Social Policy and the Family


What are Social Policies

  • Plans and actions of the state government e.g social services, welfare benefits and the child support agency (CSA)
  • Based on laws made and introduced by the government 
  • Policies can affect the family directly e.g marriage laws, or indirectly e,g Compulsory education
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The Functionalist Perspective of Social Policy

  • Functionalists believe that society is built upon harmony and consensus
  • They see the state as acting in the interest of society.
  • Policies are intended to help families to carry out their functions e.g the welfare state provides support to the family whilst they carry out their functions
  • However.... X It assumes that all families benefit equally from social poilcies                 

                         X It assumes there is a march on progress with social policies making family life better

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Donzelot's view on social policy

  • Conflict view of society, he sees social policy as a form of state power and control over the family 
  • Applies the concept of 'capillaries of power' and suggests that all relationships in society exercise power over the family
  • The lower class are seen as a problem in society and so social policies are seen by Donzelot as controlling this 'problem'
  • He does not explicitly say who benefits from social policies
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The New Right perspective on social policy


  • Believes laws over divorce undermine marriage e.g divorce law reform act undermines the idea that marriage is something sacred and for life
  • Civil partnerships give the idea that heterosexuals are no longer superior 
  • Tax laws discriminate against conventional families with only one sole breadwinner
  • Increased rights for cohabitating couples e.g adoptions rights make it more simmilar to marriage
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The New rights Perspective on social policy

Charles Murray

  • Critical of the welfare state and believes it encourages it encourges deviant and dysfunctional family types that harm society
  • The welfare state offers a 'peverse incentive' to young families as it encourages irresponsible behaviour, this in turn increases the rate of young single parent families
  • This increase in single parent families is bad for society as it means that children grow up with out correct gender socialisation
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Governments and Social Policy

  • Conservative Governments (1979-1997)- Policies supporting the traditional nuclear family e.g ban on homosexuality, changed taxation policies so that cohabitating couples could no longer claim more tax allowences that married couples, they defined divorce as a social problem but made it easier to obtain.
  • New Labour (1997-2010)- Agreed with the new right that the traditional nuclear family was desireable but they were willing to accept family diversity and allowed for civil partnerships between homosexual couples and offered them the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples
  • Coalition Government (2010-)- Split into two, Modernisers who accepted that family was more diverse and Traditionalists who saw diversity as morally wrong. Coaltion government introduced Gay marriage in 2013 and introduced free childcare
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Feminist perspective on social policy

  • See society as patriarchal and benefitting men at womens expense
  • They see family as being self fulfulling and policies are based on what a 'normal' family is e.g the difference in maternity and paternity leave suggest that women are meant to be the primary caregiver
  • Policies support the patriarchy and reinforces womens economic dependancy on men
  • Childcare- the cost of it makes it more likely for the mother to stay at home
  • Expectations that the family are meant to look after sick relatives makes it more likely for women to work part time
  • However...X it ignores the fact that not all policies are designed at supporting the patriachy e.g the equal pay act.
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Gender Regimes (Eileen Drew 1955)

  • Familistic Gender Regimes- polices based on traditonal gender divisions e.g in greece there is little publicly funded child care and so women have to rely on the extended family for support
  • Individualistic Gender Regimes- policies based on the belief that husband and wife should be treated the same e.g in sweden policies treat men and women equally responsible for both bread winning and domestic tasks
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