The Family

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Social Policy

Functionalists see the state as acting in the interests of society as a whole and its social policies as being for the good of all. Social policies help families to perform their functions more effectively and make life better for their members.

Ronald Fletcher
Argues that the welfare state supports the family in performing its functions more effectively. For example, the existence of the NHS means that the family is better able to take care of tis members when they are sick.

New Right criticise many existing government policies for undermining the family. They argue that the governments often weaken the familiy's self reliance by providing generous welfare benefits. These include providing council housing for unmarried teenage mothers.

Charles Murray
Argues that these benefits offer 'perverse incentives', they reward irresponsible or anti-social behaviour. For example, the growth of lone-parent families encouraged by generous benefits means that more boys grow up without a male role model and authoritive figure. This results in a rising crime rate amoung young males.

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Social Policy

Feminist argue that social policy simply reinforce patriarchal ideas about the roles and status of men and women. for example, tax and benefits policies may assume that husbands are the main wage earner and wives are their financial dependants. This means women find it hard to claim benefits in their own right, this reinforces women's dependance on their husbands.

Diana Leonard
Argues that although maternity leave policies benefit women,  they reinforce patriarchy in the family, by encouraging the idea that it is a women's responsibility to take care of the infants rather than the fathers.

Marxists do not see social policy as benefiting all members of society equally. They see the state and its policies as serving capitalism. For example, they see the low level of state pensions as evidence that once workers are too old to produce profits, they are 'maintained' at the lowest possible cost.

Marxists also do not accept that there is a steady march of progress towards even better welfare policies producing even happier families. They argue that improvements for working-class families, such as pensions or free healthcare, have often only been won through class strugle to extract concessions from the capitalist ruling class.

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Family Diversity

In the past 30-40 years there has been some major changes in family and household patterns. For example:

  • The number of traditional nuclear family household has fallen.
  • Divorce rates have increased.
  • There are fewer first time marriages, but more re-marriages.
  • More cohabitation
  • Same-sex relationaships legally recognised as civil partnerships.
  • Women are having fewer children and having them later.
  • There are many more births outside marriage.
  • More lone-parent families.
  • More people living alone.
  • More stepfamilies, more childless couples.
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Family Diversity Is A Bad Thing :(

Functionalists believe family diversity is not to be encouraged. This is because they see the traditional nuclear family consisting of a married couple with children and a gendered division of labour as being 'natural' and normal. Instrumental male role of wage earner and the expressive female role of houswife is natural, biological differences between men and women makes them suitable for each role.
The nuclear family is uniquely suited to meeting the needs of modern society for a geographical amd socially mobile workforce. It also performs parsons 2 essential functions of primary socialisation and stabilisation of adult personalities and these contribute to the overall stability and effectiveness of society.

New Right argue that the decline of the traditional nuclear family and growth of family diversity cause the increase in crime rates and educational failure. They see lone-parent familes as unnatural and harmful to children because they cannot discipline their children properly and are a burden on the welfare state.

Argues that the extent and imporance of family diversity has been exaggerated.
Like functionalists, Chester sees the nuclear family as being dominant but he recognises that the traditional nuclear family has changed to what he calls a 'neo conventional' family in which both spouses go out to work and the division of labour is more shared and equal.
He argues that the so called 'family diversity' is more about lifecycle than people choosing to live in new family arrangements.

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Family Diversity Is A Good Thing :)

Postmodernists argue that individuals make their own choices about family life and relationships, this has increased family diversity so there is no longer a single best type.

Argues that family dicersity has increased as a response to society becoming more fragmented. He uses the concepts of family practices to decscribe how we create our sense of 'being a family member' through actions such as feeding children or doing DIY.
He sees the family as 'what people do' rather than as a concrete thing or structure.

Argues that family diversity has increased because we now have more choice over the type of family we create. As a result we become more diverse than ever.

Giddens argues that family diversity has increased because there is more equality between men and women. As a result, marriage has turned into something which couples are free to define their relationship themselves, rather than acting out roles that have been defined in advance.

There has been a long-term shift in attitudes towards sexual and family diversity in the last 50 years. Family diversity has increased.

