Families & Social Policy

Social policies- plans and actions of governments, such as introducing laws. They can affect families both directly and indirectly.

Perspectives on social policy


  • Functionalists - policies benefit everyone and allow the family to perform its functions more effectively.

  • FLETCHER (1966) - the introduction of health, education and housing policies since the industrial revolution -led to the creation of the welfare state, which helps the family perform its functions more effectively. For example the NHS means that with the help of doctors, etc. the family is better able to take care of sick members.

  • Functionalists - there is a ‘march of progresses with family policies.

  • AO3 - Feminists - family policies often only benefit men.

  • AO3 - Marxists - policies can be reversed which ‘turn the clock back’ e.g. cutting benefits to the poor during recession.

    New Right

  • Policies should promote the nuclear family, discouraging other family types e.g. give tax breaks to married couples, cut benefit to lone parents.

  • They have considerable influence on government thinking.

  • They argue that governments often weaken the family’s self-reliance by providing generous welfare benefits.

  • They argue that social policy has a major impact on family roles and relationships- can encourage a dependency culture,

  • The New Right’s solution – change policy - cut welfare spending.

  • AO3 - Critics - argue that it isn’t right for the government to support one family type above others.

  • AO3 – Marxists- benefit cuts would simply drive many poor families into even greater poverty.

  • AO3 – Feminists argue the traditional nuclear family keeps women oppressed.



  • DONZELOT argues that policies are used against families-a form of state power, control over families e.g. surveillance by doctors, health and welfare services.

  • However surveillance is not targeted equally on all families - focus on poorer families


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