Family Diversity

Modernist views

  • Modernist theories (e.g. functionalism, New Right) argue we live in modern society- has a fixed & stable structure. Nuclear family = ‘best type’- ‘slots’ into structure of society, performs functions which benefit it.

1) Functionalism

  • TALCOTT PARSONS believes there is a ‘functional fit’ between the nuclear family and society. This is because the NF best fits the needs of society due to the fact it is:

  • Geographically mobile.

  • Performs the two primary functions needed for a family- the primary socialisation of children & the stabilisation of adult personalities.

  • PARSONS believes that any other family type is not ideal and is less able at performing the necessary functions a family must provide.


2) The New Right

  • CHARLES MURRAY/the New Right have a strong conservative and anti-feminist view on the family. Like functionalists they are against family diversity & believe the nuclear family= best type= can socialise children properly (two role models) & is based on a natural division of labour (man= breadwinner, instrumental role, woman= homemaker/main carer, expressive role).

  • Concerned with growth of lone parent families, cohabitation and gay marriage. They believe that lone parent families are harmful to society- can’t socialise children properly, causing child delinquency, failure at school. Main cause of lone parents= cohabiting couples breaking down.

  • AO3- Feminists argue that gender roles aren’t natural but socially constructed (shaped by society) - can be seen by the increase in women working.

  • AO3 - little/no evidence that lone parent family’s cause child delinquency.

  • AO3 - cohabitation= more common among poor- relationships may break down due to poverty, not a lack of commitment.



ROBERT AND FIONA RAPOPORT (1982) say family diversity increased – less nuclear families - good thing as people have freedom in their relationships. They list five types of family diversity:


  • Cultural diversity- Different cultural, religious and ethnic groups - different family structures e.g. black people more likely to live in single-parent families.

  • Life-stage diversity- Family structures differ –depends where people are - family life-cycle e.g. newlyweds, couples with children, retired couples whose children have left home- based on age.

  • Organisational


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