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  1. Unit 1: Families and households Study booklet.

  2. Theory – summary. • Functionalists argue that the family is a universal institution. It performs functions which are essential for the maintenance & well-being of society. • Parsons argues that the family performs ‘two basic and irreducible’ functions in modern industrial society – primary socialisation and the stabilization of adult personalities. • The New Right sees the nuclear family as the ideal family form. They believe the nuclear family is under threat. Alternative family forms, particularly lone mother families, fail to provide adequate socialisation. • Marxists argue that the modern family has been shaped to fit the needs of capitalism. It helps to maintain an economic system based on exploitation. • Feminists see the family as patriarchal – it is dominated by men and serves the interests of men. • According to the New Right, government policy should favour marriage and the nuclear family. • Other argue that governments should recognise family diversity and support all family forms. • The main political parties now agree that family diversity is a reality and that governments have a duty to support all types of family. However, Conservatives tend to see the ‘married family’ as the best social arrangement for raising children. Labour tend to focus on supporting children, whatever types of family they are raised in.

  3. Theory / Social Policy Level One (you MUST know these for a BASIC understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  4. Level One (you MUST know these for a BASIC understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  5. Theory / Social Policy Level Two (you SHOULD know these for a SOUND understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  6. Social Theory / Policy Level Three (you COULD know these for a SOPHISTICATED understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  7. Theory – Functionalism. Murdock He wrote social structure. 1949. A Functionalist theoretical perspective which argues the nuclear family exists in all societies. KEY CONCEPTS: universality of the nuclear family; sexual function; reproductive function; economic function; educational function. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Claimed that the nuclear family existed in every society across the world – it was universal. * Murdock defined the family as follows: “The family is a social group characterized by common residence, economic co-operation & reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.” * He identified four functions of families: sexual (essential for continuation of society); reproductive (as for sexual); economic (essential for survival – production & preparation of food, shelter etc) & educational (essential for passing on the society’s culture to the next generation). RESEARCH METHOD: He took samples of 250 societies across the world, from small non-literate (‘uneducated’) hunting / gathering tribes to large industrial societies and analysed the types of families that he found there. WEAKNESSES: Family diversity is excluded from this definition which implies the following types of family are inadequate and don’t do the job properly: single parent families, gay couples, childless or childfree couples, single person households and reconstituted families. Gough’s research shows that polygamy (having more than one spouse; husband or wife), is common practice and this doesn’t fit Murdock’s definition.Morgan points out that Murdock presents the nuclear family as a totally harmonious institution.

  8. Theory – Functionalism. Parsons He wrote the social structure of the family. 1959. A Functionalist theory which examines the functions of the family in industrial society & argues it’s essential to society harmony. KEY CONCEPTS: two basic & irrucible functions of the family; primary socialization; stabilization of adult personalities; instrumental male; expressive female; families as ‘personality factories’; internalization; isolated nuclear family. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * While modern families have lost many functions (due to the increasing intervention of state agencies like the welfare state), they retain two basic and irreducible functions which are primary socialization & the stabilization of adult personalities. * Primary socialization = teaching of norms, values, skills & attitudes of the dominant culture of society to children within the family (this might include manners & language). This involves internalization (taking on board) society’s culture & structuring of the personality. * Parsons argued that families are personality factories which produce human characters. * Stabilization of adult personalities – keeps adults mentally healthy through emotional support provided through marriage. This usually involves the expressive female (wife) supporting her working husband (instrumental male). This is very important as modern isolated nuclear families have less contact with their wider family. * Adults are also stabilized in their roles as parents – they can act out childish elements of their personalities from play with children. RESEARCH METHOD: Analysed American families in the 1950s. WEAKNESSES: This is a totally unrealistic & non-applicable picture of ‘perfect’ family life from 1950s America. It fails to consider how other institutions can perform the functions of the family – Parsons thinks only the family can stabilize adults’ personalities. Assumes primary socialization is a one-way process where kids are pumped with parents’ culture; it can be a two way process, too where kids wrap their parents around their little fingers! Completely ignores the ‘dark side’ of family life.

  9. Theory – New Right perspective. New Right This is a perspective held by many politicians and journalists which argues that the family is the foundation of society, but that it is under threat from single mothers, gay families & divorce. They argue the nuclear family is the best sort of family from which a decent society can grow. KEY CONCEPTS: fatherless families; new rabble; new victorians; underclass; welfare dependency; undeserving poor. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Dennis & Erdos wrote Families Without Fathers in 2000 and argued that the increasing numbers of children born outside of marriage to single mothers was putting these children at a disadvantage. On average, they have poorer health and lower educational success than children from nuclear families. They are particularly worried about boys from lone mother households as they grow up without the expectation that adulthood involves responsibilities for a wife and children. This can result in irresponsible, immature & anti-social young men. * Charles Murray argues that ‘increasing numbers of young, healthy, low-income males choose not to take jobs’. Many turn to crime & drug abuse. He argues that many of these boys have grown up in a family without a father & male wage earner. As a result, they lack the male role models of mainstream society. Within a female-headed underclass family, dependent on state benefits, the disciplines and responsibilities of mainstream, ‘normal’ society tend to break down. Murray argues that work must become the ‘centre of life’ for young men, they must learn the disciplines of work and respect for work as well as becoming ‘real fathers’, accepting the responsibilities of fatherhood. * New Right theorists point to the following factors as evidence that the family is under threat: there have been increases in lone parent families; fatherless families; divorce rates; cohabitation and gay and lesbian couples. * These factors are caused by: a breakdown of ‘traditional family values’; over-generous welfare state benefits to single mothers; influence of feminism which has devalued marriage and housewifery; increased sexual promiscuity; greater tolerance of gay and lesbian relationships as alternatives to ‘straight’ couples. RESEARCH METHOD: Mainly theoretical with some examination of social trends data to spot trends and correlations. WEAKNESSES: It blames the victims of poverty for their problems, which are often not of their own making, such as unemployment. It also makes rather moralistic value judgements that the nuclear family is ‘better’ than the single parent one.

