What is 'the family'?

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What is the family? 

  • Some sociologists doubt whether the term 'family' is useful anymore as there is so much confusion between the ideal and the family life.
  • The majority of the world's population experiences a form of family life for most of their lives but this can involve a wide variety of options:
    • In the Toda culture in India a woman can be simultaneously married to several men at the same time.
    • In Bali, twins can marry because they believe that twins have already been intimate in the womb. 
    • In the Israeli Kibbutz children are reared away from their parents by professional child rearers and are considered the 'children of the community'.

Is there a 'typical family' type?

  • In Western culture the traditional or conventional nuclear family comprising of parents and children os often seen as the only natural or desirable way to live. 
  • This popular image of family in Britain in the late 20th century has been described as the 'cereal packet family' (Leech).
  • The image tends to suggest that families should: 
    • Be small and compact in structure. It is comprised of a mother, father and usually 2 or 3 children, who are biologically related and who share common residence. 
    • The relationship between adults is heterosexual and based on romantic love. Children are seen as the outcome of that love and procreation is seen as an essential element in the reproduction of society.
    • The nuclear family is reinforced by marriage. It is assumed that marriage encourages fidelity and therefore family stability.
    • There is a clear division of labour in such families. Women take the majority of the domestic role and men and the main/sole breadwinners. 
  • Familial ideology refers to the view that a particular type of family (nuclear families) and particular living arrangements are put forward as the ideals that people should aspire to. 

So is the traditional/conventional


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