Stacey: the divorce-extended family
Stacey argues that greater choice has benefited women. It has enabled them to free themselves from patriarchal oppression and to shape their family arrangements to meet their needs.
Stacey studied some postmodern families and found that women rather that men have been the main agents of changes in the family. Many of the women she interviewed had rejected the traditional housewife-mother role.
One of the new family structures Stacey calls the 'divorce-extended family' whose members are connected by divorce rather than marriage. The key members are usually female and may include former in-laws.
Morgan argues that it is pointless trying to make large-scale generalisations about the family. Instead sociologists should give more attention to how people create their own diverse family lives and practices.
Weeks: the growing acceptance of diversity
Jeffery Weeks (2000) identifies a long-term shift in attitudes since the 1950s. Over this period sexual mortality has become largely a matter of personal choice. There is a growing acceptance of sexual and family diversity, especially by the under 35s. Attitudes have become more favourable towards issues such as cohabitation and homosexuality.
Weeks observes that despite these changing attitudes, family patterns continue to be fairly traditional.
Weeks argues that sexual and family diversity are now an undeniable and widely accepted fact. Although the new right continue to oppose diversity, Weeks sees them as fighting a losing battle.
Functionalism perspectives on the family
Functionalists see society as built on harmony and consensus and free from major conflict. Functionalists see policies as helping families to perform their functions more effectively and make life better.
Ronald Fletcher (1966) argues that the introduction of heath, education and housing policies in the years since the industrial revolution has generally led to the development of a welfare state that supports the family in performing its functions more effectively.
The functionalists view has been criticised on two main counts:
-It assumes that all members of the family benefit from social policies, whereas feminists argue that policies often benefit men at the expense of women.
-It assumes that there is a 'march of progress' with social policies steadily making family life better and better, whereas Marxists argue that policies can also turn the clock back and reverse progress previously made, for example by cutting welfare benefit to poor families.