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Sociology Revision - The Family (2)

Sociology Revision - The Family (2)



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Published by: robbieigray on Jan 15, 2010
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Sociology RevisionWhat is the family?
“The family are a close group of people, usually related not always. Who support each other and at somepoint in their lives tend to live in the same household.” There is no correct definition on the family, Sociologists do not agree on a definition, broadly there are twotypes of definition;
Exclusive definitions
– These focus on the specific relationships within the family unit i.e. marriage
Inclusive definitions
– These focus on the functions of the unit e.g. support.
The Cereal Packet Family
A popular image of the family in Britain in the late twentieth century has been described as the
cerealpacket family
. The ‘happy family’ image gives the impression that most people live in a typical familyand these images reinforce the dominant ideology of the
traditional nuclear family.Functionalists Roles of the Family – Parsons
 The Functionalist Talcott Parsons sees two main functions that the family performs these are:
The primary socialisation of children
Parson argues that every individual must internalise the
of society. He said it isthe family that moulds the child’s personality to fit the needs of society, producing children whoare committed to shared norms and values and who have a strong sense of belonging to society
The stabilisation of adult personalities
 Adults need emotional security, which is given by partners in a marriage, and they also need asource of release from the stresses and strains of daily life, which they get from being able toindulge in childish behaviour when playing with their children. This ‘stabilisation’ is often referred to as the
‘warm bath theory’
Other functions of the family;
 The family is an important agent of 
social control
. It defines what is socially acceptablebehaviour. The family also allow individuals to know the difference between right and wrongbacked up by positive and negative sanctions.
 The family also has a number to
economic functions
. It provides children with economic support. The family provides the economy with workers and they are also a central unit of economicconsumption.
is also regarded as important, and
is an essential function because thefamily provides new members of society to replace those that have died.
Criticisms of the Functionalists
Functionalist’s theories tend to
focus on the positive functions
of the family and give littleconsideration to its disadvantages. I.e. Feminists emphasise the male dominated nature of thetraditional family.
Functionalists assume that the family is of equal benefit to everyone. But Marxists argue thatsociety is shaped by the needs of the capitalist economy and that the family exists to serve theseneeds rather than those of its members.
Functionalists fail to consider the viability of alternatives to the family
Many functionalists, particularly Parsons,
do not consider the diversity of family types
. Evenwithin one society, there are variations based on class, region, ethnicity, religion etc.
sociologists argue that functionalists
too much on the
importance of the family for society and ignore the meaning
family life has for individuals.
Marriage and DivorceWhat is happening to Marriage?
 There is a decline in first marriages
But there has been an increase in remarriages
 The average age at which people get married is increasing
Living together is no longer seen as ‘living in sin’
 Two thirds (67%) of the British public now regard cohabitation as acceptable, even when the couplehave no intention in getting married.
Marriage Patterns for African-Caribbean’s
Only 39% of British born African-Caribbean adults under 60 are in a formal marriage compared to 60%of white adults
 This group is more likely than any other to inter-marry
Only one quarter of Caribbean children live with two black parents.
 There is also a tradition of women living independently from their children’s father in the African-Caribbean community.
Consequently half of Caribbean families with children are now single parents.
Marriage Patterns for Asians
Marriage in Asian families whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh is mainly arranged and consequently there islittle inter-marriage with other religions or cultures.
Asian children tend to respect religious and cultural traditions and they feel a strong sense of duty totheir families and especially their elders.
Divorce Patterns
 There has been an increase in divorce rates
From 1971 to 1996 the number of divorces has more than doubled.
Patterns in Marriage and Divorce
sociologists see the trends as a sign of the lack of satisfaction provided by traditionalpatriarchal marriage, with individuals seeking alternative types of relationships and living arrangements.
New Right 
thinkers have seen the trends as a sign of the breakdown of the family and have argued for areturn to ‘traditional values’. They suggest that because of the easy availability of divorce, people are nolonger as committed to the family as they were in the past.Changes in legislation which have made divorce easier but also social changes in which the law reflect areseen as the main causes of the increase in divorce rates.
Have Women Broken up the Family?
 The position of women has changed in a number of ways, such as the wife does not have to put up withan unsatisfactory marriage. Women now have more independence and are in a better financial position if they were to want a divorce; they are no longer totally reliant on their husbands.
Growing Secularisation
Secularisation refers to the declining influence of religious beliefs and institutions.
Goode and Gibson