  10. Theory – Marxism. Zaretsky He wrote “capitalism, the family & personal life. 1976. A Marxist theoretical perspective which argues the family is under huge pressure to cushion the effects of capitalism on the individual. KEY CONCEPTS: privatization of family life; capitalism. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Argues that family life is becoming increasingly privatized in that it is shut-off from the rest of the world. Look at the case of Baby P; he was left alone by society because family life is meant to be a private affair, behind closed doors. * Before the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism, families were agricultural units of production where work & family life were one & the same: they were strongly integrated with each other. * In the modern, capitalist world, the family is valued more highly as the only place that can give emotional refuge from the stresses of the workplace. * Zaretsky argues the family cannot “meet the pressures of being the only refuge in a brutal society.” Like putting all your eggs in one basket… * The family is a major support to capitalism in two ways: 1) it reproduces the future & maintains the present generation of workers and 2) is a unit of consumption through buying products (food, utilities, property etc) & thereby creating profit. RESEARCH METHOD: Theoretical – opinion; not actual study. WEAKNESSES: Zaretsky over-emphasises the idea that the family is a refuge in the heartless world of work & capitalism. Families in which domestic violence, incest & abuse go on are hardly refuges.

  11. Theory – Marxism. Engels He wrote the origin of the family, private property & the state. 1972. A Marxist theoretical perspective which argues the monogamous nuclear family developed to protect private property. KEY CONCEPTS: monogamy; private property. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Engels tried to trace the evolution and development of the family through history. * He argued the monogamous nuclear family developed to solve the problem of the inheritance of private property. Monogamy is when a husband and wife have an exclusive sexual relationship – the marriage vows make them promise that they will have sex with no one else, the emphasis is particularly on women. * Private property (animals, farms, equipment etc) was owned by men who needed greater control over women (and their wombs) so there would be no doubt over the paternity of their offspring – so the men would definitely know that the children their wives produced were definitely their children. The religious nature of the marriage ceremony ensured women’s total obedience to their men; by literally putting the fear of God into women they ordered women (and not men) to “love, honour and obey”. Mmm. * The ownership of private property is the foundation of capitalism – so monogamy protects capitalism. RESEARCH METHOD: Theoretical – opinion; not actual study. WEAKNESSES: while this theory works for pre-industrial families, it doesn’t really work for modern families. According to Oliver James, around one in twenty men are bringing up children who, unbeknown to them, are bringing up children who they think are theirs but in fact aren’t. It assumes that women are utterly passive and will not commit adultery. Eight words: “And now for that all-important DNA test…”

  12. Theory – Marxist feminism. Benston She wrote the political economy of women’s liberation.1972. Marxist feminists see the exploitation of women as a key feature of family life which supports capitalism. KEY CONCEPTS: capitalism; unpaid labour. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * “The amount of unpaid labour (housework and childcare), performed by women is very large and very profitable to those who own the means of production. To pay women for their work, even at minimum wage scales, would involve a massive redistribution of wealth. At present, the support of the family is a hidden tax on the wage earner – his wage buys the labour power of two people.” * In other words; by supporting their man in their jobs, by doing the things like cooking and cleaning that they would not have time to do as they’re at work all the time, capitalism is really benefiting from this. To pay women for everything they do would cost an awful lot of money and employers would have to pay men a huge wage. In her role as housewife, the woman attends to her husband’s needs, thus keeping him in good running order to perform his role as a wage labourer. * A working man’s responsibilities to keep a wife and a family mean that he is a slave to his job – he can be exploited as much as possible by capitalism but he has no choice but to stay. So in this way, the pressure of the financial responsibility of a family on a male breadwinner supports capitalism by allowing the exploitation to continue. RESEARCH METHOD: This was theoretical, not supported by any empirical evidence – actually going out there and observing… WEAKNESSES: Er – housewives: how out-dated is that?!

  13. Theory – Marxist feminism. Ansley She wrote 1972. Marxist feminists see the exploitation of women as a key feature of family life which supports capitalism. KEY CONCEPTS: stabilization of adult personalities; safety valve; capitalism. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Ansley translates Parsons’ view that the family functions to stabilize adult personalities into a Marxist feminist framework. * She sees the emotional support provided by the wife as a safety valve for the frustration produced in the husband by working in a capitalist system. * Instead of being turned against the capitalist system which produced the frustration, it’s absorbed by the comforting wife so the exploitation capitalist system is not challenged and the exploitation ends up on the wife’s doormat. * “When wives play their traditional roles as takers of shit, they often absorb their husband’s legitimate anger and frustration at their own powerlessness and oppression. With every worker provided with a sponge (the wife) to soak up his possible revolutionary ire (anger), the bosses rest more secure.” RESEARCH METHOD: This was theoretical, not supported by any empirical evidence – actually going out there and observing… WEAKNESSES: This should be adapted to ask if husbands now absorb their working wives’ frustration. Duncombe and Marsden’s research suggests that it’s not.

