Theorists: Families and Households


Murdock (1949)

  • Functionalist
  • The nuclear family is a universal institurtion -> studied 250 societies and found the nuclear family in all of them
  • Family has four funtions ->
    • Sexual -> maintains socially acceptable sexual relationships i.e NO INCEST
    • Reproduction
    • Socialisation-> raises children with the norms and values of the society
    • Economic-> provides food, shelter ect.
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Parsons (1951)

  • Funtionalist
  • Two functions of the family->
    • The stabilisation of human personalities-> lack of power and independance leads to stress soothed by the family-> women playing the expressive role and men playing the instrumental role
    • The primary socialisation of personalities->learning and internalising the culture, until it becomes a part of the child's personality
  • Structural differentiation->the family is losing its functions to other more specialised institutions like the NHS.
  • Functional Fit theory-> family has evolved with society-> decrease in the classic extended family and increase in the privatized nuclear family because:
    • the need for geographical mobility
    • higher rate of social mobility-more sources of conflict
    • wealthier society-less to offer
    • meritocracy-less to offer
    • avoiding conflict
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Fletcher (1966)

  • Functionalist
  • disagrees with Parsons-> the family has gained funtions, not lost them; there are much higher expectations of parents now, than years ago, when abuse and neglect were ignored, and children often worked.
  • plays an important ecomomic role as a unit of consumption
  • divorce is caused by:
    • rising expectations of marriage
    • rising life expectancy-> couples are spending more time together
    • growth of privatised nuclear family-> no escape because married partners spend their leisure time together.
  • Higher divorce rates suggest the higher quality of surviving marriages and remarriages
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Murray (1989) and Marsland (1989)

  • New Right Therorists
  • argue that the welfare state has undermined personal responsibility:
    • work shy underclass
    • dependancy culture
  • criticise support for lone parents because it encourages single women to have children that they cant afford
  • the traditional family is underthreat from:
    • rising divorce rates
    • step-families
    • lone parents
    • cohabitation
    • births outside marriage
    • gay marriage
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Engels (1820-95)

  • Marxist
  • previously:
    • primitive communism
    • promiscuous horde
  • the monogamous nuclear family was a way of proving the paternity of heirs, so the bourgoisie could remain rich
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Althusser (1971)

  • Marxist
  • Family is a part of the ideological state apparatus brain-washing the working class into the dominant ideology 
  • Maintains a false class conciousness
  • Police and Jail are a part of the oppressive state apparatus, which is responsible for punishment.
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Zaretsky (1976)

  • Marxist
  • an 'escape route' from alienation and exploitation at work for male workers
  • Prevents anomie
  • Women can act as a reserve labour force ie WW1 and WW2
  • Reproduces the labour force.
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Hochschild (2011)

  • Marxist
  • The family has been commodified
    • Dating Agency- buying love
    • Nannies
    • Care Workers- paid to love
  • Alienation has beeen extended-> people are alienated from their own feelings and from their family members
  • Case Studies-> 100+ indepth interviews revealing the 'human story behind a world of everything for sale'
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Oakley (1974)

  • Liberal Feminist
  • The family as a place of work:
    • housework and childcare are unpaid unrecognised work
    • Men benefit from this
  • The symmetrical family is a myth
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Greer (2007)

  • Radical Feminist
  • All relationships between men and women are patriarchal and exploitative
  • Women as Wives:
    • Relationships must be seen to be unequal in favour of the man
    • 'he feels that in marrying her, he has done all that is necessary in making her happy'
    • Married men score better on psycological well-being, while single women are more content-> men need marriage more than women
  • Women as Mothers:
    • Society attatches no value to motherhood
    • 'mother' is not a career option
    • 'mothers and babies are not welcome in adult society'-> cinemas, restaurants ect.
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Somerville (2000)

  • Liberal Feminist
  • feminists fail to recognise the progress that has been made
  • But 'women are angry, resentful and (...) dissapionted in men'
    • men who dont take up their fair share of responsibilities are shown the door
  • More women will cohabitate, live in non-family households are alone
  • BUT will try permenant relationships at some point
  • principled pragmatism-> feminists should devise policy for greater equality, so women can cope with the practicalities of family life
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Benston (1972)

