Sociology - Family

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  • Created on: 17-05-14 14:02

Nuclear Family

Murdock (1949) - "social group defined by common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction... adults of both sexes... socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children, own or adopted of the sexually cohabitating adults."

Nuclear family - Stereotypical two generation family = heterosexual couple + dependent offspring. This definition = popular with politicians + ring-wing sociologists - nuclear = ideal family

Characteristics:

  • Small + compact + composed of mother, father + 2/3 biologically related children.
  • Type of household + share residence
  • Heterosexual relationship + romantic love - children = outcome of love + symbol of commitment
  • Relationship should be reinforced by marriage = encourages fidelity (faithful) + stability
  • Marriage + companionate = partners
  • Roles = natural
  • Sexual division of labour with regard to domestic labour - mother = nurturing role - father = breadwinner
  • Family = first - Kinship = important
  • Family = positive + beneficial instition + provide nurturing, unconditional love + care
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Extended Family

Contains kin beyond nuclear family - through vertical/horizontal extensions = e.g. grandparents or wife's sister

Most dominant family type of family in various stages in the past - people = heavily reliant on family members - support  + when home was also workplace

Young + Willmott (1973) - family structures developed through 4 stages = changing from extended to nuclear with the process of industrialisation = needs of society at the time

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The Importance of the Extended family

Willmott (1988) - North London Suburbs = even when people did not live close to kin - still had lots of contact + support

The British Social Attitude Survey

- McGlone et al (1996) = in 1990s contact with relatives = frequent + extended families = important source of support, i.e. practical tasks - helping with jobs, emotional support, illness or financial need

- Park et al (2001) = extended kin contact, survey asked adults over 18 how often they saw close relatives - more than 1/2 saw mum once a week or more - over 2/5s saw dad frequently - less likely to see siblings - siblings = more likely to live further away than other relatives

Brannen (2003) - grandparents = important role - looking after children, financial support, relationship still maintained strong even after divorce

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Households

Household = dwelling where one or more persons live

Does not necessarily contain family members, could be students, single person, etc.

Heath (2004) - growing pheonomenon of young adults living in shared households and forming relationships = not family relationships - but more than shared households

Roseneil + Budgeon (2004) - families of choice

Heath and Cleaver (2003) - shared living arrangements of young people - household sociability + intertwined lives + people enjoyed spending time together in shared living rooms + socialised together outside the home + in shared leisure - Sociability = key feature + relationships = valued

Heath - sharing households blurs the usual boundaries of expectations that usually go with friendships - 'inner circle' of housemates if different to the 'outer circle' - e.g. sharing clothes + ceeing each other with little clothing

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Functionalism and the social structure of the fami

Nuclear family = influenced by functionalism - dominated thinking of the family

Functionalism = structural theory - social structure of society is responsible for shaping individuals - Functionalists are interested in how the family functions benefit society + how this maintains order + how the family operates in conjunction with other institutions - particularly, the economy, how relationships contribute to social solidarity + how benefits individuals

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The pre-industrial extended family

Parsons (1965) - trace the historical developments on how the nuclear family became dominant - theory focused on the influence of industrialisation + economy on family structures + relationships

- economic systems of pre-industrial societies = based on extended kinship networks - extended family = responsible for production of food, shelter, clothing + trade with others - Home + workplace = same thing

- Roles in family = ascription (not achievement) - the family you were born into - roles would be passed down through the generations  + few members would reject their roles - due to obligation + duty to the family + community = key values of pre-inductrial society

- In return for commitment - extended family performed other functions for its members:

  •  provided skills + education - take place in family division of labour - socialisation wasn't literacy/numeracy
  • maintained health - although constant struggle - e.g. low life expectancy + high infant mortality rates
  •  Provided welfare - e.g. older members and children would be looked after
  • Pursue justice - any wronged member of family
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The evolution of nuclear family

Parsons - industrial revolution brought about fundamental changes to family

  • Geographically mobile workforce - achievement = more important than ascription - mass education, people = less likely to defer to elders/ feel strong sense of obligation to stay near kin - Parsons = nuclear familes formed when people moved away from extended in countryside = more employment in towns
  • Isolation - relatives = less reliant on kin for economic/social support - Parsons = nuclear family members = more dependent + focused on each other + home-centered + less pressure from kin
  • Specialised agencies - taking over from functions of family - Parsons = structural differentiation. E.g. familes = buy food/clothes from mass produced factories,  home + workplace = separate - welfare state = education, health + welfare - family = primary socialisation + stabilisation of adult personality + family unit = effective + streamlines unit to contribute to economy
  • New nuclear unit = very clear social roles = male - 'instrumental leader', e.g. breadwinner + women - 'expressive leader', e.g. mother+ housewife - Roles = natural + based on biological differences - e.g. women = maternal instincts, nurturing, emotional support, etc - Relationship between husband + wife = complementary = each contributing to maintanence of family in different ways
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Criticisms of Parsons theory