  14. Theory – Radical feminism. Delpy & Leonard They wrote familiar exploitation. 1992. Radical feminists see the family as important in maintaining male power & focus more on patriarchy than capitalism as the main cause of women’s oppression. KEY CONCEPTS: patriarchy. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * They argue it is men, rather than capitalists, who benefit most from women’s exploitation in the family which involves a set of “labour relations in which men benefit from, and exploit, the work of women.” * Women are oppressed by the family because of the unpaid labour they perform for the head of the household – the man. “It is primarily the work women do, the uses to which our bodies can be put, which constitutes the reason for our oppression. “ * They identify the following features of the family: 1) most heads of households are men; 2) the male head of the house makes the decisions; 3) the man provides the money although family members have to work for him unpaid; 4) domestic work remains a female responsibility (women’s work) & sexual labour is the wives’; 5) the amount inherited from the male head of household is not related to the amount of work done – it’s more about position in the family, with male relatives (sons) often inheriting more although they may have done little or no domestic labour; 6) relations of production in the family often involve payment in kind, not money with which women could buy what they wanted; 7) no formal contracts or bargaining; 8) the man has greater control over property and money and 9) working women still shoulder the domestic burden at home. RESEARCH METHOD: they used four main sources of data; three studies of British factory workers and their families & one of a French farming communities. WEAKNESSES: not all heads of families are male; unrepresentative data – the samples were of manual working class families where housewives were common; the family lives of French farmers are hardly applicable to modern British ones where women not only work but have more power than ever before. The fact that 75% of divorces are petitioned (started) by women show that although they are dissatisfied by marriage, they’re not just going to accept it.

  15. Theory – Radical feminism. Greer She wrote the whole woman. 2000. A radical feminist who argues family life continues to oppress women & sees their roles as mothers, as well as other things as part of this exploitation. KEY CONCEPTS: patriarchy; matrilocal families. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Greer argues that there is a strong ideology (system of ideas or attitudes/beliefs) that being a wife is the most important role and aspiration for all women and that they will be subservient to their husbands. “Having been so lucky as to acquire (get) a wife, [the husband] begins to take the liberties that husbands have traditionally taken, comes and goes as he pleases, spends more time outside the connubial (marital) home, spend more money on himself, leaves off the share of the housework that he may have formerly (before) done. She sees her job as making him happy; he feels that in marrying her he has done all that is necessary in making her happy.” * She points out that the high divorce rate is clear evidence that marriage makes women unhappy. * Motherhood offers women little satisfaction & argues society does not value the work that mothers do. She argues women are expected to regain their figures quickly after childbirth and return to work – which is exhausting for them. Children and society blame mothers in particular for what goes wrong in children’s lives; single mothers are particularly targeted by politicians and the press as scapegoats (someone to blame) for crime, unemployment & anti-social behaviour. * Greer argues that women are exploited in the family as daughters, too when she says that many are sexually abused by older male relatives. * Separation from the patriarchal family by living in a matrilocal (female centred) family is the only way to protect women from exploitation from men. RESEARCH METHOD: purely theoretical. WEAKNESSES: lots of huge sweeping generalisations in this theory which are simply not backed up by research. Most women have enormously fulfilling and positive relationships with their fathers, husbands and brothers. Somerville argues Greer underestimates the progress women have made and are no longer victims. Many women find marriage and motherhood immensely rewarding.

  16. Theory – Liberal feminism. Somerville She wrote feminism & the family. 2000. Her liberal feminist stance proposes more workable changes to society to enable women achieve happiness in the family. KEY CONCEPTS: heterosexual families. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Women do have a lot more choice and power than they ever had before. Many feminists, particularly radical feminists, fail to acknowledge this. * Despite greater equality in marriage, “women are angry, resentful, but above all, disappointed in men.” * Although poor husbands are shown the door and divorced by disappointed wives, the high rate of remarriage shows women still feel they need men, particularly for physical reasons. * Heterosexual attraction and the need for adult companionship mean that heterosexual families will always be around. * She proposes policies to help working parents because long working hours and the culture of many jobs are not compatible with family life. Equality between men and women is difficult to maintain, particularly if she takes part time work to be available to take care of the children instead of her husband. RESEARCH METHOD: This was theoretical and relied on carrying out a review of other feminists’ work. WEAKNESSES: this is not supported by empirical evidence; how does she know women are disappointed in men? STRENGTHS: suggests practical ways to make feminism something which all women can benefit from. More constructive than moving out and forming all female communes, anyway…

  17. Theory – Difference Feminism. Nicholson She wrote the myth of the traditional family. 1997. This ‘Difference Feminist’ perspective argues there is a powerful ideology (set of ideas/belief system) which supports a positive and unrealistic image of family life. KEY CONCEPTS: traditional families, alternative families, family ideology. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Nicholson contrasts the ‘traditional’ family with ‘alternative’ families. By traditional families, she means ‘the unit of parents with children who live together’; the nuclear family. The nuclear family developed only fairly recently and was a mark of middle class respectability and affluence when nuclear families could afford to live in their own house and not with a load of other relatives. This is why the traditional, or nuclear family, is so highly valued. * Alternative families include single parents, matrifocal households (women only) & gay families. However, these are devalued compared to nuclear families, by society, seen as less stable & independent. * Nicholson argues that alternative families are often less oppressive of women than traditional families, particularly the matrifocal families that are so common in poor black families in America. This is because women in such families share domestic and childcare responsibilities. RESEARCH METHOD: This was theoretical and based on American society. WEAKNESSES: Although it may be possibly to loosely apply these ideas to British society, the existence of the welfare state in Britain means women are more likely to depend on the benefit system than other female relatives in alternative families.

