What is the family?

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What is the family?

  • Toda Culture - India
    • Woman simultaneously married to several men at same time.
  • Netherlands -
    • Gay couples can marry.
  • Bali -
    • Twins can marry, believed they have already been intimate in the womb.
  • Banaro Culture - New Guinea
    • Husband forbidden to have sex with his wife until she has borne a child by another man chosen for that purpose.
  • Israeli Kibbutz -
    • Children reared away from parents by proffesional child rearers considered 'children of the community'
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Is there a 'Typical Family' type?

  • In Western Culture the traditional or conventional nuclear family compromising of parents and children is often seen as the only natural or desirable way to live.
  • This popular image of family in Britain in the late twentieth century is described as cereal packet family - Leech.
    • This is the image promoted in advertising.
    • Family sized breakfast cereals, toothpaste and a wide range of consumer goods.
    • This happy family imgae gives the impression most people live in a typical family - this type of family is the best.
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The 'typical family' image

    • Be small and compact in structure, composed of mother, father and two or three children, who are biologically related and share common residence.
    • Relationship between parents is heterosexual and based on romantic love.  Children seen as the outcome of love and procreation is seen as an essential element in reproduction of society.
    • Nuclear family is reinforced by marriage, marriage encourages fidelity therefore family stability.
    • Clear division of labour in such families.  Women take majority of domestic role and men are sole breadwinners.
  • Diversity of family types within Western Culture nuclear family seen as the 'best'.
  • Family ideology refers to view that a particular type of family and particular living arrangements are put forward as ideals that people should aspire to.
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Is the traditional/coventional nuclear family typi

  • The traditional/ conventional nuclear family may be prevelant in ideas and imagery - it is rare in reality.
  • Less than 5% of households are made up of a working father married to a home-based mother caring for two small children (1996).
  • This figure shows the cereal packet image of traditional nuclear family does not represent the typical arrangement in which most British people live.
    • 25% of all families with dependent children (7% of households) are headed by a single parent.
    • 30% of households consist of people living alone.
    • 26% of households are couples without children.
    • 8% of households are couples with grown children still living at home.
    • These figures whow that the nuclear family is no longer typical, instead families are diverse.  Some sociologists and politicians are concerned about this rising diversity and its imapct upon individuals in society.
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Is there an alternative typical family type?

  • Robert Chester - 1985
    • argues that though traditional nuclear family may be small in number, this does not represent 'the death of families' and need not overly concern us.
    • accepts many families no longer conventional in sense that husband is sole breadwinner and parents may be unmarried or step-parents rather than from conventional first marriages.
    • This is seen as neo-conventional - little different from conventional family, apart from increasing number of wives working for at least part of their married lives, cohabiting instead of married, step related rather than biologically related to children.
    • argues most people still live with most of their families that involve children and parents - still built on love, reciprocity, duty and shared responsibility just as in the childrens past and any changes are rather superficial.
    • shows that through a persons lifecycle they will still live in at least one neo-conventional fmaily.
    • vast majority of people still experience the parent-child household at some time.
    • 77% of children live in a neo-conventional family of some type hence why Chester concludes nucelar families are indeed the norm and believes family diversity has been overstated.
    • in 2003 36% of British population live in a neo-conventional nuclear family.
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What about extended family?

  • Classic extended family
    • consists of several nuclear families which are linked through kinship ties and live in the same home together or nearby.
    • more common in Britain before the industrial revolution.
  • Modified or dispersed extended family (Willmott) -
    • consists of related nuclear families that may be living far apart from each other.
    • maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, email etc.
    • more common today.
    • members of the dispersed extended families do not rely on each other on a day to day basis.
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What is a household?

  • Consists of people living at the same address and sharing meals and/or living accomodation.
  • A household is a unit of accomodtion that might contain a certain number of different social arrangments - some might be considered to be families while others might not.
  • Families live in households (part of their lives) other examples include:-
    • an increasing number of households consist of single people, debatable whether these households contain a family.
    • students or young people who are unrelated but sharing a flat.
  • Lawson and Garrod - 1996
    • point out 'most families live in households, but not all households are families.'
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