Research and Views on the Family
The Rapoports were one of the first sociologists to identify the changes to families in the UK. They argued that the nuclear family was not the main family type anymmore, a range of alternatives existed and were growing more popular. They were optimistic about these changes because now people have freedom of choice and no longer have to live in a certain type of family. There's no correct family type, all families should be accepted.
Feminists are also supportive of family diversity, they see the nuclear family as benefitting only men and other types of family give women freedom.
New Right theorists and Functionalists are critical of family diversity because they support the conventional nuclear family.
Chester (functionalist) argues that the nuclear family remains the most typical type of family. he argues for example that single-parent families come from nucear families, cohabiting couples end up in a nucear family and re-constituted families were once two seperate nuclear families. He argues that most people experience the nuclear family at some point in their life. So family diversity has been exaggerated and the only real change has been women working so the conventional family has turned into the neo-conventional family.
Social Class and Family Diversity
The Rapoports argue that there are significant differences between families with regard to social class:
1. MC parents may use nannies or au pairs to look after children while they're working. Whereas WC parents may use family or friends.
2. MC parent may use verbal punishments to discipline children, however, WC parents may use physical punishments.
3. MC parents may send their children to fee-paying or private schools, also the children are more likely to live away from home.
Nuclear and Extended Family
Consists of a monogomous, heterosexual couple and dependant children.
A family of three generations living together.
A nucear family, where the children maintain regular contact with their grandparents.
Asian: The streotype is that they are extended family, however, only a quarter of asian households in the UK are extended. The nuclear family is the main type, but they maintain regular contact with extended family and all live close to each other.
Afro-Caribbean: 50% of families are single-parents. Reason may be- in slave trade, the child would stay with the mother, black unemployment (linked to male underachievement at school) and tradition where the family is matriarchal (female headed)
The amount of single parent families has tripled since the 1970S. 25% of UK families are now single parents. 90% of these are female headed. 1/5 of children live with a lone parent.
---Reasons for growth of single-parent families:
1. Divorce was made cheaper and easier in the UK in the early 1970's.
2. Social Acceptance. This links to secularisation, religion has less influence and control over peoples lives so people don't feel as if they're living in sin when they go against religion. Also the media now portray single parents in a positive light so they're no longer seen as deviant.
3. The Welfare State. The New Right argue that it's too easy to be a single parent today as the state supports the mother with benefits, women are no longer dependant on men for financial support.
---Why are single-parent families normally matriarchal?:
1.Women are more likely to be given custody of children in divorce.
2. Men usually have better paid jobs and dont want to give them up.
3. Most men would see being a single parent as feminine.
---Critical views of single parent families: Fuctionalist & New Right say that SPF cannot socialise children adequately as they lack the male role model. Also families need a male to adequatley discipline children so they dont turn delinquent. They are a burden on the welfare state.
---Positive views of single parent families: Many children from SPF do well in school and dont become delinquent. Feminists are in favour of this type of family because of the independence of women. Cashmore argues that one good parent is better than two bad parents.
Singletons, Same-Sex and Reconsituted Families
Someone who lives by themself. 30% households are now singletons.
Reasons for increase in singleton households:
1. More people in their 20-30s can afford to live by themself and put off marraige till later.
2. Many men in their 40-50s are singletons because of divorce.
3. There's an increasing number of women singletons because of the death of their husband, women live longer.
Reasons for the increase in same-sex families recently:
1. Increased social acceptance. Civil Partnership Act 2004 - legal recognition of gay relationship.
2. Secularisation. Most religions say being gay is a 'sin', but less people are religios now so more accepting.
3. Reproductive technology. IVF and surrogacy mean gay people can now have their own children.
made up of an adult couple, married/not married, living with at least one child from one of the partner's previous relationship. Also known as Step/Blended family. It's growing because of the inrease in divorce since the 1970s.
Childbirth, Family Size and Mortality Rates
Childbearing and Family Size:
1960s = on average women would have 2.7 babies
Now = on average women have 1.6 babies
Why are people having fewer children?
1. decline in infant mortality rate - more children survive into adulthood
2. Increase in reliable contraception
3. Children are expensive
Why are more children born outside of marriage?
1. Increase in cohabitation
2. Secularisation - sex outside is now acceptable
People are generally living longer, the life expectancy for a woman is 80 and for men its 75. One issue with this is that it costs the state more because of pensions and health care.
Reasons people are living longer:
1. Improved medical technology
2. The welfare state, pensions and NHS
3. Improved knowledge of healthy lifestyles- diet and exercise.