  18. Theory – Post-modern. Giddens He wrote the transformation of intimacy. 1992. A postmodernist who suggests that changes in society have led to changes in relationships in family life, particularly between sexual partners. • KEY CONCEPTS: high modernity; romantic love; plastic sexuality; confluent love. • SUMMARY OF THEORY: • In the 18th century the idea of romantic love overtook the economic basis of marriage. People used to choose partners on the basis of the money they could bring into a family and how well they would work within the unit of production. Now people were selecting partners on the basis of how much they fancied & loved them. Fulfilment of people’s happiness was now through relationships & was reflected in emerging novels, paintings and poems. “How many ways shall I love thee?” * Relationships based more on attraction & passionate love between couples, but this led to the dominance of men. “For women, dreams of romantic love have all too often led to grim domestic subjugation.” Women were expected to preserve their virginity until the ‘perfect’ man came along. * There’s been a great change: virginity for women is no longer prized. Because of contraception, sex is no longer associated with having children, so people have greater choice about their sex lives. This is termed plastic sexuality. * Confluent love has replaced romantic love: people choose to stay with their partners because they love them, not because they need them (the pure relationship). People are no longer compelled to stay with partners if it’s not working. Personal happiness is paramount. • RESEARCH METHOD: Purely theoretical, based on his experiences of living in ‘post-modern’ society. • STRENGTHS: If Giddens is right, his theory would help to explain the high divorce rate and the low marriage rate. It’s a plausible theory.

  19. Theory – Post-modern. Stacey She wrote untangling feminist theory. 1993. She associates changes in the family with a movement away from a single dominant family type & with greater variety in family relationships. KEY CONCEPTS: the post-modern family. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * She argues that the development of the post-modern family has destroyed the idea that the family progresses through a series of logical stages (marriage, children, empty nest, retirement, widow-hood). Some choose never to marry, or to marry and have no children, or to not marry and have children, some to divorce and remarry, others to never marry and live as a same sex couple … etc, etc. The post-modern family is a complete break away from the usual template of nuclear family and an acceptance that people increasingly choose to live in alternative types of family. * Stacey says that we can’t assume that any particular form of family will become accepted as the best, or normal, type of family. Diversity is here to stay. RESEARCH METHOD: studied family life in Silicone Valley, USA. It’s a very futuristic place to live & family trends there are usually ahead of trends elsewhere in the country & can be seen as the shape of things to come. WEAKNESSES: Can we really apply the family life of people living in Silicone Valley, USA with modern British ones? It is questionable to what extent family diversity and the post-modern family have become common, she might be exaggerating. After all, 60% of children are still born to married parents and clearly start life in a nuclear family.

  20. Cohabitation, marriage and divorce – summary. • There has been a significant decline in first marriages and in the overall total of marriages since in the early 1970s. Within this total, there has been an increase in the numbers and proportion of remarriages. • There has been an increase in single-hood. • There has been a large increase in cohabitation from the 1970s onwards. Cohabitation before marriage is not the norm. While most people see it as a prelude to marriage, some see it as an alternative to marriage. • The following reasons have been suggested for the increase in cohabitation: changing attitudes; availability of reliable contraception; reduction of parental control; expansion of higher education; increased availability of housing for non-married people; increase in the divorce rate. • Reasons for the rise in divorce include changes in: the law, leading to cheaper and easier divorce; rising expectations of love and marriage; overloading marriage emotionally; individualisation; positive attitudes towards divorce; rising economic independence of women; secularization. • Divorce is not spread evenly throughout the population – e.g. there are age, class and cultural variations in divorce rates. • Most children appear to experience no long-term harm from their parents’ divorce. • While the New Right sees the rise in divorce as a threat to society, feminists tend to see it as an expression of women’s right to choose.

  21. Marriage, divorce and cohabitation Level One (you MUST know these for a BASIC understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  22. Marriage, divorce and cohabitation Level Two (you SHOULD know these for a SOUND understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  23. Marriage, divorce and cohabitation Level Three (you COULD know these for a SOPHISTICATED understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  24. Cohabitation. Barlow et al They wrote just a piece of paper? Marriage & cohabitation. 2001. Using data from a number of British Social Attitudes Surveys, they found clear evidence of changing public attitudes to cohabitation. KEY CONCEPTS: cohabitation. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * More people were beginning to see it as acceptable to have children without getting married. In 1994, 70% agreed that ‘People who want children ought to get married’, but by 2000 this was down to 54%. * They found increasingly liberal attitudes towards pre-marital sex, with the number thinking it was ‘not wrong at all’ increasing from 42% in 1984 to 62% in 2000. * By 2000 more than two thirds of respondents (67%) agreed it was ‘alright for a couple to live together without intending to get married’ & 56% thought it was a good idea to live together first. * They found younger people were more likely to agree with cohabitation than older people. * Barlow et al found that marriage was still valued; in 2000, 59% agreed that ‘marriage is still the best kind of relationship’. Only 9% thought there was no point to marriage, that it was just a piece of paper. * They concluded that society would become one where “long-term cohabitation is widely seen as quite normal, and where marriage is more of a lifestyle choice than an expected part of life.” RESEARCH METHOD: Used data from a number of British Social Attitudes Surveys. STRENGTHS: fairly reliable data from a large sample.

  25. Marriage. Chester He wrote divorce. 1975. A sociologist who observed a decline in the popularity of marriage in Europe and explained it as a delay, not a total rejection. KEY CONCEPTS: delay in the timing of marriage. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Writing in the 1980s, Chester was among those who noted that marriage rates among young adults had declined in many Western countries. First, Sweden & Denmark experienced falling marriage rates among the under-thirties, then the trend continued in the UK, the USA and West Germany in the early 1970s and later spread to France. * In England and Wales the first-marriage rate (number of marriages per 1,000 single people), was 74.9 in 1961, rising to 82.3 in 1971 but by 2004 it was just 24.7. For women the rate was 83 in 1961, 97 in 1971 and 30.8 in 2004. The number of first marriages fell from a peak of nearly 400,000 per year in the mid-1960s to well under 200,000 per year by 2003. * However, Chester did not see these figures as conclusive evidence for a decline in the popularity of marriage. He said “Mainly we seem to be witnessing a delay in the timing of marriage, rather than a fall-off in getting married at all.” * He thought future generations might marry less frequently, but he believed there would be only a small reduction in marriage rates. RESEARCH METHOD: Data analysis. WEAKNESSES: The marriage rate reduced enormously – he was wrong!