argued that secularisation has resulted in marriage becoming less o a sacred, spiritual union and more apersonal and practical commitment.
Changing Social Attitudes
Divorce has become more socially acceptable and there is less social disapproval and stigma attached todivorces. As a result of this people are less afraid of the consequences of divorce and are more likely toend an unhappy marriage.Functionalists such as
Talcott Parsons
Renoald Fletcher 
argue that the increased value of marriage may have caused a rise in marital breakdown. As people expect and demand more from amarriage and expect it to be perfect. Fletcher argues that a relatively high divorce rate may be indicativenot of lower but of higher standards of marriage in society.
Privatised Marriages
argues that the family has become increasingly defined as a private institution. The wider family,and society at large, do not have the right to interfere in family life and therefore the family unit is notsupported by its integration into a wider social network, which means family problems cannot be so easilyshared.
Love and Marriage - Why are Arranged Marriages Stronger?
Within an arranged marriage people have more realistic expectations than those who marry for love
Births and The Ageing PopulationBirths
One of the strongest trends has been the rise in illegitimacy. Illegitimacy rates are rising, as more peoplehave children without being married. Some of the stigma associated with illegitimacy no longer exists. This is countered by the New Right’s assault on unmarried mothers, who have been the scapegoat to acertain extent by the media who blame them for the modern failings of society.Unmarried mothers may not be that different to nuclear families as some of these children born outside of a marriage are born to a couple who cohabit or are in a stable relationship, so will therefore have thesame advantages / life as a nuclear family child. It is just that the mother and father / couple are notlegally married.
More and more women are deciding not to have children, as they’d rather focus on / have a career.Having a career may also be the reason for women having children later on in their lives.
The Ageing Population
 The population as a whole are getting older as people are now living longer.According to the negative view this gives a greater dependence ratio whereby the working populationhave a greater burden to take care of those not working. Increased pressure on hospitals, social servicesand pensions will lead to a greater tax burden. On the positive side, it can be argued that since olderpeople are now more likely to stay fit and healthy they may become an important part of our families(childcare for grandchildren) and as part of the voluntary workforce.Social Policy and The FamilyMost government policies gave tried to protect the individuals within the family and some have beenaimed at maintaining the traditional nuclear family.‘Feuding Parents Better for Children than Separation’A study of 152 children in Exeter found that children being brought up by both parents experienced fewerhealth, school and social problems than those whose parents had split. It was also found that childrenfrom reconstituted families were at least twice as likely to have problems with health, behaviour,schoolwork and social life and also to have a low opinion of themselves.
Political Consequences – The CSA
 The Child Support Agency (CSA) was set up in 1993 to make divorced fathers more financially liable fortheir children.
The New Right
disapprove of easy divorce and are in favour of strengthening marriages and family lifefor the sake of a healthier society. Although if marriages do break down they are in favour of the CSA, sothat the state and taxpayers have less of a financial burden.Some
also initially support the principle behind the CSA, focusing the poverty of former exwives compared to the ex husbands who generally recover financially from divorce in a few years and inthe long term are no worse off.
Government Influence on the Family
Government policies have always had an impact on family life. Taxation, welfare, housing, medical andeducational policies all influence the way people live their domestic lives. The policies can encourage anddiscourage people to live certain ways and in certain types of households.
The Ideology of the Nuclear Family
 Feminists and other radical critics of government policies believe that they are biased in favour of thetraditional nuclear family. For example It is argued that the state encourages families to takeresponsibility for their elderly members, either in practical or financial terms.
Diversity in the Family StructureCohabitation
For most people cohabitation is part of the process of getting married and is not a substitute. It hasbecome more acceptable to live together without ever getting married and also to raise children in thisarrangement. The
New Right
criticises cohabitation as they say that relationships can be more abusive as there is norespect, they argue that people are more likely to be unfaithful, depressed and a relationship like this isgenerally more stressful.
Reconstituted Families
Step families can be a result of things such as divorce or if someone is widowed. Such families are on theincrease as a result of the rise in divorce rates.
De’Ath and Slater’s
study of step parenting identified a number of challenges facing reconstitutedfamilies. As children may find themselves being pulled in two directions, especially if the relationshipbetween the two parents is strained. Tension may also arise if the new couple decide to have children, asthis may result in the existing child feeling envious.
Single-Parent Families
 The number of one parent families is increasing, approximately about 25% of all families in Britain areone-parent families.Some characteristics of Single-Parent Families

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