Sociology AS - Unit 1 The Family

This is my revision for unit 1 in the family, this got me an A in my exam. I hope it helps; i made it as simple, easy and cut down as possible while still having all of the information. 

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Murdock - 4 Functions 

  • Sexual - provides a stable sexual relationship, controls these relationships.
  • Economic - family pools resources and provides for all members
  • Reproductive - provides new babies (members of society)
  • Educational - teaches children norms and values
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Parsons - 2 Functions

  • Primary Socialisation - teaches the norms and values of society
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities - the emotional relationships of parents gives them support they need to cope with stress; its a sanctuary.

AO2 - Stabilisation of adult personalities; it is not always a sanctuary, it ignores things like domestic/child abuse therefore may increase stress.

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Functions according to Marxists - 

  • Justify capitalism and inequalities to children.
  • Teaches capitalist ideologies
  • Create a unit of production and consumption
  • Provide new members which then become a workforce for the future.
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New Right

New Right's opinion on family


  • Rise in lone parent and gay families
  • Fatherless families
  • Higher divorce rates 


  • Lack of traditional values
  • Overgenerous welfare
  • feminism


  • Family not performing functions
  • Problems with education and crime
  • Welfare dependency 
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Feminst theories on the family

  • Delphy and Leonard - most domestic work done by females while men recieve benefits
  • Wives provide more emotional support than men
  • Women work part time if at all, therefore economically dependent on men
  • Men make final decisions and in charge of finances. Domestic violence is evident
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Social Policy

Social Policy

1990 - Conservative Government

  • preferred 2 parent nuclear family
  • 1991 - child support act - absent fathers must pay
  • 1996 - Family law act - 1 yr period before divorce (not brought in)

1997 - Labour Government

  • no preference but thought that 'marriage is surest foundation for kids'
  • New Deal - single parents must attend annual interviews about job opportunities
  • Child benefit increased by 26% between 1997 - 2001
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Pre-industrial Families

  • Cottage Industry - family is main unit of production
  • Extended family; multi functional - economic, political and educational.
  • Kinship based society - families are closely linked and marriage is important
  • Ascribed status - born with it
  • Achieved status - earn and work for it. 
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Industrialisation studies

Parsons - nuclear is typical now; industrialisation led to isolated nuclear; extended is not geographically mobile; relationship with family is now choice not obligation.

Laslett - only 10% was extended 1564 - 1821; used parish records; research based on households not communities (not all extended families lived in same house); nuclear has always been the norm. 

Anderson - industrialisation encouraged extended; people moved from rural to urban where the jobs were (had to move in with family in city); relied on family for childcare, health support and financial support.

Oakley - women were employed; threat to mens employment; somebody had to look after the kids and house so the job fell to women as they are 'more caring' and earn less.


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Young and Wilmott

Young and Wilmott on Industrialisation

Stage 1 - family was main production unit

Stage 2 - family was no longer economy of own; taken over by industry. Men were out of home and the family were torn apart

Stage 3 - Nuclear; home centred and symmetrical. Family ideas developed in middle class and spread to working class

Stage 4 - Upper class set family trends, survery of managing direction (upper/middle class so biased). Husbands work and women stay home - trend not symmetrical

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Fall in Marriage

Marriage Rate Dropping Due to:

  • contraception (less pressure to marry)
  • Costs more now to marry
  • Feminism
  • Norms and values changing
  • Individualism (Beck and Beck Gernsheim)
  • Decline in religion
  • Economic independence for women
  • Law changes (women can own property etc.)
  • Less stigma for cohabitation,single parents etc.
  • Confluent love (Giddens)
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Cohabitation rise due to:

  • Try before you buy - good idea?
  • Feminism
  • Decline in religion
  • Cost of marriage risen
  • Divorce - if divorced then more likely to cohabit than remarry
  • Contraception - can live together without pregnancy fear
  • Less stigma attached
  • Changing norms and values
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Divorce Rates risen due to:

  • higher expectations of marriage
  • divorce reform act (1969)
  • Giddens - confluent love
  • Matrimonial family proceedings act
  • Individualism (Beck and Beck Gernsheim)
  • Dual Burden/triple shift
  • Availability of divorce - internet...
  • Decline in religion
  • No pressure to stay in empty shell marriages
  • Feminism
  • Changing norms and values
  • Law made it easier to divorce
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Division of Labour