Far too simplistic + industrialisation may follow different patterns in different industrial societies - E.g. Japan = stressed importance of job for life + workmates = extended family  + duty + obligation = important values - peers influenced peers + isolated nuclear family = not significant

Laslett (1972) - 10% of households in pre-industrial period = extended kin - may have been nuclear = late marriage, early death, children sent away to be servants - industrialisation = fast - families moved where the skills were needed

Criticism of Laslett = unreliable - no real insight into quality of family life (e.g. experiences + meanings)

Anderson (1971) - Preston - After industrialisation - family = extended = functioned as mutual economic support system  - in town where unemployment + poverty = common

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Evolution of extended and nuclear families

Young + Willmott (1957) - (unlike Parsons) move towards nuclear = less sudden, but gradual - their empirical research = 1950s East end of London - extended families = large numbers even at advanced stage of industrialisation  - extended kinship network = based upon emotional attachment, obligation, mutual support network, assistance with money/jobs/childcare/advice.

Young + Willmott (1973) - extended family - declined in 1960s when working class communities were rehoused in new towns/council estates + welfare state + full employment =  young working class men - more opportunities + qualifications (1944 education act) = less likely to follow fathers into manual labour + Social mobility - white collar+professional jobs = geographically mobile workforce = less frequent contact with kin

Conclusion - nuclear-symmetrical family = universal norm in UK in late 20th century.

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Marxist Views

Critical of functionalist view - nuclear family serves the interests of the working class = promotes capitalist views + discourages criticism of inequality

Nuclear family = ideological apparatus that promotes values - essential to the maintenance + reproduction od capitalism - working class remain ignorant of exploitation

E.g. nuclear family encourages members - capitalist-friendly goals, i.e. materialism, consumerism

Marcuse (1964) - working class = encouraged to pursue 'false needs' - e.g. lastest consumer goods - served the interests of capitalism rather than consumers = stimulated the economy + distracted workers from seeking equality + justice

Marxists - working class extended family  - deliberately discouraged by capitalist ruling class = emphasis on mutual support system + collective shared action - encourages memebers to be aware of social class position = inequality

Class conciousness = threatening - challenge wealth + power of capitalist class

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Marxist-feminist views

Sceptical about Parsons' claim = nuclear family meets the needs of industrial society

Nuclear family benefits capitalist society + bourgeoisie - at expense of working class

Contribution to domestic labour - housework = unpaid but adds great value to capitalist economy - capitalism exploits women + men benefit from this exploitation

Benston (1972) - nuclear family = important to capitalism - rears future workforce at little cost to state - women's domestic labour = help to maintain workforce (physically + mentally) + reserve army of labour, hired cheaply as part-time workers, i.e. in economic expansion - directly exploit women's domestic labour, hiring nannies, cleaners + cooks = wealthy (of both sexes) can pursue careers

Nuclear family = useful to capitalism + men - emotionally supportive retreat for male workers - frustrated with treatment in the workplace - focus on comfortable home + good standard of living = distracts workers from workplace problems + reduce possibility of unrest

However, some men may take their frustration out on women, e.g. domestic violence

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Radical Feminist views

Main effect of industrialisation = women - excluded from paid work (e.g. independent income) = redefined as mothers/housewives = dependent on family + by male breadwinner

Men = dominate paid work + political + cultural power - women = confined to family + exploited + oppressed by men

Emergence of modern nuclear family = meets needs of men + not all members of society

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Marriage

1972 - highest ever no. of couples (480,000) since WW2 got married

ONS - babyboom generation of 1950s = reaching manageable age + choosing to marry at younger age - BUT annual no. of marriages = decline - all time low in 2005 - 244,710

1994 - 11.4, 2004 - 10.3, The male rate decline from 36.3 - 27.8 + female 30.6 - 24.6 + only 32% of marriages in 2004 were religious, compared to 51% in 1991

Berthoud (2000) 3/4 of Pakistani + Bangladeshi women = married by 25, compared to 1/2 with white women + British-African-Caribbeans = group least likely to get married - 39% of under 60 = formal marriage, compared to 60% white adults

