Sociology - Family and Households

March of Progress
Position of childhood has been constantly improving, and is the best it has ever been.
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Death of Childhood/ Childhood Liberationists
Childhood no longer exists. Society oppresses children.
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Suggested our contemporary conception of childhood is socially constructed. ie. ‘little adults’. Analysed paintings, diaries and historical documents.
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High death rates encouraged indifference and neglect (in middle ages).
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How and my has the position of children changed?
Education, health and safety,wages increased, hours decreased. decline in infant mortality, age restrictions, influence of mass media.
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Idea that children are separate from adults.
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Children need protection and supervision.
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Childhood as a separate age status is not found in all societies,. Different cultures define the process differently.
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Cross-cultural differences in childhood, eg. take responsibility from younger ages, less value on obeying adults.
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Moral Panic
Media exaggerates issues which causes the public to worry.
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McRobbie and Garber
Studied images/ stories and interviewed- girls have subcultures but in their bedrooms, not in visible streets/parks like boys.
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Asian parents more likely to be strict with daughters than other parents.
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Rapid technological/ cultural changes harm children= toxic childhood occurs today.
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Head of Children's Society- those who are miserable are in clusters, mostly at poorer end of social scale- shows childhood is not the same for all children- 'toxic childhood' is only among the poor.
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Poor children more likely to die in infancy, suffer long term illnesses, be shorter, fall behind in school and be placed on child protection register.
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Age patriarchy (inequalities between adults and children). Acting up and acting down.
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Childhood isn't disappearing- research involving children's unsupervised games, rhymes and songs. Very much separate.
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Firestone and Holt
March of progress actually controls and oppresses- forcibly segregates children- makes them dependent, powerless and subject to adult control.
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Study of characteristics of human population, eg. size and structure and how these have changed over time.
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Why are marriage rates decreasing?
Social- no longer norm to be married. Political- women used to need a husband for certain things eg. land. Economic- women are career orientated. Religious- no longer sinful to have unmarried sex. Medical- contraception, forced to marry if pregnant.
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Why are birth rates decreasing?
Social- no longer socially unacceptable to not have children. Political- China's one-child policy, abortion legalised. Economic- women focus on careers, children are too expensive for some. Religious- decline. Medical- better contraception.
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New policies needed to tackle ageing eg. finance longer period of old age.
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Old age has been socially constructed as part of a period of dependency, due to creating a statutory requirement age.
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The Griffiths Report
Escalating costs of health/social care for ageing population.
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Exclusion from workforce (retirement) has extended powerlessness and dependency in old people.
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Postmodernist. Argues image and attitudes of retirement have changed, stereotypes of old age have broken down.
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Why are death rates decreasing?
Social- healthy lifestyle attitude adopted. Political- discrimination act, winter fuel allowance (£200 per winter), pensions. Economic- pensions, equality acts. Religion- secularisation occurs, so people are less religious.Medical- NHS, vaccinations.
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Why are immigration rates increasing?
Social- feminisation of migration (need care workers). Political- discrimination act, equality act, assimilationism multiculturalism. Economic- equal pay act, welfare states, economic recession. Religion- secularisation, multiculturalism.Medical- NHS
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Immigration and Emigration
Into society and out of society.
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Net Migration
Difference between no. immigrants and emigrants.
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Dependency Ratio
Size of working and non working population.
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Push and Pull Factors
Economic recesion/ unemployment. Higher wages/ better opportunities.
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Effects of immigration on society.
More ethnically diverse culture and family patterns. Lowers average age- generally younger, more fertile. Lower dependency ratio- usually of working age, (but often have children which increases it again (although these grow up and work)).
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Beck and Beck
'World families' and 'distant love families' send money back home once migrated to the UK.
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Functionalist. Family is essential, basic building block. Functions of family: stable satisfaction of sex drive, reproduction, socialisation of young and meeting economic needs eg. food and shelter.
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Criticisms of Murdock
Other institutions/ non-nuclear family could meet needs. Neglects conflict and exploitation. Feminists- serves needs of men, oppresses women. Marxists- meets needs of capitalism, not family's or society's needs.
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Functional fit theory. Functions the family performs will depend on kind of society it is found. Nuclear family fit industrialized Britain's needs better than extended family as is geographically and social mobile, Also lost many functions.