  • Marxist Feminist
  • The male worker's wage pays for two peoples worth of work, because women complete unpaid domestic labour 
  • Workers can't go on strike with wives and families to support
  • Produces and rears a labour force at no cost to the employer
  • Husbands needs are attended to, therefore the labour force is maintained
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Ansley (1972)

  • Marxist Feminist
  • women are 'takers of ****'
  • the emotional support that wives provide is a safety valve for the husband's frustration at the capitalist system -> Delphy and Leonard (1992)
  • 'a sponge to soak up his revolutionary ire'
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Cooper (1972)

  • Marxist Feminist
  • Ideological Conditioning-> in socialising children, women are reproducing the attitudes essential for an efficient workforce
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McRobbie (2013)

  • Neoliberal Feminism->
    • devoted to maintaining their image-> 'yummy mummies'
    • cutting welfare is tied to celebrating self-sufficent families, where mothers play a central role
    • Sheryl Sandburg is COO of facebook, and wrote a book about raising a family like running a business.
  • Does more for capitalism than women
  • pre-teen girls have less freedom than pre-teen boys, because they are seen as more vunerable.
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Lyotard (1984) and Baudrillard (2001)

  • Postmodernists
  • Society is rapidly changing and full of uncertainty
  • people are questioning traditionally accepted norms and values
  • society has become fragmented into individuals who are making their own choices
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Stacey (1996)

  • Postmodernist
  • breaks down the idea that the family moves through stages with society->
    • families adapt rapidly to their circumstances 
    • Research in Sillicon Valley suggested that working class families are creating new, flexible family forms
    • Gay families are also at the forefront of change because they cant fall back on the heterosexual ideal
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Giddens (1990)

  • beleives in Late Modernity
  • Modern Love->
    • in the modern era, relationships are based on the ideal of romantic love, which should be egalitarian, but tends toward the dominance of men
    • romantic love-> woman saves her virginity for the perfect man
  • Plastic Sexuality-> 
    • late modernity-> developed reflexivity, so people no longer stick to the script
    • sex is freed from its association with the family, and becomes a leisure pursuit.
  • Conflunt Love and the Pure Relationship->
    • Love only lasts as long as it benefits the lover
    • pure relationships are until further notice->more equal
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Beck and Beck-Gersheim (1995)

  • postmodernists
  • Individualisation->
    • increase in social and geographical mobility, so people have more choice in all areas of their lives 
  • Choice in Families->
    • individuals have to create relationships which will tend to their needs
    • love depends on individuals finding a successful formula-> cohabitation, marriage ect.
    • this often causes conflict because they are negotiating relationships
    • one persons career or personal development has to take a back seat
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Allen and Crow (2001)

  • in the 20th century, there was a fairly standard life course->
    • leaving school
    • marriage
    • living together
    • having sex
    • having children
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Levin (2004)

  • Previously, the standard life course was compulsory-> strong social norms
  • Cereal Packet Families
  • since the late 60s and 70s, there have been a series of dramatic changes to the life courses and thus in their personal relationships->
    • increase in divorce
    • decline in marriage
    • cohabitation
    • fewer children had later in life 
    • gay and lesbian families
  • Growth in LAT's is due to social changes like:
    • divorce and seperation rates 
    • individualisation
    • changes in the labour market
    • Modern technology
  • People choose LATs over other relationships because they have responsibilities at home, are working or studying in other cities and because they dont want to make the same mistake twice, in terms of giving up things for a relationship
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Bauman (2003)

  • the individualisation thesis
  • uncertainty has made kinship networks frail
  • people are constantly searching for security-> explore new family forms 
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Smart (2007)

  • Sociology of the Personal Life
  • argues that individualisation over exaggerates the extent of family decline, and that early theory of families focuses on the western white family
  • people no longer see their lives as structured this way
    • its easier to have long distance relationships with technology
    • personal relationships exist outside of the family, and are at least as important
  • Connectedness Theory-> people's agency is defined by their relationships with other people 
  • Five core concepts->
    • Memory->selective, the more important the event the better remembered. shared memories are important connections between family members
    • Biography-> people experience different events in different ways
    • Embeddedness-> experiences are meaningful because of the way they affect our relationships
    • Relationality-> how people relate to each other, playing down the importance of formal structures within the family
    • Imaginary-> relationships exist in peoples heads too.
  • Love has different meanings to different people.
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Goode (1971) and Gibson (1994)