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The Future of marriage

New Right = concerned by decline in marriage, Morgan (2000) = marriage involves 'unique attachments + obligations relating to people's behabiour, E.g. married men = more likely to be employed than unmarried/cohabitating men + earn more ( 10/20% more in 2001) - work harder

ONS (2007) - marriage = good for health of couples + live longer - However, Murphy (2007) - bad relationships, not divorce that makes people unhappy + ill

Fears about marriage = exaggerated

  • Delay in marriage not rejecting, average age for 1st brides = 29 (2003) + 31 for men, compared to 1971, women = 22 + men = 24 - develop careers + enjoy independence
  • British Social Attitudes survey = marriage = desirable + having children is better in marriage
  • 2/5 marriages = remarriages - commited to marriage despite previous negative experience
  • married couples = main type of partnership for men + women in UK, in 2005 - 7/10 families had a married couple

Wilkinson (1994) - female attitudes = radical change/'genderquake' - females put career + education 1st

Smith (2001) - marriage = unrealistic expectations about monogamy - new partners = new things

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Cohabitation

Cohabitating couples = risen from 11% men + 13% women in 1986 to 24% men + 25% women

2007 - ONS = fastest growing family type in UK - around 2.2 million families =cohabitating couple + family type has grown by 65% since 1997 + data may be low - ONS didn't include same-sex couples - ONS predict by 2014 = married couples = less than 1/2 of British families + 1/3 of teenagers in 2007 = destine to cohabitate/ not marry, compared to 1/10 grandparents

New Right = cohabitation = less stable than marriage - Morgan (2000) - cohabitating couples = less happy + less fulfilled than married couples + more likely to be abusive, unfaithful, stressed, depressed

2007 - ONS = Murphy = children whose parents live together = get worse results at school, leave education earlier, higher risk of developing illness

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Is cohabitation replacing marriage?

Few people see cohabitation as replacing marriage - cohabitating couples = younger + testing compatibility + prelude to marriage

Kiernan (2007) - difficult to generalise cohabitating couples - those about to marry, oppose marriage, testing strength of relationship = more socially acceptable + education + health disadvantages (by ONS study) = cohabitating couples = more likely to be socially disadvantaged + poor in the 1st place

Temporary phase, lasting on average 5 years + 60% of cohabitating couples = will marry, usually after 1st child

In 1960s - cohabitating = immoral + cohabitating couples without children = 10% of households in 2006

Living together, waiting for a divorce - 2005 - 23% of cohabitating men = separated from prevous partner + 36% = divorced

Marriage = main cultural goal for most people in UK

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Types of marital breakdown

Divorce = legal ending of marriage - Divorce Reform Act 1969 = divorce = granted when there is an 'irretrievable breakdown' + since 1984 - couples = able to get divorce after 1st anniversary + 'quickie' divorces are available but expensive

Separation - couples agree to live apart + when divorce is too expensive, separation is an option

Empty-shell marriages - husband + wife stay together in name only + may no longer be intimacy/love between them - may continue for sake of children/religion

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Divorce Rate

Uk = high divorce rate - 1938 = 6,000 divorces, in 1993 = 180,000 - nearly half as many divorces as marriages + 40% of marriages will end in divorce

New Right = symptoms to show serious crisis in the family - divorce = easily available = people are not commited to marriage + family  - see link between divorce, one-parent families, antisocial behaviour among young - argue for return to traditional family values + toughening divorce laws

New Right - children whose parents have divorced = prone to crime + unemployment + divorce when older - Rodgers + Pryor (1998) - children from separated families = suffer behavioural problems, unachieve, sexually active, become pregnant early, smoke, drink, use drugs + poverty

Flouri + Bouchanan (2002) - 17,000 children from separated families = fathers = still involved with children - children = more successful at school + opportunities + less likely to get into trouble, commit crime, become homeless + enojoy stable relationships - BUT - conflict continued after divorce with parents, children = vulnerable + mental health problems

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Why is divorce rate increasing?

