Postmodernism - Family Diversity


Postmodernity and the life course

  • It can be argued modernists ignore 2 key facts:
  • as individuals we make choices about family life and relationships
  • we now have much more choice about our personal relationships and this has increased family diversity.
  • Life course analysis focuses on the meanings people give to life events and choices.
  • It has 2 major strengths:
  • it focuses on what family members themselves consider important 
  • it is particularly suitable for studying families in today's society, where there is more choice about personal relationships and more family diversity.
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Postmodernism - Family Diversity

  • Postmodernists argue we no longer live in a 'modern' world with its predictable, orderly structures such as the nuclear family.
  • Instead, society has entered a new, chaotic postmodern stage.
  • In postmodern society family structures are fragmented and individuals have much more choice over their lifestyles and family arrangements.
  • What we have now is only families.
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Postmodernism - Giddens

  • Giddens argues he recent decades the family and marriage have been transformed by greater choice and a more equal relationship between men and women.
  • This has happened because of:
  • contraception: it has allowed sex and intimacy rather than reproduction to be the main reason for a relationship's existence.
  • women have gained independence as a result of feminism and their impact on education and work.
  • Due to such changes, the basis of marriage and the family has changed into one where the couple are free  to define their relationship.
  • This is instead of acting out the roles that have been defined in advance by law or tradition. (couple can now cohabit instead of marry).
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Postmodernism - Beck

  • Beck argues we now live in a 'risk society' where tradition has less influence and people have more choice. Today's risk society contrasts with earlier times when roles were fixed and people had less choice. e.g. expactation to marry, the man be the breadwinner.
  • In postmodern society there have been 2 key trends:
  • greater gender equality
  • greater individualism
  • This has led to a new type of family replacing the patriarchal family, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1995) call this the negotiated family.
  • Negotiated families do not confrom to the traditional family form
  • Instead they vary according to the wishes and expectations of their members. They enter the realtionship on an equal basis.
  • However, this relationship type is less stable as individuals are free to leave if needs not met.
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Postmodernism - Weeks

  • Weeks (2000): there has been a shift in attitudes since the 1950's. 
  • Over this period, sexual morality has become largely a matter of personal choice and at the same time, the church and state have lost much of their power to influence individuals.
  • There is a growing acceptance of sexual and family diversity by the under 35's and more acceptance of cohabitation and homosexuality. 
  • However, Weeks observes with these changing attitudes, family patterns continue to be fairly traditional.
  • Most people still live in a family, most children are brought up by couples and most couples do marry, with many divorcees remarrying.
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