  26. Fertility. Morgan She wrote the family today. 2003. Sociologist who examines the reasons behind the declining fertility statistics. KEY CONCEPTS: fertility rates. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * She points out that total fertility rates have fallen. In the 1870s around five children were born per woman, but this declined to below two in the 1930s. Many people delayed getting married or having children during the Second World War, but after the war there was a baby boom. This led to the total fertility rate peaking at 2.94 in 1964. by 1995 it had fallen to 1.77 and fell further to 1.63 in 2001. * The decline in fertility is a result of women having children later in life. The later women leave it before they have their first child, the fewer fertile years they have remaining, making it likely they will have fewer children. * Morgan sees the decline in fertility as part of the general decline in family life. She links it to the rise cohabitation, nothing that women who are cohabiting rather than married are more likely to have only one child. She points out that the birth rate would be even lower and the average age at birth even higher were it not for a rise in the number of pregnancies amongst unmarried teenage girls. RESEARCH METHOD: Data analysis. WEAKNESSES: a small number of older women are able to benefit from reproductive technology which boosts their fertility as they get older.

  27. Divorce. Allan & Crow They wrote families, households & society. 2001. Sociologists who examined the reasons for the rise in the divorce rate and focused particularly on the romantic nature of marriage. KEY CONCEPTS: romantic nature of marriage. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Because families are no longer units of production, couples are not willing to tolerate conflict as they do not rely financially on each other as much as they had done in earlier family forms. “Incompatibilities which were tolerated are now seen as intolerable; and the absence of love, once seen as unfortunate but bearable, is now taken as indicative of the irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” * They argue that marriage is increasingly viewed as a ‘relationship rather than a contract’. By getting married, people do not see themselves as entering a binding, lifelong contract; rather, they are hoping to establish a personally satisfying relationship: “Love, personal commitment and intrinsic satisfaction are now seen as the cornerstones of marriage. The absence of these emotions and feelings is itself justification for ending this relationship.” RESEARCH METHOD: theoretical. STRENGTHS: provides a detailed examination of divorce that goes beyond just looking at economic factors, it looks at emotional ones, too.

  28. Divorce. Gibson He wrote dissolving wedlock. 1994. He focuses on the factors of freedom of choice & the ease of divorce in examining why so many marriages are ending in contemporary Britain. KEY CONCEPTS: freedom of choice, individualism. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * He claims that the development of modernity has increased the likelihood of conflict between spouses (husbands and wives). The way modern life has developed puts increasing emphasis upon the desirability of individual achievement. * Gibson argues that people now live in an “enterprise and free-market culture of individualism in which the licence of choice dominates.” He adds “a higher divorce rate may be indicative of modern couples generally anticipating a higher standard of personal marital satisfaction than was expected by their grandparents.” * People increasingly expect to get most of their personal satisfaction from their home life, and ‘television programmes reinforce the feeling that togetherness is the consummate life style.’ But the emphasis on togetherness is somewhat undermined by ‘the Thatcherite manifesto of unfettered self-seeking interest’, so that conflict between spouses becomes more likely if self-fulfilment is not delivered by the marriage. RESEARCH METHOD: theoretical. WEAKNESSES: lacks empirical rigor – he needs to get out there and listen to divorced couples and find out exactly why they got divorced.

  29. Social change & the family – summary. • Families in pre-industrial society performed a range of functions. These included economic, educational and welfare functions. • Pre-industrial families were often extended – they formed part of a wider kinship network. This wider network was needed to effectively perform the family’s functions. • Talcott Parsons saw the isolated nuclear family as the best family structure for industrial society. He argued that family members no longer needed to rely on large kinship networks because many of the family’s functions had been taken over by specialised agencies, such as the Welfare State. • According to Parsons, an industrial economy requires a geographically mobile workforce. The small, streamlined nuclear family meets this requirement. • Peter Laslett’s research shows that only 10% of pre-industrial households in England contained kin beyond the nuclear family. However, family members do not have to live under the same roof to form extended families. • Michael Anderson’s research on Preston households in 1851 suggests that the early years of industrialisation may have encouraged the formation of extended families in the working class. Such families may have operated as mutual aid organisations before the Welfare State existed. • During the early years of industrialisation, married women often worked in factories. They were generally excluded from the labour force and restricted to the home. The mother-housewife role became their primary role. Today, the majority of women have returned to the labour force. • Defined by Young & Willmott as ‘a combination of families who to some large degree form one domestic unit’, extended families continued well into the 20th century in many working class areas. • Young & WIllmott claim that the family in Britain has developed through three stages: 1) the pre-industrial family (classic extended) 2) the early industrial family (asymmetrical nuclear – segregated conjugal roles) and 3) the symmetrical family (nuclear with joint conjugal roles). • Studies from the 1950s to the early 1970s claimed that the typical family structure was nuclear. Families were pictured as privatised, home-centred and self contained. • Studies from the 1980s and 1990s suggested that this picture of privatisation & self-containment was exaggerated. Kin beyond the nuclear family still played an important role. Many families could be described as modified extended families. • However, evidence from the British Social Attitudes Survey indicates that contact with kin beyond the nuclear family declined towards the close of the 20th century.

