The family and Social Change

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  • Created by: Iveta
  • Created on: 10-03-14 12:34

The family and social change- Pre-industrilisation

Parsons argues that in pre-industrial times the family was based around an extended family unit:

  • It was uncommon to share, own and rent land with family members beyond the nuclear family, such as aunties, uncles, granparents, cousins, etc
  • The extended family unit performed important functions for its members, such as it provided welfare for its members
  • The older members taught the younger members education and important skills and techniques
  • The extended family unit was close and they all looked after the health and well-being of others, such as escpecially their grandparents 

This shows that before industrilisation, the extended family was all very close with each other.

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After industrilisation

Parsons argued that the industrial revolution brought about fundamental social changes for its family:

  • Industrilisation demanded a more geographically mobile workforce
  • This meant that members moved away from the extended family to form a small, compact nuclear family
  • The nuclear family moved to new industrial towns and cities to take up more job opportunities
  • Parsons claimed that this caused the nuclear family to become isolated from its extended kin, such as it no longer depended and relied on them. They lost touch and focused and seeked help from their nuclear fam unit instead
  • Structural differentiation took place where the nuclear family became  a more streamlined and effective unit in terms of its contribution to the economy 
  • Families performed 2 BASIC FUNCTIONS:1) Primary Socialisation, 2) Stabilisation of Adult Personality
  • The mother and father within the nuclear family were given different roles:
    Mother- 'expressive' leader'- cared for emotions and nurtured others
    Father: 'instrumental leader'- breadwinners, worked and brought home income.
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Criticisms of Parsons

1) Before industrial revolution, families were not extended: Laslett criticised Parsons views and argued that before industrilisation took place, families were not necessarily based around an extended family unit. It was found that 10% of families were extended and the MAJORITY were nuclear
This shows that the reason why families became nuclear so quieckly is because they were ALREADY nuclear before industrilisation took place

O2: However, Laslett has failed to say how much contact family had with extended kin. For example, although nuclear families were common, people still may have contacted extended fam EVERYDAY

2) Nucelar family not isolated: McGlone et al has criticised Parsons for claiming that the nucelar family is not isolated and still keeps contact with their extended kin on advice, grandparents to babysit, family problemlems, etc.
This shows that nuclear family STILL has FREUQENT CONTACT with extneded kin

Similalrly, Brannen shows that in today's society there are many beanpole families where there is a strong link between grandparents, grandchildren and children. Again shows that family has not isolated itself from extended kin

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More criticisms

There are more criticisms of Parsons theory of the social change:

  • Radical feminists argue that the whole point of industrilisation was that both men and women could move to industrial towns and take up job opporuntiies. This was not the case and men DOMINATED paid work and then subsequently dominated political and cultural power.
    This shows that industrilisation has BENEFITTED MEN the most
  • Marxists is critical of the nuclear family and argues that it has developed so that it benefits capitalism the most.
    Zatertsky argued that the family provided emotional support from its family members so that it could help them cope with the harsh realities of capitalism. Family members provided needs for its exploited working class members at no cost for employers
    This shows that the nuclear family BENEFITTED CAPITALISM
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