  • Secularisation has caused the increase in divorce rates
    • marriage has become less sacred and spiritual and more personal and practical, which can be abandoned if it fails.
    • 2/3+ of marriages do not include a religious ceremony
  • The church now takes a much less rigid view of divorce, and many people do not attach much religious significance to their marriages
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Beck (1992)

  • Postmodernist
  • Risk Society->
    • individuals have more choice so there is less stability and more risk
    • individuals must constantly reflect on their life, and evaluate risk
  • led to an increase in:
    • cohabitation
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Funk and Kobayashi (2014)

  • LATs are seen as a means to protect personal independance by enabling partners to continue pursuing their own interests 
  • rooted in mutal satisfaction and exchanges of emothional support
    • Giddens' Pure Relationship
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Allen et al. (2011)

  • Life in Step-Families
  • the sense of unity present in families with two natural parents is not as evident in step families because they do not have the shared history
  • there may be conflict:
    • children may feel more loyalty towards the natural parents
    • there may be divisions between chidren of different parents
    • within natural families, the right of parents to be involed is taken for granted, but this is blurred in step-families
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Berthoud (2001)

  • South-Asian Families
    • found that south-asian families tend to be larger
    • South Asian Families are patriarchal-> wives move in with their husband's families
    • Family is an important source of support in these communities.
    • Low divorce rates
    • three quarters of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are married by age 25
  • Caribbean Families
    • based on modern individualism
    • low rates of marriage and high levels of lone parenthood
    • half of black men in a relationship have white female partners
    • a third of black women with partners live with a white man
    • only a quarter of black childre live with 2 black parents
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Heath (2004)

  • young people are less likelly to follow the traditional route
    • Adult-Kids-> the clipped wing generation who completed their education but are living with their parents because they cant afford rent 
    • Kippers-> stay through choice, because its cheaper, easier and often more comfortable 
    • Families of Choice-> where young adults live with friends, share domestic lives and leisure time.
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Young and Willmott (1973)

  • fuctionalists
  • March of Progress theory
  • argue that the modern family is symmetrical, because there has been a change from segregated conjgal roles to joint conjugal roles
    • women are taking on more 'mens work' like employment
    • the New Man-> is caring and gentle, and committed to doing his fair share of housework and childcare
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Bott (1957)

  • said the apparent changes in conjugal roles were down to the shared network of friends that couples traditionally had
  • Where the friendship network was tight knit,conjugal roles were more separated because both partners had companions of their own sex.
  • where it was looser there was more opportunity to move towards integrated conjugal roles.
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Laurie and Gershuny (2000)

  • Found that as wives moved into paid employment full-time, they did less housework, and med did a bit more
  • This led to some more equality in the home, but stressed that this was slow-going.
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Kan et al. (2011)

  • while men increased their contribution to domestic work, it was only in masculine tasks like DIY, garding and maitenence, which are not everyday jobs, so women contined to do the majority of house work.
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Silver (1987) and Schor (1992)

  • suggested that the commercialisation of domestic labour took away some of the drudgery 
  • this means the housework is less difficult, encouraging men to do more work
  • and when women are in work, there is more disposable household income to spend money on these things.
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Duncombe and Marsden (1995)

  • found that long term relationships were held together by women, who put in the emotion work necessary, not men.
  • women were also more involved with the emotional aspects of child care and liasing between fighting family members
  • This is a part of the 'triple shift' that women work, in paid employment, domestic labour and emotion work.
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Edgell (1980)

  • found that women take sole responsibility for decisions in relatively unimportant areas of the home, like decoration, clothes and meals
  • women were less likely to have the final say in important decisions., and decisions like moving house, and taking loans were taken by solely by men.
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Pahl (2005)

  • found growing individuallisation in couples finances
  • though this is far moe likely amoungst younger couples, those without children and couples where the woman was the main earner.
  • highlighted that although the decision to have seperate finances may appear to be more equal, it may lead to financial inequality, because of the gender pay gap.
  • he said that there were 4 stystems of money management.
    • husband controlled pooling->most common
    • wife controlled pooling
    • husband control->wife was often given a house-keeping allowance
    • wife control-> found in WC low-income families
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Gatrell et al. (2011)