  30. Changes in family and household structures Level One (you MUST know these for a BASIC understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  31. Changes in family and household structures Level Two (you SHOULD know these for a SOUND understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  32. Changes in family and household structures Level Three (you COULD know these for a SOPHISTICATED understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  33. Social change & the family; impact of industrialization. Parsons He wrote the social structure of the family. 1959. This Functionalist argued that the isolated nuclear family was the most appropriate family form to meet the needs of modern industrial society. KEY CONCEPTS: isolated nuclear family; structural differentiation; achieved status; ascribed status; universalistic values; particularistic values; functional fit; geographical mobility. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Parsons’ social evolutionary theory argued that society was under-going a process of structural differentiation whereby institutions, particularly the family, were losing functions which were being taken over by other, newer institutions, such as the welfare state, in the case of the UK. * He argued there was a functional fit between the isolated nuclear family and the modern economy; the family is shaped to meet the needs of the economic system because it is geographically mobile enough to move around the country to take up employment where ever it becomes available. * In industrial society, individuals are judged in terms of the status they achieve in their work where they are also judged in terms of universalistic values, which are applied to all members of society according to shared values. In the family, however, individuals’ status is ascribed and fixed and based on particularistic values, specific to particular individuals. This is another reason why the isolated nuclear family meets the needs of modern, industrial society because conflict will happen if there is more than one adult male in a family. If a father has lower achieved, but higher ascribed status over his son – there will be a clash of values. * The conjugal bond will be strengthened in this environment because spouses will be increasingly dependent on each other. RESEARCH METHOD: This was theoretical, not supported by any empirical evidence – actually going out there and observing… WEAKNESSES: the nuclear family is portrayed by Parsons as being well adapted to the requirements of modern industrial societies but neglects the continued pressure on the family that has resulted in a high divorce rate and the prevalence of domestic violence. Parsons’ theory is not applicable to modern family life where women are no longer just the expressive female.

  34. Social change & the family; impact of industrialization. Young & Willmott They wrote family & kinship in east london. 1961. March of Progress theorists who examined the changing structure of family life in relation to industrialization. KEY CONCEPTS: stage 1 pre-industrial family; stage 2 early industrial family; stage 3 symmetrical family; stage 4 family; principle of stratified diffusion; asymmetrical. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * The stage 1 pre-industrial family was a unit of production where they worked as a team, usually in agriculture or a cottage industry. * The stage 2 early industrial family began with the Industrial Revolution, it ceased to be a unit of production as family members were now employed outside the home. The family responded to the widespread poverty by extending its network to include relatives beyond the nuclear family, therefore it was an extended family – there’s strength in numbers, having more people to count on acted as a kind of insurance policy and support network. The basic tie was between mother and married daughter, the conjugal bond was weak; “Husbands were often squeezed out of the warmth of the female circle and took to the pub as their defence.” The stage 2 family was more often headed by a female due to the high male death rate. * The stage 3 symmetrical family has a strong conjugal bond where husband and wife are more companionate in the home: “They shared their work, they shared their time.” Family life was more home-centred and leisure was home-based, with the advent of the TV. Reasons for the rise of the symmetrical family: 1) No longer needed kinship-based mutual aid group because of the new welfare state, the lower male death rate, decrease in unemployment & increase in women’s employment; 2) Increased geographical mobility broke kinship ties with extended families; 3) reduction of the numbers of children freed women up to work; 4) as living standards rose, husbands drawn closely into the family circle as the home was a more attractive place to be with better facilities and home entertainment. * Using the principle of stratified diffusion (what the rich do today, the poor will do tomorrow), Young and Willmott’s examination of the family lives of managing directors led them to conclude that a stage 4 family would dominate in the future. These families will be work-centred, husbands will be work-centred, wives home-centred and will be asymmetrical compared to the stage 3 family. This is because as technology makes peoples’ jobs more interesting, they will become more involved in their work lives & relatively neglect home lives. RESEARCH METHOD: Large scale social survey of 1,928 people interviewed in Greater London, 1950s-1970s and combined it with historical research. WEAKNESSES: many feminists have attacked the concept of the symmetrical family arguing there is little progress towards greater equality between husbands and wives. There is also little evidence of the stage 4 family happening as more women than ever taken up paid employment and fewer have children to concentrate on their careers.

  35. Social change & the family; impact of industrialization. Laslett He wrote household & family in past time. 1972. Disagreed with the March of Progress idea that pre-industrial families tended to be extended. KEY CONCEPTS: the Western family. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * This historian studied family size and composition in pre-industrial England between 1564-1821. He found that only around 10% of households contained kin beyond the nuclear family. * People in pre-Industrial England married relatively late in life and life expectancy was short. There were only a few years between the marriage of a couple and the death of their parents. He therefore found no evidence to support the formerly accepted view that the classic extended family was widespread in pre-industrial England. * Laslett went on to find that the nuclear family was typical across Europe and found evidence of what he called a Western family in northern France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia and parts of Italy and Germany. In these families, children were born to relatively older parents and there was little age gap between the spouses. * According to Laslett, it may have been the predominance of the nuclear family in these regions of Europe that was a factor that helped Western capitalism to develop in these particular regions. RESEARCH METHOD: As a historian, he examined various historical documents and church records. WEAKNESSES: church records are unreliable – not every birth was recorded & many records were lost; Anderson refers to research that suggests a much greater variety of household types than Laslett’s theory implies.

  36. Social change & the family; impact of industrialization. McGlone et al They wrote relative values: kinship & friendship. 1996. Their survey of working-class families found extended kinship networks aided women’s work through babysitting, care of elderly & young people continuing to live with their parents into adulthood. KEY CONCEPTS: contact between kin. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * They examined demographic patterns occurring between 1986 and 1995 that would affect family life: rising ageing population; increasing divorce rate; cohabitation; lone parenthood; births outside marriage; decline in male manual unskilled jobs; increase in female employment & some young people being reliant on their parents’ for longer. Despite all this they found that families coped relatively well with these changes. * Data from the British Social Attitudes Survey of 1995 revealed that contact between relatives remained frequent: 47% of people without dependent children and 50% with dependent children saw their mother at least once a week. * There were social class differences though: the working-class saw their relatives more frequently than the middle class sample did. * They concluded that families remain very important to people in contemporary Britain & that they remain a source of help & support. RESEARCH METHOD: They used data from the British Social Attitudes Surveys of 1986 and 1995. STRENGTHS: Because this is based on empirical research, it does have more validity & is more representative of the British population. However, McGlone et al lacked the control over the data because they didn’t design the questions.

