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LEVEL: AS SOCIOLOGY Families and households

1. Divorce rates and family structure (75 minutes)


Item 1 In the 30 years following 1960 there was a 600% increase in the divorce rate. Britain has the highest divorce rate in the EC with about one in three marriages ending in divorce. Oakley suggested that conflict in the family arose for a number of reasons. Firstly, marriage did not meet womens high expectations because their responsibility for childcare and housework makes them economically dependent on men. Secondly, men rely on women to ease their anger and frustration, whereas women have no one to turn to. Thirdly, men are physically and economically more powerful than women. Men control womens sexuality and fertility. Women are expected to sexually please men and bear them children. When Oakley wrote this in 1987 there was no legal recognition of rape within marriage. Item 2 Many feminists have argued against the existence of the symmetrical family. They have argued that inequality, within the family, can be demonstrated by examining: o The division of labour within the home o Who makes decisions within the family o The extent of domestic violence (a) What is a symmetrical family?? (2 marks)

A home-centred family based on equality, for example in the domestic division of labour, in marriage.
(b) What is the difference between a family and a household? (4 marks)

There is no generally agreed definition of a family. The main characteristics of families are economic co-operation, reproduction and socialization of children. Families often (but not always) live together. Households are a group of people who live together and share certain aspects of their lives such as eating together. Therefore not all families are households and neither are all households families.

Copyright Pearson Education Limited 2001

Answers:
LEVEL: AS SOCIOLOGY Families and households

(c) Suggest three effects of the increased rate of divorce in the UK. (6 marks)

1. 2. 3.

A rise in the number of lone-parent families. Increased risk of poverty for families affected. The opportunity to escape from unhappiness and violence

(d) Explain reasons for the rise in the divorce rate since the end of the Second World War. (8 marks)

Higher expectations of marriage now exist, particularly from women, and there is more emphasis on the affective function. Nuclear families with fewer children make the relationship between husband and wife more important. These higher expectations are frequently not met. Legal changes have made divorce easier and cheaper. Women have improved rights to property. However, easy divorce laws do not always coincide with high divorce rates.
(e) Using information from the items and elsewhere, describe and explain the increased diversity in the structure of the family in contemporary Britain. (20 marks)

From the items you can describe and explain: o Increased numbers of lone parent families following divorce. o More re-constituted families. o The debate over the growth of the symmetrical family at the expense of extended families. You can also use knowledge you might have of: o Diversity based on ethnicity. A variety of family structures are associated with families with origins in the Indian sub-continent, for example, extended families often in multi-generational households. Sikh families are more likely to have three generations in a household whereas Muslim households are more likely to be extended horizontally, with brothers and their families maintaining close ties. o Other types of family/household which have increased in number are one-person households, childless couples and gay couples (perhaps with children).

Copyright Pearson Education Limited 2001

Answers:
LEVEL: AS SOCIOLOGY Families and households

(f) Using information from the items and elsewhere access the view that relationships within the family have become more equal. (20 marks)

Most of your answer is likely to focus on the relationships between husbands and wives. However, you will get credit for considering other family relationships such as the position of old people in the family and the relationships between adults and children. Item 2 gives a list of three ways in which you can assess the distribution of power in the family. You could organize your answer around those three headings or as follows: Arguments in favour of the view in the question are supported by: o o o Functionalists, who see the family adjusting to the need of modern society. Willmott and Young, who argued for the development of the symmetrical family in the 1970s. Evidence for more equality can be found by looking at research on the domestic division of labour you can trace changes by looking at research over time in, for example, (The British Social Attitudes)

Arguments against the view: o A large number of feminist studies argue that patriarchal relationships in the family persist. o Oakley challenged the claim that responsibility for childcare and housework was more equally shared. Men may believe they do more, or indeed do more, but the responsibility remains with women. The housewife/mother role dominates womens lives whether they are in paid employment or not.The new sociology of childhood presented the case for the persistence of age patriarchy (the domination of children by adults) in many social institutions, particularly the family. An evaluation of the feminist position: You can argue that women exercise power within the home and family. Many women (as well as men) remain in favour of marriage and the family. Child care and housework performed in the family rather than as paid employment may provide parents with some autonomy and sense of satisfaction unlike much paid employment.(See H. Graham) Your conclusion You could refer to diversity in the types of relationships found within families. For example, older people may continue to exercise authority in extended families yet find themselves isolated or dependent where nuclear families are the norm.

(Total marks 60)

Copyright Pearson Education Limited 2001