Family and Households Basic Notes

HideShow resource information


Positive role of family e.g;

1. Primary socialisation of children - children learn + accept norms + values of society. Parsons - factories where next citizens are produced

2. Support + security - members able to cope with wider society

Murdock - family has 4 basic functions;

1. Stable sexual relationships for adults

2. Reproductive

3. Economic - pool of resources for members

4. Educational

BUT! Ignores issues of class, ethnicity, the exploitation of women, domestic violence, etc.

1 of 12


Family serves Capitalism through consumption and providing a secure workforce.

Engels - reproduces inequality; bourgeoisie pass down power through inheritance.

Family means men can accept their oppression in the workforce (proletariat) + take out frustration at home, not at work.

Women = housewives - workers can be cared for + healthy = more productive.

BUT! Ignores benefits of family to individuals.

Assumes women are caregivers + men are workers.

No explanation as to why the family flourishes  in e.g. Communism.

2 of 12


Family exploits + oppresses women - women socialised to be dependent on men + gender roles within the family.

Marxist-Feminist - exploitation of women is essential for Capitalism - housework unpaid (women still do the majority of domestic labour) - care for workforce.

BUT! Assumes expressive role = female + instrumental role = male.

Radical-Feminists - exploitation of women due to the domination of men in society. Family benefits men yet women do most of the work. I.e. dual burden - housework + caregiving and paid work (more common now).

BUT! It is found that the more a woman works/ more money she earns the more housework her husband is likely to do... however housework still mostly done by women.

Liberal-Feminists -family supports mainstream culture which is sexist, changes must be made to laws + policies.

3 of 12

Social Policies

BUT! New laws have been passed e.g. Sexual Discrimination Act that have bettered the position of women... however has this changed attitudes?

Children's Act 1989 - rights of a child.

Child Support Act 1991 - children have say in custody cases + parents must financially support children even if they don't live with them; e.g. forcing fathers to pay child support to mothers (this assumes mothers are the caregivers = gender roles embedded even in social policy not just social attitudes - so do social attitudes affect social policies)?

Civil Partnerships 2005 - gay + lesbian cohabiting couples on the increase (social change = social policy change).

Husband ****** wife made illegal in 1991!

Divorce Act 1969 - divorces sored, 75% enforced by women, "no blame" divorces, allowed women to come out of "empty shell" marriages... divorce too easy? Undermines marriage (NR).

4 of 12


Wider range of living options down to social + cultural change e.g. immigration - South-Asian families = extended, Afro-Carribean = increase in SPF's (NR disapproves).

Stacey - there will be no dominant type of family in Western culture again (diversity new norm).

Family adapted to suit individual's needs.

Individuals will live in different households during their life i.e. nuclear to cohabiting to nuclear to single, etc (adapts with personal + societal needs).

Has been criticised - most people only live in 1 or 2 different households in their life times.

5 of 12

New Right

Basis of Thatcher's Conservative government; believes the nuclear family + traditional values are best for society + that social policies e.g. DA undermine the nuclear family.

Murray - welfare benefits too high = "culture of dependency"/ "nanny state".

Increase in step-families, SPF's = breakdown of traditional values, leads to crime, etc. Caused by falling moral standards.

Would criticise gay/lesbian partnerships + new technologies for having children.

Criticised for blaming the victim.

Less intervention in family matters, less benefits, the family should look after individuals e.g. the elderly.

1997 Blair - New Labour - support families but more accepting of diversity.

6 of 12


Nuclear (25% of households) + extended families (larger households) decreasing.

SPF's, reconstituted, cohabiting couples, single person households increasing.

People expecting more from marriage?

Divorce easier + therefore remarrying.

Women putting off having children/marriage for careers. Women no longer "takers of ****".


Bringing up children more expensive; 1970's 2.4 now 2001 1.6 children on average per household.

People living longer (medicinal advances).

Securalisation - more acceptable sex before marriage.

7 of 12


Agricultural, extended families, work in the home (cottage industries) - factories, nuclear families, work separated from home (isolates family unit leads to independence).

Allows family achieved status + social mobility.

Nuclear family more geographically mobile - move to work.

Family structure adapts to the needs of society .e.g housewives socially constructed (servants).

Willmott + Young stages -

Pre-industrial, industrial, privatised nuclear - based on consumption, personal relationships + lifestyle.Better? "March of Progress exist"?

Too idealistic? Does not account for class + ethnicity differences in family structure.

Ignores lack of care for the eldery + disabled.

8 of 12


Conjugal - roles of husband and wife.

Segregated - distinct responsibilities.

Joint - more flexible, shared - Wilmott + Young - the future (new norm).

Oakley - rare that men do the same amount of housework as women.

Edgell - childcare more shared now BUT! Boulton - women still primarily responsible for child care.

2/3 working mothers still responsible for cooking + cleaning.

Big decisions still made by men (particularly financial).

Husband-controlled pooling = shared income but men had dominant role in how it is spent.

9 of 12

Roles and Power

Women - triple shift = "economy of emotion", paid employment + housework/childcare.

Lesbian households more equal distribution of childcare + housework - heterosexual relationships less fair because of ideologies concerning masculinity + feminity.

Functionalists - different gendered roles are most effective in keeping society running smoothly.

Marxists - power of Capitalism controls family life, through e.g. media.

Feminists - inequality in power due to patriarchal society = unequal conjugal roles.

10 of 12


25% women will experience DV in their life time.

Dobash + Dobash - DV = invisible crime + police view as "a domestic" = not serious. BUT! Now specialists units.

Society blames the victims "they should know better".

Not reported - stigma attached because of the ideology of patriarchy.

BUT! Some women abuse men. Goes unreported because the man may feel shame/stigma of being abused by a women.

Family is a private institution - hidden from society so DV can occur e.g. child abuse - unlikely to report the abuse.

11 of 12


= social construct - not universal but is defined by the ideologies of a society, differs between and within societies.

Aries - medieval - children mini adults, economic assets to cottage industry. Industrialisation - birth of childhood, children need to be cared for, housewife emerges, economic liabilities, "cult of the child". Now - society is child focused, laws to protect them from adult life; e.g. legal sex age 16, children = consumers.

Functionalists - "march of progress" child protection has improved, positive progression.

Some argue childhood maintains authority of adults using enforced dependency - some children want to escape from childhood (dark side of childhood - poverty, child abuse).

Ethnic differences - Asian families stricter with girls.

The future - Postman - childhood is disappearing because of media, children "growing up too quickly" e.g. teen pregnancies.

12 of 12


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Families and households resources »