Domestic Division

Young and Wilmott - stated that house work roles were becoming similar

Allan and Crow - dual burden/triple shift. Women do housework, paid work and emotional work

Oakley - stated that there is a clear divison of labour along gender lines; wives said kids and housework was their responsibility

Devine - women remain responsible for childcare and housework and husbands help them

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Division of Labour

Emotional Division

Duncombe and Marsden - women complained of mens emotional distance, women provide assurance and sympathy while men had issues expressing emotion

Charles and Kerr - women gave priority to men and childrens food tastes, shows that women are more nurturing

Duncome and Marsden (allan and crow) - found that many women complained of having to cope with triple shift

Refers to love, sympathy, understanding and praise;emotional work is gendered.

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Division of Labour

Family Finances

Pahl - families use different money management systems and some men even allocate a housekeeping allowance. Men usually come out on top

Vogler and Pahl - trend towards greater equality in access and control of family finances

This control depends on women not working, or working part time. Whichever partner earns the most gets the most say in decision making in relation to money

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Division of Labour

Decision Making

Edgell - wives dominate in three areas; interior design; childrens clothes; spending on food.  Men had main say in moving house; buying a car; which bank to use; which political party to vote for

Non-decisions - taken for granted that females look after children; this is due to societys norms and values; other tasks such as washing and cleaning are seen as female

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Death Rate

Death Rate decreasing due to:

  • better medical care
  • better sanitation and hygiene
  • clean water
  • NHS - free healthcare
  • pensions, money to live off
  • better living conditions
  • better education
  • welfare state
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Birth Rate

Birth Rate Decreasing due to:

  • children not needed for workers
  • compulsory education (cant have kids young)
  • feminism
  • availability of abortion/contraception
  • cost of children
  • changing priorities (Sharpe)
  • Norms and Values
  • Having babies later if at all
  • illness meaning cant have children
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Welfare view - children are vulnerable and need protecting e.g. child protection act, child abuse, sex offenders register, under 18's work hours, compulsory education, raising school leaving age

Control View - children are unable to control anti-social tendencies, need regulation and social control. e.g. school leaving age, police, youth groups (informal control), minimum age for alcohol and cigarettes and gambling etc. 

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Lee - age of uncertainty

Adults were previously stable and complete, children were the opposite

In 21st century growing up is no longer a journey because adults are unstable themselves

Adults are becoming more like children and vice versa; both are in a state of uncertainty

Both are redefining their new identities as unstable, there are now new social constructs of the childhood

Children are now beings in their own right; young adults

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Aries and *******

Aries used paintings to decide that children were sent to work as soon as they were big enough to walk and talk. 

******* SAID ******** TO ARIES!! 

******* said it couldn't be determined from paintings as they were subjective and open to interpretation. Children were not sent off to work immediately. 

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Postman - disappearing childhood

childhood can only be possible if they are protected from the adult world; the media has brought the adult world into childhood (teen idols etc.)

Boundaries between adult and child worlds are disappearing, meaning the childhood will end

AO2 - Buckingham; criticises Postman for overstating his case, childhood is not really disappearing but children are becoming an economic force to be reckoned with.

AO2 - Hood Williams supports Buckingham; children are consumers, no longer needed for production so they are only consumers, kids take all the money.

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Demographic trends

Life Expectancy

More money - less poverty

Pensions/welfare states

Better healthcare and NHS

Nutrition and Living Standards

More money (minimum wage)

Better education, more healthy living, 5 a day

Average income increased

Better sanitation and cleanliness

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Demographic trends

Population Increase

Lack of contraceptives in LEDC's

Better medical care so more kids survive gestation and labour

Introduction of IVF

Family Size

No pressure to have large family

More single parents so can't reproduce

Less time to have children


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  • minimum wage/ child benefits (more money)
  • divorce reform act (1969)
  • matrimonial family proceedings act (1984)
  • Child protection act
  • Compulsory education (19th cent)
  • Family Law act (1996)
  • Gay marriage (2013) and civil partnership act (2005)
  • Equal Pay act/Sex discrimination act
  • Law to stop kids working in factories (19th cent)
  • Under 18's work hours/raising school leaving age to 18
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