  37. Social change & the family; impact of industrialization. Anderson He wrote family, household & the industrial revolution. 1971. A historian who contradicted Parsons’ idea that early industrial families were nuclear & does not support the notion that extended families started to disappear at the onset of industrialization. KEY CONCEPTS: mutual aid. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Using data from the 1851 census of Preston, Anderson found around 23% of households contained kin beyond the nuclear family, they were extended. Most of this ‘co-residence’ happened amongst the poor as a way of combating high rent charges. * Life for many working class families was characterised by periods of high unemployment, severe hardship, low wages, large families, a high death rate and overcrowded homes - so the support of a large extended kinship network was essential in the absence of the welfare state. This is an example of mutual aid where families would simply help each other out by exchanging services such as cooking, childcare & asking their employers if they had any work for their relatives. RESEARCH METHOD: Used data from the 1851 census of Preston. STRENGTHS: Compared to Laslett’s study, the data this study is based on is far more reliable.

  38. Power and roles in the family – summary. • The division of domestic labour is gendered – household tasks are divided along gender lines. • Housework and childcare remain the primary responsibility of women. • There is evidence of a gradual increase in men’s contribution to domestic labour, especially where their partners are in full-time employment. • There are problems with time-use studies of domestic labour. For example, women tend to underestimate and men to overestimate the time they spend on domestic chores. • Emotion work is mainly performed by women. As a result, many women have a triple shift – 1) paid work, 2) housework and childcare and 3) emotion work. • Research into money management within families indicates that control over money is gendered – men tend to have greater control. • There is evidence of a trend to greater equality in access to and control of family finances, especially where women are in full-time employment. • Research indicates that power is unequally distributed in families, with male partners having the largest share. • Decision-making studies indicate that in general husbands have more power than their wives. • Non-decisions – issues that do not reach the point of decision-making – tend to favour men. They are likely to gain at the expense of their partners. • There is a tendency for many women to accept their subordinate position. From this, it can be argued that men have power over women. • Studies of lesbian and gay households suggest that there is a more equal division of labour between partners.

  39. Roles / power / domestic labour debate Level One (you MUST know these for a BASIC understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  40. Roles / power / domestic labour debate. Level Two (you SHOULD know these for a SOUND understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  41. Roles / power / domestic labour debate Level Three (you COULD know these for a SOPHISTICATED understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  42. Power & roles in the family: domestic labour debate. Oakley She wrote housewife. High value, low cost. 1974. A liberal feminist who examined the experiences of housewives from both the middle and working class. KEY CONCEPTS: alienation. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * She criticised Young and Willmott’s concept of the symmetrical family arguing that it was based on inadequate methodology. Although their figure of 72% (for men doing housework), sounds impressive, she points out that it is based on only one question in Young & Willmott’s interview “Do you/does your husband help at least once a week…?” She says “A man who helps with the children once a week would be included in this percentage, so would a man who ironed his own trousers on a Saturday afternoon.” * Oakley’s research found greater equality in terms of the allocation of domestic tasks between spouses in the middle class than in the working class. * In both classes few men had high levels of participation in housework and childcare: few marriages could be defined as egalitarian. The women interviewed said they mostly felt alienated by their roles as housewives: they were bored, isolated and unfulfilled. RESEARCH METHOD: She collected information through interviews on forty married women who had one child or more under the age of 5, aged between 20-30. Half her sample were working class, the other half middle class. They all lived around London. WEAKNESSES: While this study was conducted on firm methodological grounds, it fails to be applicable any more to modern British family life as this study was conducted in 1974 and there have been enormous changes in women’s lives since that time.

  43. Power & roles in the family: domestic labour debate. Young & Willmott They wrote the symmetrical family. 1973. These March of Progress theorists examined the nature of the conjugal relationship over time & concluded it was becoming more equal. KEY CONCEPTS: symmetrical family, segregated conjugal roles, joint conjugal roles. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * A major characteristic of the symmetrical family which Young and Willmott claimed was developing when they were writing in the 1970s, was the degree to which spouses shared domestic, work and leisure activities. Relationships of this type are known as joint conjugal roles, as opposed to segregated conjugal roles. * In Young and Willmott’s Stage 2 family, conjugal roles – the marital roles of husband and wife – were largely segregated. There was a clear cut division of labour between the spouses in the household, and the husband was relatively uninvolved in housework and childcare. This segregation of conjugal roles extended to leisure time, too. The wife socialized mainly with her female kin and neighbours, the husband with his male workmates, kin and neighbours. * In the stage 3 symmetrical family, conjugal roles became more joint. Although the wife still has primary responsibility for housework and childrearing, husbands became more involved, often washing clothes, ironing and sharing other domestic duties. RESEARCH METHOD: Their Bethnal Green study examined family life in London from 1950-70s & used a combination of historical research and social surveys. WEAKNESSES: This was heavily criticised by Ann Oakley who said Young and Willmott’s methodology was not good enough and presented a false picture of men’s involvement in domestic work.