  • employers views of women as the sole carer are increasingly out of date
  • inequality of women inside the home will continue to lead to disadvantages in the labour market.
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Dobash and Dobash (1992)

  • Culture History and Social Structure->
    • abuse can be understood broadly, not in terms of peoples individual psychology.
    • domestic abuse is linked to the existence of the patriarchy
    • throughout the 19th century, it was acceptable for husbands to punish their wives
    • and D&D continue to argue that it is acceptable for husbands to control thier wives using force.
  • there are some specific causes of abuse, like preparing food that the husband doesnt like, sex, and money.
  • Many of the men they studied were particularly possesive and jealous
  • they say that force and intimidation is a part of the masculine identity, and worth, so male abusers often state that they had no choice, and were forced to punish their wives.
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Wagg (1992)

  • Chilhood is a social construct
    • it is what people say it is
    • there is no universal childhood
  • childhood is often seen as a golden age of innocence which needs protection from adult life
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Wyness (2012)

  • Children develop through ages and stages
  • Childhood is a social construct
    • children do substantial amounts of work in some cultures
      • Banks (2007) found that children as young as 11 were sex workers in bangladesh
    • children take on adult roles as carers
    • child soldiers have been used in 30+countries
  • elements of feminism prioritise womens needs over childrens.
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Aries (1973)

  • In Europe in the medieval times, childhood did not exhist, therefore must be a social construct.
    • many children died befor reaching adulthood, so did not have significance as children.
    • children were painted as tiny adults
    • more time was spent on play, which was similar for adults and children.
  • the idea of childhood developed, and childrens products were produced, children were mourned more, and there were more taboos
  • this came from the development of the church, and modern schools, where children were seperated by age.
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Shorter (1976)

  • puts emphasis on the idea of romantic love
    • argues that were marriages were based on romantic love, the children were valued more, rather than seen as a social or financial necessity.
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Postman (1982)

  • Technological change has impacted the lives of children:
    • printing press required people to learn to read-> more significance was placed on schooling.
  • the dissapearance of childhood:
    • development of mass media-> information heirarchy
    • children see sex and violence on TV ect. so because children can learn anything, childhood is no longer a time of innocence.
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Donzelot (1977)

  • Expert knowlege:
    • the development of child proffessionals, who write books, bolgs ect and offer advice has increased child-centeredness.
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Jenks (2005)

  • The post modern childhood:
    • society continues to impose rules on children
    • people struggle to see children as violent ect. so the idea of childhood a biological is still prevelent.
    • shift from the dionosian image of a child to the appolonian image
      • previously, children loved pleasure, are curious and adventurous, and thus can get into trouble and be evil-> strict moral guidance and discipline
      • now, children are born good, but different to adults, need more care, so the adult inside them can be coaxed out.
    • new ways of monitoring children have been introduced, which dont depemd on physical punishment.
    • childhood is increasingly about the future: futurity
    • children have bcome the final source of primsry relationships, which are the most fufilling.
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Palmer (2015)

  • The Toxic Childhood:
  • children find it increasingly hard to:
    • wrok in groups
    • control their own behaviour
    • concentrate
  • because of technology, secularisation, and the instability of family life, childhood is toxic
  • parents need to assert control by limiting mass media, eliminating junk food, and giving kids more freedom to play outside.
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Prout (2005)

  • there are class differences in childhood
  • poorer children have higher rates of illness, do poorly in education, and suffer more neglect and abuse
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Mayall (2004)

  • says that sociologists view children through the eyes of adults
  • they are not 'socialisation projects'
  • 'present tense of childhood'
    • childhood shouldnt be seen as preperation for adulthood
    • vunrability doesnt stem from age, but how society treats children.
      • children find it hard to escape abusers, because adults dont take children seriously
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Balbo, Ballari and Mills (2013)

  • suggest that the fertility rate is impacted by:
    • contraception
    • economic factors->increase incouples who both work had decreased the fertility rate,  though recently, women in employment are more likely to have children.
    • cultural factors-> childcenteredness-> Buchanan and Rotkirch (2013)
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