Family and Social CHnage

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  • Created by: Lilly
  • Created on: 05-01-13 16:33

The families role in Society

-Some sociologists believe that family has remained unchnnaged in their role in society:

    1. Murdock- believes the family has universal functions

     2. Radical feminists- see the families as essentially similar as they are practical.

-However, some believe it has changed:

     1.  Postmodernists- believe that families are changing as we move into the postmodern era

    2. Liberal feminists- family is becoming less patriarchal

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Social change and the family

1.Changes in social structure --> Chnages in family structure

2.Family structure---> industrial revolution

1. One view is that changes in society has led to changes in the family structure: Parsons, believed that a change in structure of society led to chamges in the family, from extended in pre-industrial era and nuclear in industrial era.

2.Another view is that the family can be a cause of change, the structure of the family can shape the direction of change in society: Laslett, believes that the dominance of nuclear families helped to cause the industrial revolution in some countries

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Talcott Parsons- The family & Industrialization

  • He believed that the extended family was well suited to pre-industrial societies because : -most people worked in agriculture, so all family members worked, -many children stayed on the family land.
  • Industrialisation required a geographically mobile workforce, who could move to new factories elsewhere in the country.

Problems with Parsons theory:

  • He simply assumed the extended family was the most common family type before the industrial revolution
  • Peter Laslet (1972, 1977):

-- Found that the nuclear family was the norm in Norh western parts of Europe during pre-industrial times.

--argues that family structure was a factor that heled to produce the industrial revolution rather than being a consequence of it

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  • Most sociologists tend to believe that family structure changes due to changes in society, for example:

          -Incresing employment of married women outside the home, led to changes in conjugal roles

          -Migration and growh of ethnice population in Britain may have affecte the structure of Brithish families

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The three stages of family change- Willmott & Youn

Stage 1- Pre-industrial

  • Family is a unit with parents & children forming the care.

Stage 2- Early Industrial

  • family extended its network to include other kin, strong bond between married daughters and women.
  • family type contined into 1950s in working class areas

Stage 3- Nuclear dominated

  • 1970s, nuclear family domintaed, based on strong conjugal bond between husband and wide, other relatives lost importance.
  • Willmott&Young described the family as symmetrical, developed due to: -Rising wages & developing state welfare making nuclear families more self-relient, -increasing geogrpahical mobility affecting kinship networks, -imporved entertainment facilities, -smaller family size




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McGlone et al. 1996- The Importance of Kin

  • Argues that kin outside of the nuclear family are important because they can provide both practical and emotional support, e.g.'s -advice, -financial help, -assistance with childcare, -emotonal  support in time of crisis
  • Although they may live apart, rising living standars, growing car ownership & technological developments allow people to keep in touch
  • They found that contacts remained requent with working class
  • Found that most parents believed they should support children even after they had left the house.
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Families structures in contemporary society

Julia Brannen -2003

  • Beanpole family.
  • Strong intergenerational links between grandchildren and grandparents, but links between cousins less important

Peter Wilmott-1988

  • Sees dispersed extended family as typical
  • Nuclear family, remain in contact with family members

Margret & Debonrch Jones- 1996

  • No family type is dominant
  • Pluralization of lifestyles, so it is pointless to try and find a single family type- diversity is the norm



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Postmodernity & The Family

  • There is a rejection of a grand theory which tells people how to live their lives, a lack of faith in any 'big stories' about how society should be run or how people should live. This includes a lack of belief in political ideologies such as Marxism and even a lack of belief in traditional views of marriage and family life.
  • Because of this, there is inreasing diversity, choice and fragmntation in social life-people have the ability to choose from a vast array of identities and lifestyles and don't have to conform to the way previous generations lived
  • Divisons based on social class and traditional gender roles became less important, and lifestyle choices became more important
  • The media and images represented in media, became more influential in a media-saturated society.
  • Society changes rapidly as new technology is introduced and imporived communications lead to globalization of socail life
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Modernity & the family

  • Some bleive that the development of the family has been in 3 stages:

1. Pre-modern, Pre-industrial society: life was relatively stable and predictable, people actd on the basis of tradition and roles within society were relatively fixed.

2. Modern, Industrial society- social life becomes based upoin rationality rather than tradition and the teachings of religion, instead of acting in ways that rligious leaders tell them to, or in the way they been brought u to behave, people calculate how they should act to achieve certain goals and this guides their behavoir (and possibly aspirations) As a result, social life is less predictable and increased uncertainty and more rapid change is introduced.

3.Postmodern, Post-industrial- Leads to a decline in rationality, more choices are open to indiiduals and their identity becomes less fixed, resulting in even more uncertainty and change that was typical of the modern era.

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Relationships int he mdern world (modernity)- Anth

  • Believes that intimate relationships have changed with modernity
  • In early period of Modernity (C18th) marriage became more than an economic arrangement-idea of romantic love developed-marriage partner was idealized as someone who would perfect a person's life
  • Late Modernity- more recent changes to modernity- plastic sexuality developed, sex was more for pleasure than to have kids, relationships and marriages no longer een as necessarily being permenant.
  • Marriage based on 'confluent love'- love dependent upon partners beneffiting from relationship- divorce and relation breakdown becomes more common
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Family & Social Policy

  • Family sometimes seen as private, somthing thatgovernment shouldn't interfere with.
  • Policies have a drect and indirect impact upon families and the government can deliberately try to interfere in aspects of teh family life-usd to change attitudes and behavoirs. E.g's:

                    --Education polices = provisions of nursey education and compulsory schooling

                   --Taxation policies= the way the incomes of people are teaxed

                  -- Legal changes= divorce law/ child protection legislation

                  -- Housing policy- suitability and location of housing

                  -- Health and welfare policies= 'care in community' which affects the responsibilities for relatives

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Example of social policy- China's 'One child Polic

  • 1980s- due to population beijng youthful to such an extent it was detremental.
  • Need to have permission to have children from the government
  • Fines are given to people having moe than one child & rewards were given tot hose who just had one


  • Rapidly ageing population
  • Disproportionaten number of men to females, due to girls being more likely to be aborted- has led to bride-knidnapping in Iran to China
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Example of social policy- Russia

  • Encourgaed equality between sexes:

-women worked

-wanted marriages to be totally equal

-Divorce and abortion laws liberalised

-In line with Marxist view that family would not be be necessary in communist socities as they only exist to increase the power of the ruling class


  • By 1930s, state was encouraging family life and role of women in giving birth in order to increase size of population


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Charles Murray 184- The Underclass

  • New Right Theorist
  • Arges that an underclasss has been ceated through an over-generous government and welfare payments- harmful to society as he believes it encoruages irresponsible behavoir, which is then copied by children
  • Sons of single mothers, with no male role model more likely to turn to crime  & drugs
  • Daughters of single mothers, more likely to have children outside of marriage- and will then rely on state benefits
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Conventional Families

Policies that support conventional families:

  • the assumption that child benefit should be paid to mothers
  • school hours that ssume one parent will be at home in the afternoon, making it ifficult for dual-earner families
  • Limited state provisions of care for elderly and the encouragement of relatives-usually daughters- to provide care

Policies that don't support conventional families:

  • Gradual liberalisation of divorce laws
  • Recognition of gay & lesbian couples
  • Increaed provisions of state funding for childcare for children under school age
  • Increased police action and concern about domestic violence
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