Social Policy and The Family

Functionalist, Feminist, Marxist, and New Right views on social policy and the family!

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Functionalist View on Social Policy and the Family

  •  See the state as acting in the interests of society as a whole and its social policies being for the good of all.
  •  Fletcher argues the introduction of health, education, and housing policies since the industrial revolution support the family to perform its function more effectively.
  •  Parsons argues that structural differentiation takes place, which allows the family to focus on its two irreducible functions.
  • Functionalists argue all family members benefit from social policies.
  • They assume there is a ‘march of progress` with social policies gradually making life better for all.

Evidence of social policies which support the traditional nuclear family

  • Married couples tax breaks
  • Maternity leave- 52 weeks for women, only 2 weeks for men
  • Child benefit
  • School organisation
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Marxist Views on Social Policy and the Family

  •  Argue that social policies do not benefit all social classes equally, but rather serve the ruling class
  •  Foucalt sees power not just as something held by the government, but spread throughout society
  • Donzelot argues that professionals carry out surveillance or policing of families; poor or working class families are more likely to be seen as problem families
  •  Condry notes how parents of badly behaved children may be issued with a parenting order and forced to attend classes to learn the correct way to raise their children
  •  Even policies which appear to benefit the workers actually benefit those in power, or have been won as concessions to prevent workers from rebelling 

Recent Social Policy Announcements

  •  Same sex marriage 2014
  •  Free school meals
  •  Married couple tax breaks
  •  Grandmother maternity leave
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New Right Views on Social Policy and the Family

  •   Argues that governments weaken the family`s self-reliance by providing generous benefits
  • ·  Charles Murray believes recent government policy has damaged the ideal nuclear family, benefits create Underclass
  •  The New Right also argue that recent policy has encouraged mothers to return to work, and consequently, children may be damaged by this
  •  The New Right argues that contraception and abortion means women have less commitment to family life
  • They feel divorce is too easy and a rise in lone parent families leads to a dependency culture and other serious problems

Evidence of social policies which do not support the traditional nuclear family

  •   Civil partnership 2004
  •   Same sex marriage 2014
  •   Working family tax credit
  •  Divorce law reform act
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Feminist Views on Social Policy and the Family

  • Laws and policies assume a woman should take the ‘expressive` role within the family, taking responsibility for childcare and domestic tasks
  •  Hilary Land argues that social policies often assume the ideal family is the patriarchal nuclear family
  • Courts also assume women should have custody of children in divorce cases
  •  Leonard says even policies which appear to support women may reinforce patriarchal family, e.g. maternity leave
  •  Johnson argues that school is organised in such a way that it is hard for single parents and dual income families to combine work and parenthood
  •  However, there is evidence of an individualistic gender regime in social policies
  •   Eileen Owen argues that policies on homosexuality do not make assumptions about the roles of men and women, and they accept diversity of family life

Social Policy that does benefit Women

  •  Divorce Law Reform act
  •  Equal Pay act
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