Topic 6

Family Diversity and The Life Course

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The New Right

  • The New Right have a conservative and anti-feminist perspective on the family and are firmly opposed to family diversity.
  • They hold the view that there is only one correct type of family (the traditional or conventional patriarchal family).
  • They argue that the decline of the traditional nuclear family and the growth of family diversity are the cause of many social problems; such as, higher crime rates and educational failure.
  • They see lone-parent families as both unnatural and harmful, espeially to children. 
  • The New Right disapproves of mothers going out to work because they believe women should make caring for their family their first priority.
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The New Right

  • They see marriage as the essential basis for creating a stable environment in which to bring up children and regard cohabitation and divorce as creating family instability by making it easier for adults to avoid commitment and responsibility which has a negative effect in children.
  • They argue that family breakdown increases the risks to children. Amato (2000) argues that children in these families face greater risks of poverty, educational failure, crime and health problems.
  • However, critics of The New Right argue that it may not be marriage as such that provides protection against family breakdown, but simply the degree of commitment and those who are more committed to one another to begin with may be both more likely to marry and stay together afterwards.
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The New Right

  • The New Right oppose many of the recent trends in family life on economic and political grounds and argue that family breakdown and the increase in numbers of lone-parent families has led to more spending on welfare benefits which places a bigger tax burden on the working population.
  • These high levels of taxation and benefits act as 'perverse incentives' and punish responsible behaviour and reward irresponsible behaviour by encouraging a 'dependency culture' and undermining the traditional family by discouraging men from working to support their families.
  • Therefore, they favour cutting welfare benefits or even abolishing them entirely to reduce the dependency culture and encourage the conventional family.
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The New Right

  • However; The New Right has been criticised by feminists, such as Ann Oakley (1997). She argued that they wrongly assume husbands and wives' roles are fixed by biology. She believes that their view of the family is negative against the feminist campaign for women's equality and the roles in the family are varied.
  • Feminists also argue that the traditional nuclear family favoured by The New Right is based on the patriarchal oppression of women and is a fundamental cause of gender inequality and prevents women working, keeps them financially dependent on men and denies them an equal say in decision-making.
  • Critics argue that there is little or no evidence that lone-parent families are part of a 'dependency culture', nor that their children are more likely to be delinquent than those brought up in a two-parent family of the same social class.
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