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Are Domestic Roles Becoming More Equal?(Conjugal R

Willmott and Young
Argue that the extended family has been replaced by a privatised nuclear family characterised by 'symmertry'. Modern marriage is characterised by 'joint conjugal roles' meaning that women are now going out to work and men are doing a fairer share of domestic tasks. More couples are now likely to share leisure time and decision making.

Burghes and Beck
Suggest that fathers are increasingly taking an active involvement in the emotional side of bringing up children even when marriages break down. However, it is important not to exaggerate men's role n childcare. Research by Gray found that many fathers would like to spend more time with their children but are prevented by long working hours.

Sullivan's analysis data collected over a 25 year period found a trend towards greater equality as men did more domestic labour. In particular there was an increase in the number of couples with an equal division of labour and men were participating in more traditional 'womens' tasks such as childcare and ironing.

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Are Domestic Roles Becoming More Equal? (Conjugal

Argues that Young and Willmott's claim of increasing symmetry is based on suspect methodology. Their conclusions were based on one interview which was worded in such a way that exaggerated the amount of housework done by men.

Ferri andSmith
Used survey data to focus on childcare. In almost every kind of household even when women had a job outside the home and men did not that it was more common that women would take responsibility for childcare.

Paul and Vogler
Focus on how each partners contribution to the family income affects decision making within the family. They found that 'pooling' incomes through, for example, a joint bank account, was on the increase and was more common amoung couple who both work full-time. However, they found that men still made the major financial decisions.

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Sociologists see childhood as a social construction; something which is created and defined by society.
They argue that what people mean by childhood differs betweern different times, places and cultures. This can be illustrated by comparing the western idea of childhood with childhood in the past.

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The Modern Western Idea Of Childhood

Jane Pilcher
Argues that the most important feature of childhood is separatness. Childhood is seen as a distinct life stage, and children in our society occupy a serparate status from adults.

This can be illustrated by laws regulating what children are allowed, required and forbidden to do. The differences from adults also illustrated through differences in dress, expecially for younger children.

Related to this seperateness. Childhood is seen as a 'golden age' of happiness and innocence. However, this innocence means that children are seen as vulnerable and in need of protection from the dangers of the adult world and so they must be seperated from it.

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Childhood In The Past

Argues that pre-industrial society, children as we know them did not exist. Instead, children were 'little adults' who would take on adult responsibilities as young as 7 or 8. At this age, children would be expected to help out in productive activities in the household and may well be apprenticed out to learn a trade. They were seen to be criminally responsibile in the eyes of the law at this age. Aries tells us that two factors show us why children were not seen as objects of love and devotion;

  • There was a very high level of infant mortality
  • Life was very 'hand to mouth'. Children had to work in orer for the family unit to survive, which in turn meant that they were given adult responsibilities from a younger age.

Aries tells us that this continued until about half way through the 19th century when infant mortality rate started to decrease with improvements of sanitation and diet, the middle classes attitudes towards children then began to change and children started to become regarded as objects of love and devotion.
Working class however still saw their children as little adults as they still needed their childrens income in order to survive.

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Demography - Births

The Birth Rate is the number of live births per 1000 of the population per year.
There has been fluctutations in births, with three baby booms in the 20th century.
2 of these came after the two world wars.

Total Fertility Rate
The Total Fertility Rate is the average number of children women will have during their fertile years.
Two factors affecting birth rate: women who are within childbearing age (15-44) and how fertile they are - that is how many children they have.
The UK's total fertility rate has risen since 2001, but is still much lower than in the past.

These changed in fertility and birth rates reflect that:

  • More women are remaining childless than in the past.
  • Women are postponing having children.


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Demography - Deaths

The death rate is the number of deaths per 1000 of the population per year. In 1900, the death rate stood at 19, whereas in 2007 it had almost halved, to 10.

Reasons for decline in death rate

  • Improved nutrition
  • Medical improvements
  • Public health measures and environmental improvements
  • Decline in more dangerous manual occupations e.g mining
  • Smaller families reduces spread of infections
  • Higher incomes, allowing healthier lifestyle

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Migration refers to the movement of people from one place to another place.

Immigration refers to the movement of people into an area or society.

Emigration refers to movement out.

Netmigration is the difference between the people coming in and the people going out, and is expressed as net increase or net decrease due to migration.

For most of the 20th century, the growth of the UK population was the result of a natural increase (more births less deaths).

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