Sociology Gent



  • Increased since the 60's
  • 40% of marriages end in divorce
  • 70% divorces from women

Couples who are more likely to Divorce

  • married young
  • working class
  • divorced parents
  • child before marriage
  • cohabit before marriage
  • one/both remarrying
  • class/eth/rel differences
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Divorce 2

Reasons for increase in Divorce

  • Changes in law- 49/69/85
  • Declining stigma and changing attitudes
  • Overloading Marriage - pressure
  • Secularisation - decline in the influence of the church
  • Higher Expectations of marriage - Functionalist (Fletcher 66)
  • Changes in womens position - Feminism
  • Patriarchy - Feminism
  • Individualisation
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Divorce 3 - Theories

What about the theories?


FEMINIST = POSITIVE (Divorce gives women the opportunity to escape patriarchal marriages)


POST MOD = CHOICES (Don't mind as long as people have choices)


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Marriage 1

Why are fewer people marrying for the first time?

  • Changing attitudes towards marriage
  • Secularisation
  • Declining stigma attatched to FD
  • Fear of Divorce

Why is there an increase in remarriage?

  • Increase in divorce
  • Institution of marriage remains popular- Functionalist (Fletcher)
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Marriage 2

Why are more people marrying later?

  • Postponement of marriage
  • Cohabitation

Why are couples less likely to marry in church?

  • Secularisation
  • churches may not marry divorcees
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Marriage 3- Theories

What the theories think about marriage decreasing





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Domestic Division of Labour

Traditional Functionalists - Parsons 55

- Segregated conjugual roles in traditional N.F

1. Instrumental role- men - breadwinner

2. Expressive role- women- housewife/carer

- Biologically natural and just 

- Functionally makes sense 

! Outdated view 

Fem- division of labour not natual it is a social construction                                                                                

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Domestic Division of Labour 2

Modern Functionalists- Wilmott and Young 73

- Joint conjugual roles - symmerty family

- Woment work more/ Men help with house and kids


1. New technology- labour saving devices

2. Geographical mobility- N.F move to find work etc

3. Greater affluence- home = more attractive to men

! Rose tinted specs/ over positive

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Domestic Division of Labour 3

Modern Feminists- Oakley 74

- Family not symmetrical- myth

- Husband may help but won't take responsibilty

! W+Y research is methologically sloppy

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Domestic Division of Labour 4

Recent Empirical Evidence- Sullivan 2000

- Positive view like willmot and young

- Family is becoming more symmetrical


1. shifting social attitudes

2. No of women working has increased

3. Commercialisation of housework

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Domestic Division of Labour 5

Recent Feminists

- Family is still patriarchal

- Dual Burden- unpaid housework and paid employment

- Triple Shift (Duncombe and Marsden 95)- unpaid housework, paid employment and caring

! Marxist- class

! Sexual differences

! Studies are often methodologically flawed

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Feminist- Barrett and McIntosh 91                                                 

 1. financial support men give women is often worth less than the domestic labour they do                    

 2. financial support is often unpredictable and comes with 'strings attatched'                           

- Deny their needs and put kids and husbands first (especially low income families)

 - Women separated from husbands and on benefits often better off financially

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Resources 2

Decision making- who decides on what in the family.            

Edgell 80

Very Important Decisions- Men

Important Decisions- Joint

Unimportant Decsions- Women


1. Men earn more

2. Patriarchy

3. Enforced through domestic violence or threat of it.

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Domestic Violence

Feminists - Mirlees - Black 99

  • 6.6m assaults per year
  • Gendered problem 95% men on women
  • 1/4 women are assulted by partners
  • Violence common towards kids and elderly

! Sizes of problem underestimated

! Victims don't report

! Police/CPS don't take it seriously

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Domestic Violence 2

Dobash and Dobash 79 Radical Feminist

  • Patriarchy
  • woman not performing her role to mans satisfaction
  • woman challenging his authority

Wilkinson 96 health sociologist

  • Stresses of modern world lead to domestic violence (social inequality)

Ansley 93 Marxist Feminist

  • Exploitation and oppression of capitalism for men leads to domestic violence
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Social Policy

  • Acts of parliament, laws passed by the government
  • Department for children, families and schools Michael Gove (mp)

1. State pensions- raised pension age

2. Divorce laws- 1969 and legal aid being cut

3. Labour laws- working

4. Schooling- raised participation age

5. Contraception/abrotion- easier

6. Child benefits- capped benefits

7. Child protection laws

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Social Policy 2


  • Negative
  • Benefits paid are low to pacify the prolateriet
  • Pensions are low as OAP's are no good for capitalism
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Social Policy 3


  • Helps the family perform its key functions effectively
  • Benefits individuals and society as a whole
  • Fletcher- creation of the welfare state- NHS/social housing/ education

! Assumes a march of progress view

! What about policies that harm family life?

