Life-course and family diversity

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Chester: the neo-conventional family

  • He argues the only important change is a move from the dominance of the traditional or convential nuclear family, to what he discribes as the neo-convential family
  • The neo-convential family is not what Parsons or Murdock see as a spilt family, where the man is the breadwinner and the woman is the homemaker
  • The neo-convential family is a dual earning familywhere both spouses go out to work, this is simlar to the symmetrical family by Wilmott and Young
  • In the age of the rise in lone-parents, same-sex relationships, increasing divorce and rising cohabaitation, the nuclear family is still the ideal family that most people aspire to
  • Chester also says that most people spend a majority of their lives in the past or will be in the future;
  • Most people live in a household headed by a married couple
  • Most adults still marry and have children
  • Most marriages still continue until death
  • Cohabitation has increased but this is a stage before marriage
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The Rapoports: five types of family

Remember CLOGS

  • Cultural diversity - different cultural, religious and ethnic groups have different family structures. For example, in Affrican-Caribbean families they are most matriarchal, lead by a woman as the men leave begining in the relationship
  • Life-stage diversity - family structures change depending on the stage they have reached in the life cycle. For example, newlyweds, couples with no children and retired couples, whose children have left home, and widows or widowers who are living alone. Whilst mid-30's couples may have a few children who will remain at home for a number of years
  • Organisational diversity - this refers to differences in thw ways family roles are organised. For some families they have joint conjugal roles (Bott) and dual earners, some have sgregated conjugal roles and one wage-earner
  • Generational diversity - older and younger couples have different attitudes. For example, the older may want to remain traditional, with the man being the breadwinner and the woman being the housemaker, whislt younger couples have divorce as an option and are dual-earners
  • Social class diversity - differences in family structures are partly the result of income differences between households of different classes. For example, there are class differences in child-rearing practices
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Giddens: choice and equality

  • Contraception has allowed sex and intimacy rather than reprodction to become the main reason for the relationship's existence 
  • Women have gained independance as a result of feminism and because of greater opportunities in education and work
  • Couples dfine their own relationship, there is no right or wrong relationship - this is the "pure relationship"
  • But with more choice comes more unstablality, meaning relationships are more likely to fail
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Beck: "risk society" and the negotiated family

  • Argues that we now live in a risk society where tradition has less infulence and people have more choice. As a result, we are more aware of risks. This is because makingchoices involves calculating the risks and rewards of the different courses of action available
  • Although the traditional partiarchal family was unequal and oppressive, it did provide a stable and predictable basis for family life by defining each members role and reposiblities
  • The partriarchal soceity is undermined by 2 trends;
  • Greater gender equality, which has challenged male domination in all spheres of life. Women now expect equality both at work and in marriage
  • Greater individualism, where people's actions are influenced more by calculations of their own self-interest than by a sense obligation to others
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Weeks: the growing acceptance of diversity

  • There has been a growing shift in attitudes since 1950's with sexuality and divorce and sex before marriage
  • However, he also has found that despite these attitudes, family patterns continue to be fairly traditional. Most people still live in a family; most children are brought up by couple; most couples marry and many divorcee's re-marry
  • The New Right fight for the nuclear family and against family diversity, Weeks sees them as fighting a losing battle
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