploring different family forms gives us an insight into other aspects of social life and can reveal inequalities and discriminations in society based around gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age etc.

+ The state has an interest in family life

+ Judgements and evaluations about family forms can lead to inequalities and discrimination

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2: Anthropology- the study of human cultures


1) People's livelihood and economic systems
2) Different family systems
3) Different political systems
4) Belief systems and rituals
5) Culture and identity in a changing world
6) Social relations

How do anthropologists collect their data?

- Ethnographic fieldwork
- Qualitative data (mainly)
- Against ethnocentrism

Why have anthropologists studied the family?

- Since the 19th century, kinship has been an important area of anthropological study
- Stone (1997):
1) Kinship is the recognition of a relationship between persons based on descent or marriage 
2) Consanguinity: Blood relative/descent
3) Affinity: Established through marriage
- For early 20th century anthropologists (e.g. Malinowski), kinship is significantly connected to the political system and structures in small-scale societies:
1) Domestic domain of kinship 
2) Significance of gender/age in this context
- Kin group seen as an economic unit
- Had links to property ownership/allocation of resources
- Gained an insight into different cultural perceptions of gender 

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Different kinship systems/family forms

1) Patrilineal descent: Males and females are born into the descent group, but only males can pass on membership
2) Matrilineal descent: Males and females are born into the descent group, but only females can pass on membership 

Patrilineal descent: The Nuer (Sudan)

- Man must give bride wealth (usually cattle) to wife's family in exchange for future children being of patrilineal descent
- Marriage is not considered official until the woman has given him at least two children- importance of procreation
- Daughters and sons of equal importance- daughters bring in bride wealth, and sons continue the patriline
Matrilineal descent: The Minangkabau (Indonesia)

- Woman seen as the head of the family
- Children inherit the lineage, titles, property and family names of their mother
- Women expected to be virgins at the time of their first marriages, but courting/dating are allowed
- A mother hopes their daughter will choose a husband with suitable status
- Divorce is fairly common due to the fact that women are economically independent
- The traditional Minangkabau houses are own by the women that live there, passing from mother to daughter
- Husbands are only tolerated in the house under certain conditions, and return to their sister's house to sleep

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The Inupiat of Northern Alaska (Bodenhorn 2000)

- Settled communities on the migration path of the bowhead whale
- Define themselves as whalers
- Organise labour by gender
- Their beliefs are generally related to hunting
- Distribution of hunted food:
1) Sharing the food- ways of building/maintaining social relations 
2) Shares in the food earned by contributing labour materials to the hunt
- The meaning of 'family' to the inupiat:
1) Belief that a child chooses when to be born
2) Non-parents give a child the name(s) that confer personhood
3) Birth bonds are usually recognised, but parents have no 'rights over the child'
4) Adoption is common
- Often adoption is the choice of the child, who may then also choose whether or not to maintain ties with the natal home 

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- Anthropologists collect data through extended periods of fieldwork, learning the language, living with the community etc.

- In many cultures, kinship is connected to the other aspects of life (e.g. economics, politics, religion etc.)

- There are many different family forms across the world

- Cultural groups have diverse understandings of 'family'

- The meanings of family as well as family forms change through time

- Family relationships may not be based on biological connections

- It is important to consider gender/age as they influence people's experiences of family life

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3: Family, parenting and socialisation


Berger & Luckmann (1966): The process by which newborn humans become competent members of their own culture, taking up social roles consistent with the values, beliefs, knowledge and practices of the social worlds their affords

Bruner (1986): People become members of their own societies through a mysterious process that involves learning of which we are largely not aware

The Social World

'Chronic' relationships

- Parent-child; customer-bank; husband-wife; partner-partner; teacher-student
- Involves key obligations, duties, rights, hierarchies etc.

'Chronic' institutions 

- Family, Tescos, universities, BBC etc.
- Manage key relationships

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Word full of complex ideas and meanings


- Dominant ideas/beliefs (a good parent is...; it's cheaper at Tescos; BBC tells the truth)
- Language and other media of communication- clothes, property, food systems
- Dominant signs and symbols

 Socialisation and social reproduction

- Durkheim 
- The social world and culture pre-exist us
- We become 'socialised' into particular social worlds with particular cultures
- We take up a series of specific roles within a social system
- We maintain the system while we are in it by reading its system of ideas (conscience collective) and reproducing it as we navigate our own way
- We use, modify and pass on its dominant ideas to each other and the next generation

Agencies of socialisation

1) Family (language acquisition, relationships, rules, initial social interactions, morals, role models, behaviour)
2) Peers (activities, trends)
3) Religion (Values, love for others, meaning of life, guidelines on how to love)
4) Government (laws, sense of security, sanctions of punishment)
5) Media (stereotypes, trends/how to act)
6) Work (employment, money, rules, roles)
7) Ethnic background (beliefs/values/customs)
8) Clubs/social groups (social interaction, rules governing activities)
9) School (grammar, rules, social setting values) 

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Social class and child rearing

- Culture is transmitted through socialisation
1) Attitudes, ideologies
2) Language, mind and intelligence
3) Impact of social class/culture on 'developmental competences'
- Does development background impact on social mobility and careers?

GCSE Attainment (2002)

- Parents in higher professional backgrounds: 77% if students from these backgrounds achieved 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C
- Parents in Routine professional backgrounds: 32% achieved these grades

John & Elizabeth Newson

- First major detailed ethnographic studies of family socialisation
- Nottingham- 700 w/c and m/c families through the 1960s
- Looked at social class and child rearing practices
- Dummy study:
1) Dummy given at some point in time: 39% of the higher social classes, 74% of the lower class
2) Dummy still used at 12 months: 26% (H), 46% (L)
- These were the same kind of results for breast feeding, sleeping in a room on their own etc.

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Basil Bernstein studies (1971-1996)

- Series of studies linking language to class-based family structures
- Restricted code- more likely w/c families
- Elaborated code- more likely m/c families

Family type against Language type

Strongly positional families

- Everyone knows everyone's role, routine and status (not necessary to discuss)
- Individuals associated with particular spaces, places, objects etc.

Weakly positional families

- Roles, routines, status etc. open to negotiation
- Struggles over spaces, places, objects
Elaborated code

- Independent of context
- Diversity of forms of expression

Restricted code

- Context-dependent
- Forms of expression rooted in present

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- Middle-class (e.g. Outnumbered): Elaborated code, open structure
- The Royal family: Elaborated code, positional structure
- Chavs: Restricted code, open structure
- Traditional W/C: Restricted code, positional structure


- Agencies of socialisation differentiate what we experience into things, events, people, and places value on them

- Family is a primary agency of socialisation

- Families typically show a variety of structures which impact on the process by which we acquire 'cultural codes'

- Family type is not necessarily deterministic in any final sense -> individual strategies can be used

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