Sociology: Diversity (1.6)

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Modernism and the Nuclear Family

  • Fuctionalism and New right are modernists.
  • Modern society is fixed.
  • Nuclear family helps peform functions.
  • E.g. Primary socialisation of children and stable adult personas.
  • E.g. Parsons: Functional fit in modern society. Nuclear family helps a sociallygeographical work force.
  • Other families are abnormal, can't peform functions.


  • Anti-femenists and oppose diversity.
  • Agree with functionalists, one family type.
  • Support patriarchal, separated nuclear family.
  • See all this as natural/biological differences.
  • See family diversity reason for social problems.
  • E.g. Crime and educational failure.
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New Right

  • Lone-Parent families - Unnatural, harms children. Mothers can't discipline children, burden welfare state, no male role model.
  • Mothers shouldn't work but nurture family.
  • Marriage is vital for child stablility, cohabitation and divorce ruins this.
  • Family breakdowns in marriage is less than cohabitation.
  • New right say breakdwons effect child into poverty, education failure and crime.
  • Say traditional values like marriage will help the damage to children.
  • Critics say marriage isn't only solution but commitment.
  • Oppose welfare state.
  • Burdens working populations.
  • It goes against traditional values of man working to support family.
  • Encourage dependency culture.


  • Femenists oppose biological differences theory. Cross cultural differences show variation in roles.
  • Femenists say Nuclear family is oppressive and keeps them financially dependent.
  • Little evidence for lone parents being in dependency culture and child differences.
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Chester: Neo Conventional Family

  • Knows increase in diversity
  • Not big or negative.
  • Change from Conventional/traditional to Neo-Conventional family.
  • Conventional = Nuclear family with it's inequality.
  • Neo-Conventional = dual earning/working couples and equality.
  • Many divorced, widows, Unmarried may have once been part of Nuclear family.
  • Statistics are misleading, people may change all the time.


  • Many live in a household headed by married couple.
  • Adults still marry and have children.
  • Marriage continues till death, divorcees remarry.
  • Cohabitation increase = root to marriage.
  • Birth out of marriage have increased but both partners are committed.
  • Many still aspire to have nuclear family.
  • Family diversity extent is exaggerated.
  • Both spouses are breadwinners and instrumental.
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Rapoport: 5 types of Diversity.

  • Say society is more plural/more diverse with different needs and wishes.
  • Says Diversity is important for understanding family life today, there are different types of diversity.
    • Ways in which families are organised, e.g. some are joint conjugal/segregating.
    • Relgion and ethnicity, e.g. Afro-carribeans families are female headed.
    • Income differences.
    • Reached a certain life cycle, e.g. Newlywed, just had child, widows etc.
    • Older/young differ in attitudes, e.g. diff views on divorce/cohabitation.


  • This is what holds families together, today this isn't law, relgion or tradition but instead individual choice and equality. It exists in society to satisfy each partners' needs.
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Post Modernism and Femenism

  • Reject Modernist structural and one family dominance.
  • Femenists and Personal life.
  • Modernists ignore individual social actors thinking, needs are dictated by society and the fact were have more choice of relationship. Too much diversity means there's no 'best' type.
  • Diversity is a good thing with freedom of choice.
  • More self interest than duty to others.
  • Contraception = Sex and intimacy instead of reproduction.
  • Couples stay together regardless of reproduction.
  • Individuals have more freedom and can choose own life course.
  • But these relationships may break up due to instability.


  • More choice and equality between men and women because of contraception and more women independence through femenism.
  • We now live in a risk society, more fluid and free.
  • Supports the individualisation thesis, which says social structures such as class, gendder and family has lost their influence over us and people lives used to be based on fixed roles.
  • Now people have free roles.
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Post Modernism and Femenism:


  • We live in a risk society with less tradition and more choice.
  • But this is risky, as families maybe unstable compared to the nuclear, instrumental and breadwinner family.
  • The Patriarchal family has been undermined by 2 reasons.
    • Greater gender equality - Challenged male domination in everything, women now equal at home and work.
    • Greater individualism - Peoples actions are influenced by calculations of their own self interest than by a sense of obligations.
  • These trends have replaced the Patriarchal nuclear family.
  • But the negotiated family in unstable, people can leave, increasing lone-parent families.
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Post Modernism and Femenism:


  • More freedom has benefitted women. 
  • Free from oppression.
  • Women have major impacted family than men.
  • Women created new types of family compared to their needs, e.g. they work, reject housewife role, return the education.
  • May create a new family structure known as the Divorce extended family where family members include former in-laws e.g. mother in laws or a man's ex wife.


  • Giddens and Beck agree that more individual choice effects family and households.
  • Argues that the taditional social structures like class, gender and family have lost it's influence over us. 
  • People used to be defined by fixed roles.especial gender roles after marriage.
  • Individualisation thesis = we are now more free from traditional roles and structures.
  • Leaving us with more freedom on how we live our lives.
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The Personal life Perspective:

  • Agree there is more diversity but disagree with Giddens and Beck explanation of it.
  • They criticise the individualisation thesis.
  • It exaggerates how much choice people have in relationship today.
  • They take a neoliberal ideology as if they have complete freedom when traditional norms that limit relationships still exist.
  • Also the thesis wrongly sees people as free floating independent individuals ignoring the fact our decisions on personal relationships are made via social context.
  • Individualisation thesis ignores structural factors like social class inequalities and patriarchal gende norms in limiting and shaping our relationship choices.
  • Giddens and Beck see an individual idealised as a white middle class man as they ignore the fact everyone doesn't have the same ability as this privilidged group.
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The Personal life Perspective:


  • Alternative to individualisation thesis.
  • Instead of seeing us as isolation individuals with limitless choices, Smart says we are social beings with choices made within a web of connectedness.
  • Connectedness thesis we live within a netwrok of existing relationships and interwoven pesonal histories  which influeces our range of opitions and choice in relationship.
  • Basically wider structures in society limit our choice and diversity.
  • Class and gender structure limits our choice, e.g. after divorce, gender norms give women custody which limits thei chance of forming new relationships
  • Men are better paid than women and have more choice in relationships.
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The Personal life Perspective:


  • Beck and Giddens say how traditional structures like class, gender and family have weakened. 
  • may says these structures haven't disappeared, e.g. women in th past 150 years have got the right to vote, divorse, education and work doesn't mean they have it all.
  • But although women can take mascuiline roles they have to be heterosexual.
  • This makes lesbians more closet, limiting their choice and lifestyle.
  • Personal life keep emphasises is the importance of structural factors  like patriarchy and inequaltiy limits peoples choices.
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