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Social Policy 4

New Labour (new left)

  • Social policy- could help families
  • Traditional NF- children are better raised by 2 parents married
  • Reduce benefits to single parent families
  • Working family tax credit
  • Means tested
  • Adoption rights
  • Lifting children out of poverty
  • Sure start
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Social Policy 5

New Right



  • Don't like social policy because it has created a culture of dependancy
  • Leads to an underclass
  • Social policy has encouraged family diversity when they should encourage the NF
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Social Policy 6


  • Social policy has reinforced the NF and Patriarchy

1. Tax and benefit policies

  • Offer incentives to married couples
  • Assume the husband is the head of the household and the woman is dependant
  • Custody battles

2. Leonard- some social policies seem to benefit women but actually benefit men

  • Maternity/paternity
  • Child benefit

3. Drew- familistic gender regimes, individualistic gender regimes

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Family Diversity- Sociological Perspectives

Modernist views on Family Diversity

  • Structural theory that sees the family as a structural unit that shapes the behaviour of indiviual members so they perform functions for wider society.


  • Nuclear family dominated in modern societies. 4 functions lead to social order and stability:         
  • Geographical mobility
  • Social mobility
  • Primary Socialisation of children
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities

! Assumes NF is the dominant family form ignores diversity

* Other fam types are seen as less effective or deviant and don't perform the functions required of the family

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Family Diversity- Sociological Perspectives 2



  • NF are ideal and biologically natural. Opposed to family diversity. See growth as a bad thing
  • Lone parent families- unnatural and harmful, part of an underclass, no male role model or authority figure. Cutting welfare benefits encourages NF
  • Favour marriage agaist cohabitation or divorce
  • Negative consequences of broken families

! Supports very conservative view of family life

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Family Diversity- Sociological Perspectives

Chester 1985- Neo conventional family, both partners work

  • Family diversity is exaggerated. Nuclear family is still dominant

Evidence that little has changed

  • Most people live in a household headed by a married couple
  • Most adults marry and have children
  • Most marriages continue til death
  • Most divorcees remarry
  • Cohabitation is temporary phases before marriage
  • Most couples marry if they have children

Evaluation of modernist views- rapports (1982) 5 types of family diversity

! move from traditional nuclear family to a picture of diversity- cultural diversity, social class diversity, life stage diversity, general diversity and organisational diversity

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Family Diversity- Sociological Perspectives 4


  • No longer one best or daminant family type
  • Family structures don't shape individual behaviour.

Life course analysis

  • Recognises there is flexibility and variation in choices of peoples family lives
  • Focus on the meanings people give to their family

Family Practices-

  • Morgan 1996- routine actions or family practices
  • Morgan 2007- in postmodern society the families no longer based on blood kinship ties. Individuals are free to organise their own relationships and life courses
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Family Diversity- Sociological Perspectives 5


Postmodernism and Family Diversity

Cheal 1993- Postmodern societies are characterised by choice

Giddens 1992- Choice and change in late modernity. Greater choice and equality in relationships, free to change and choose their relationship type without having to follow laws or traditions


  • Contraception
  • Change in womens position
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Family Diversity- Sociological Perspectives 6


Postmodernism and Family Diversity

Beck 1992- risk in the second moderity 

  • Given way to a more unstable negotiated family based on choice 

Reasons for riskier families

  • More gender equality 
  • Greater individualism 

Stacey 1998- Divorce extended family 

  • Postmodern family arrangements are diverse 

! Ignores factors that limit choice 

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Is Childhood Socially Constructed

YES- One sided arguement, most agree

  • Cross cultural differences- Bolivia, Tikopia, Trobiand _____ do this where as in the UK we do this ______ 
  • Historical differences- Aries 1960, social historian.

1. Same laws 

2. Dress the same 

3. Toys and games for kids didnt exist 

10th-13th century childhood didn't exist

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Is Childhood Socially Constructed

Position of childhood has changed- due to industrialisation/in the 19/20th C 

1. Legal Changes 

  • Child labour laws 
  • Compulsory education and raising the leaving age 
  • Child protection legislation 
  • Minimum age laws 

2, Other Changes 

  • Lower infant mortality rate 
  • Impact of mass media 
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Has the position of children improved


March of Progress View- Functionalist

  • Better education
  • Protected from Abuse
  • Child centered
  • Media and leisure industry

! Idealised view of childhood- what about the dark side?

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Has the position of childhood improved? 2

NO- conflict view

1. Inequalities between children

  • Gender differences- Feminist
  • Class differences- Marxist
  • Ethnic differences
  • International differences

2. Inequalities between adults and children- Firestone 1979, Liberationist- age patriarchy

  • Space and movement
  • Bodies
  • Time
  • Neglect and abuse

! Adult intervention is necessary

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What's the future of childhood/ is it dissappearin

Negative View

1. Dissappearing- Postman 1994, Postmodernist

  • Lack of unsupervised games
  • Children and adults have the same dress
  • Children committing 'adult' crimes
  • Underage sex/drinking/smoking

2. Toxic Childhood- Palmer 2006, Postmodernist

  • Junk food
  • Computer games
  • Parents working long hours
  • Overtesting in schools

* Damaging physical/emotional/ intellectual development

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What's the future of childhood/ is it dissappearin

Negative view


  • Impact of media and technology means they're exposed to adult culture, means that they are growing up too fast

! Doesn't apply to all kids- mainly working class, westernised, poor

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What's the future of childhood/ is it dissappearin


1. Not dissappearing- Opie 1993, Liberationalist

  • Have their own culture- games and music

2. Increase in Childhood- Liberationalist

  • Oppressive western childhood spreading across the world
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