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Marxist Functions of Family
Inheritance of property- Engel- with development of private property, monogamy became essential. Ideological functions- eg. socialising children into idea that hierarchy/inequality are inevitable. Zaretsky- family offers haven. Unit of consumption.
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Criticisms of Marxist Functions of Family
Assume nuclear family is dominant in capitalist society- ignores variety of family structure. Feminists- underestimates importance of gender inequalities. Functionalists- ignores benefits family provides for members.
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New Right Perspectives on Family
Support traditional family values. Heterosexual- traditional roles- expressive and instrumental. Family shouldn't rely on government.
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Uk is developing an underclass dependent on welfare state- benefits create 'culture of dependency'. New Rubble- unemployed, children not socialised properly. New Victorian- respectable m/c, work and pay taxes, children socialised properly.
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Few council houses built to reinforce nuclear families looking after themselves. Regulations for maternity leave reinforce traditional gender roles.
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Evaluation of New Right Perspective on Family
Unfair to criticise all single parent families. Children would unfairly suffer it welfare cut. Feminists- sexist, families cant live on one wage anymore. Marxists need to stop capitalism, family maintains it. Functionalist- share view, nuclear famil
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Liberal Feminism and the Family
Campaigning for equal rights to change attitudes and laws. Gradual process of change. Oakley- 'housewife study'. - Liberal feminists fail to challenge underlying causes.
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Radical Feminism and the Family
Gender conflict, want separateness/ political 'lesbianism'. - Radical feminists fail to recognise that women's position has improved. Separatism is unlikely to work.
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Marxist Feminism and the Family
Capitalism- women reproduce labour force, absorb anger, 'reserve army' of labour. Exploitation of women is essential for success of capitalism.
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Criticisms of Feminism and the Family
Portrays women as passive. Doesn't acknowledge that power might be shared within family. Doesn't consider all households in society. Doesn't address that women from different ethnic backgrounds have different experiences. Generalises.
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Postmodernism and the Family
Wider range of living options due to social/ cultural changes. Flexible choice from variety of diverse family types to suit personal needs/ lifestyle. - Overestimating variety and no. families experienced by one person?
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Rapoports and Rapoports
Diversity= central to familes. Organisational, cultural, class, life course and cohort.
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Social acceptance= increase in same-sex.
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Never 1 dominant type again. Move to suit personal needs/lifestyle. Family adapts to fit changes in society.
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More democratic relationships in familes.
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Evaluation of Postmodernism and the Family
-Overestimate variety?- most only experience 1 type. -Chester- neoconventional family- nuclear family= dominant despite increased diversity (more symmetrical= dual earners). - Functionalits/Marxists- conventional nuclear family= best.
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Personal Life Perspective
Meaningful relationships seen as significant/part of family, give sense of identity/belonging. Eg. friends, fictive kin, gay/lesbian, dead relatives and pets.
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Strengths of Personal Life Perspective
+ Helps understand how people construct/ define relationships.
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Criticisms of Personal Life Perspective
- Takes too broad a view?- ignores what is special about blood/marriage relationship.
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Nordquist and Smart. Heath
N and S- Donor children make definition of family difficult. H- Young people prioritise friendships ('neotribe').
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Social Policy
Plans/actions of state agencies.
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Social Policy can be used to control families, proffessionals such as healthcare visitors using knowledge to control family behaviour.
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Welfare State
Labour- supported families through benefits, public housing, family allowances and free healthcare. + Improve quality of life. - New Right- culture of dependency.
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Divorce Act
1969- Marriage can be ended if had broken down without need for proof of fault. + New right- freedom of choice. - Functionalists/Marxists/New right value nuclear family as best.
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Child Benefit Bill
1975- universal payment for each child per week. + Helps struggling families. - New right- should be responsible for own lives- conservatives cut benefits/ lowered taxes and introduced means testing.
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Maternity Leave/ Employment Protection Act
1975- prevented women being sacked once fall pregnant. + Equality/ security in jobs. + Feminists. - Functionalists/ Marxists women should stay at home all time- traditional nuclear family.
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Childcare Act
2006- Conservatves, outline rights of children in order to protect their wellbeing. + Improves quality of life.
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Same Sex Marriage
2014- legalised same-sex marriage. + Brings families together. + Radical feminism. - Functionalists/ Marxist/ New Righty- argues nuclear family is best, and gay families damage family stability.
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Why has the divorce rate increased?
Changes in attitudes/ norms. Laws/policies made divorce easier/ cheaper by equalising grounds of divorce for sexes /widening the reasons. Women are less economically dependent on men. More secular society (less religious). More available/acceptable.
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Functionalist View on Divorce
High divorce rate does not mean that there is a decline in marriage as a social institution, high rate of remarriage shows we simply have higher expectations of marriage which cause divorce.