Functionalists = high divorce rates = marriage is increasingly valued + people = demanding higher standards from partners + couples = no longer prepared to put up with un-happy marriages - people want emotional/sexual compatibility + equality - some = willing to get through a no. of partners

Feminists = women's expectations of marriage = radically changed, in 1990s - most divorce petitions = initiated by women + Thornes + Collard (1979)  = women expect more than men - value friendship, emotional gratification more than men - women will look elsewhere

Women's expectations = changed - improved educational/career opportunities since 1980s + women = no longer unhappily married - not financially dependent on husband. - Hart (1976) = divorce = reaction to frustration of many working wives = responsible for housework + childcare + tensions between men + women, if women takes breadwinner role, especially when man = unemployed

Divorce = no longer stigma/shame + decline in religious practises + social controls, e.g. extended families + close knit communities = exerted pressure on couples to stay together + divorce = labelled as 'wicked'/'shameful' - society = dominated by privatised nuclear families - divorce = happiness - escaping abusive relationship

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Postmodern approaches to divorce

Beck + Beck-Gernsheim (1995) = rising divorce rates = product of rapidly changing world - traditional rules, rituals, traditions of love, romance, relationships = no more - World = characterised by individualism, choice + conflict

  • Individualism = under less pressure to conform  - freedom to pursue individual goals
  • Choice = cultural/economic changes - lifestyle + living arrangements
  • Conflict = more potential antagonism between men + women - selfishness (e.g. marriage)

Beck + Beck-Gernsheim - characteristics of modern world - personal relationships between men + women = battleground - BUT - positive about future - people want to find love = cope with risk, rapidly changing world + compensate for stress of world - love - 1 thing people feel = real  - divorce + marriage = people still have the faith to find true love

Divorce trends suggest that monogamy - replaced by serial monogamy

However - New Right divorce = exaggerated - although 4/10 marriages end in divorce - 6/10 will succeed + 75% of children live with both natural parents (married)

Society places a high value on marriage + the family

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Single-parent families

1961 - 2%, 2005 - 7%, Approx. 1.75 million lone parents in Britain = 23% of all families + 26% of U19s live in one-parent family + 90% of one-parent families = headed by women, most = exmarried or excohabitees - Fastest growing group of lone-parent families = never married/cohabitated, Haskey = 26% of all single mothers in 2002 - Most single mothers = not teenagers (only 3% of lone parents = teenagers) - average age = 34

Ford + Millar (1998) = lone parenthood - seen by some as 2nd rate + imperfect family types + reflecting selfish choices of adults against children - E.g. New Right = connection between lone parent families, underachievement + delinquency, lack of self-discipline, emotionally disturbed - due to lack of father figure - Concerned about cost to state - Public expenditure on these families = increased 4x in 1990s - State offers perverse incentives (e.g. council houses + benefits)

- Poor quality of life = in poverty, debt, material hardship + protect children not themselves + single women with poor socio-economic status = high unemployment, more likely to become single mums + motherhood = desired goal + rational response - see family life as most important thing in life

Feminists = ideology that nuclear family = ideal + leads to negative labelling by authoritative people + single parents = scapegoated for cimer + underachievement - due to poverty

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Reconstituted family

Divorced/widowed people who have remarried + children from previous relationship

Increase due to the rise in divorce rates, 2003 - 726,000 children = living in this family type

Unique = children have close ties with other natural parent + often experience co-parenting, some family experts see this as binuclear families = one family system

De'ath and Slater (1992) = step-parenting = no. of challenges - children may find themselves pulled in 2 different directions + whether child excepts newcome to family + if relationship = strained+ if new relationship = new children - causing tension, envy + conflict

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Single-person households

More than 6.5 million people live on their own - 3 times as many as 4 years ago - in 2005, 29% of households = one person

Increase in elderly single person = longer life expectancy + ageing population

Increase in young single person = 15% of households in 2005

Explanations includes:

  • Emancipation of women - more female career opportunities + financial independence + some opting for voluntary childlessness
  • Expansion of higher education - most people go to University - delays careers + 'settling down'
  • Changes in attitudes/priorities - marrying later and have other priorities, e.g. education - E.g. Sharpe (1994) - 1970s equal marriage first - 1990s careers first
  • Increase in divorce - creating single people

For some young people singlehood is only a temporary phase, until they find a relationship and nuclear family

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Beanpole families

Brannen (2003) - ageing population + emancipation of women = decline in fertility + emergence of 4 generation families  - less likely to experience horizontal ties (e.g. fewer aunts, uncles + cousins)

- More likely to experience vertical ties  - grandparents + great-grandparents

- Pivot generation = increasingly in demand to provide for both generations

E.g. 20% of 50/60 year olds = care for elderly person + 10% care for both an elderly relative + grandchildren

Services = based on reciprocrity - provision of babysitters = people will help older generations when they are unable to look after themselves

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