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Functionalist. Divorce rates have increased due to higher expectations of marriage. Less tolerant of unhappy relationships.
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Feminist View on Divorce
High divorce rate is desirable because women are breaking free of oppression of patriarchal nuclear family.
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New Right View on Divorce
High divorce is undesirable as undermines traditional nuclear family. Divorce creates underclass dependent on the welfare state, with female lone parents without adult role models for young boys.
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Postmodernist View on Divorce
High divorce rate is desirable because it gives freedom of choice and causes greater family diversity.
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Aim to understand what divorce means to individuals.
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Interactionist. Can't generalise meanings of divorce as every individual's experience/ interpretation is different.
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Mitchell and Goody
Interactionists. Increase in divorce rates due to decline in stigma attached to divorce. Interviewed different individuals on their experience of divorce, some positive and some negative.
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Young people see marriage as choice rather than necessity. Marriage is of less importance to young girls becuase theu are more focused on their careers/ personal goals,
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Gould and Gibson
Increase in divorce rates because marriage is seen as less sacred, fewer marriages involve a religious ceremony.
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Why have marriage rates decreased?
S- attitudes changed, less pressure, more freedom, quality of relationship is more important than legal status. P- equal pay act. E- women less economically dependent on men, greater freedom. R- secularisation. M- abortion prevents shot gun marriages
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Unmarried couple in sexual relationship living together.
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'Trial marriage'- temporary phase awaiting marriage (and sometimes divorce).
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Permanent alternative to marriage, conscious attempt to create negotiated/ equal relationship.
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Why are cohabitation levels increasing?
S- decline in stigma attached to sex outside marriage. P- equal pay act. E- less need for financial security of marriage. R- secularisation, less influence.
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Conjugal Roles
Roles of husband and wife/ partner and partner within the home.
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Segregated roles- separate lives, distinct responsibilities. Joint roles- shared, less defined roles, leisure time and responsibility for making decisions is shared.
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Willmott and Young
Studied families in London and tested theory that nuclear family is dominant. Found familty has changed from pre-industrail economic production unit to privatised nuclear consumption unit, with a more symmetrical family and joint roles.
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Criticised Willmott and Young's methodology as overlooked amount of time spent on housework. Women take on dual burden (paid work and housework). Domestic labour= sex typed eg. men= DIY and women= cooking/ cleaning.
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Duncombe and Marsden
Women take on 'triple shift' (paid work , housework, emotional work).
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Lesbian households have more equal distribution of responsibilities- don't follow gender scripts.
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What are the functionalist views on why we have unequal conjugal roles?
Different roles are most effective way of keeping society running smoothly. Organic analogy.
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What are the Marxist views on why we have unequal conjugal roles?
Unequal roles because capitalism works best that way. Bourgeoisie promote women as naturally nurturing to keep workers fit, healthy and happy- maintained ideologically through media.
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What are the feminist views on why we have unequal conjugal roles?
Inequality in conjugal roles demonstrates inequality in power between genders. Patriarchal society produces unequal conjugal roles because society's systems/ values will inevitably benefit men at expense of women.
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Men had decision making control over important decisions (eg. changing jobs/ moving house) whilst women had less important decision making responsibilities (eg. food, decor, children's clothes). Linked to men having higher earnings.
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Pahl and Vogler
Pooling (joint responsibility for expenditure) and allowance (husband earns, pays wife allowance). Increase in pooling, and in 'husband-controlled pooling'- husband has dominant role in decision making. - Feminists- inequalities due to patriarchy.
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Child Abuse
Power relationships, abuse child by manipulating responsibilities/ trust which parent/ carer has. Families are private/ separate from rest of society, so child is less likely to report abuse. Children Act= state intervenes if child's safety= at risk
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Dobash and Dobash
Radical feminists. Police don't usually record domestic violence. Marriage legitimises violence by conferring power/authority on men and dependence on women. Social climate maintains situation- blames victim= ashamed/ stigmatised.
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Criticisms of Dobash and Dobash
Overemphasise place of domestic violence in family life. Functionalists- most families operate harmoniously. Postmodernists- choice/ control. Presents men as all-powerful and women powerless- male victims ignored by society.
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Marxist Feminist View on Domestic Violence
Product of capitalism- male workers are exploited at work and relieve frustrations by abusing wife. - Ignores why housewives are abusive and ignores why not all men are abusive.
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Death of Childhood/ Childhood Liberationists


Childhood no longer exists. Society oppresses children.

Card 3




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Card 4




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Card 5


How and my has the position of children changed?


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