  44. Power & roles in the family: domestic labour debate. Pahl She wrote money & marriage. 1989. She was the first British Sociologist to study how couples manage their money and the power relationships surrounding it. KEY CONCEPTS: husband-controlled pooling; wife controlled pooling; husband control; wife control. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * The study found four main patterns of money management: 1) Husband controlled pooling – was the most common pattern , money was shared but the husband mainly decided how it was spent. Common in households where husband earned a larger salary than his wife. This system tended to give men most power. 2) Wife controlled pooling – second most common, money was shared but the wife dominated decision making about how it was to be spent. This happened in households were woman earned more money or was better educated, these were more egalitarian households. 3) Husband control – where the husband was the breadwinner and gave his wife housekeeping money, this system led to male dominance. 4) Wife control – the least frequent pattern, common in low income households where neither partner worked & they were reliant on benefits. While it gave women more power, having responsibility for such a small amount of money & trying to make it stretch as far as possible was more of a burden for women. RESEARCH METHOD: Her study was based upon interviews with 102 couples with at least one child under sixteen . STRENGTHS: While inevitably social change has occurred, this study is fairly representative of the wider population and is a valid method.

  45. Power & roles in the family: domestic labour debate. Duncombe & Marsden They wrote women’s triple shift. 1995. This duo examined the nature of modern marriage and the emotional dynamics at work in keeping it together. KEY CONCEPTS: triple shift; emotion work; deep acting; shallow acting. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Most studies of domestic work miss out the concept of who does the emotion work & this is what Duncombe and Marsden focused on. Emotion work refers to how “from a very early age girls and then women become subconsciously trained to be more emotionally skilled in recognizing & empathizing with the moods of others.” * They found many women expressed dissatisfaction with their partner’s emotional input into the relationship and the family and many of them felt emotionally lonely. A number of the men concentrated on their jobs, were unwilling to discuss or express feelings of love for their partner & most of them did not acknowledge that there was either a problem or that they needed to pay their wives emotional attention. * Marriages were held together because of women’s emotion work. They deep acted away any doubts at the beginning by convincing themselves that marriage is what they wanted. Later on they shallow act to pretend to the world and their partners that they’re happy, to prevent them from ‘rocking the boat’. This is enormously stressful for the woman and she may ‘leak’ to friends or outsiders, this can sometimes lead to the break-up of the marriage. * With married women increasingly having paid employment, they can end up performing a triple shift. Having completed their paid job, they not only have to come home & do most of the housework, they have to do the emotion work, too. RESEARCH METHOD: Interviews with 40 white couples who had been married for fifteen years. They asked the couples, separately & together, how their marriage had lasted. WEAKNESSES: While this can be used to explain the increase in the divorce rate, this is an ethnocentric study – how does this apply to West Indian or Pakistani marriages, for instance?

  46. Power & roles in the family: domestic labour debate. Bernard She wrote the wife’s marriage. 1982. She argues that being a housewife contributes to the poor mental and emotional health of married women. KEY CONCEPTS: psychological distress. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * She compared housewives, all of whom were married, with working women, were also married. The comparison showed that wives who had outside employment were relatively healthy. * Further evidence of the destructive effects of the housewife role is provided by the incidence of symptoms of psychological distress among housewives and working women. * Bernard provides evidence to show that when the incidence of nervous breakdown is examined far fewer than expected of the working women and more than expected of the housewives experience: nervousness; inertia (not feeling in control of their lives); insomnia (unable to sleep); trembling hands; nightmares; headaches; heart palpitations. * In terms of the number of people involved, the housewife syndrome argues Bernard, might well be viewed a public health problem number one. RESEARCH METHOD: She used a comparative method with two samples of married women, half of whom were employed and the other half of whom were housewives. WEAKNESSES: While this is an important acknowledgement of the oppressive nature of the housewife role, this is becoming less and less relevant in modern British society as most married women are employed.

  47. Power & roles in the family: domestic labour debate. Schor She wrote the overworked american. 1993. She argues that three major economic developments have reduced the burden of housework on women KEY CONCEPTS: commercialisation of housework; technology in the home; women working; post-patriarchal family; death of the housewife role. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * Housework has become commercialised: supermarkets and fast food chains now provide relatively cheap, mass produced goods and services that previously housewives had to produce themselves. * Technology in the home: the widespread use of freezers, fridges and microwaves in conjunction with ‘ready meals’ has significantly reduced the amount of domestic labour that needs to be done in the average home. * Women working: the uptake of women in the economy now means that they can afford to buy commercialised food and home-based technologies as well as buy in domestic labour in he form of au pairs, cleaners etc. * As a result of these trends Schor argues that the dual burden has all but been eliminated. The outcome is a post-patriarchal family where economic and cultural changes have led to ‘the death of the housewife role’. RESEARCH METHOD: This is mainly theoretical, no involves no empirical research. WEAKNESSES: While this is purely theoretical, it provides a refreshing modern update on the nature of family life. However, it still does not address the fact that women remain primarily responsible for domestic affairs.

  48. Social construction of childhood – summary. • Many sociologists see childhood as a social construction rather than a natural state. Ideas about childhood vary between different societies and at different times. • According to Philippe Ariès: the concept of childhood did not exist in medieval Europe. Children were seen as little adults. Modern ideas of childhood as a separate state began with the onset of formal education and the gradual withdrawal of children from the workplace. • Rogers identifies two images of childhood in modern Western society – the ‘innocent and wholesome child’ and ‘the wicked and sinful child’. The first image suggests that children are vulnerable and need protection – the welfare view. The second image suggests children need regulation and discipline – the control view. • According to Nick Lee, adulthood has become less stable and more uncertain. In these respects, it has become more like childhood. This similarity has led to a change in the social construction of childhood in the 21st century. Children are increasingly seen as having their own rights and interests. • Postman argues that the media is breaking down the boundaries between the worlds of children and adults, leading to the ‘disappearance of childhood’. • Postman has been criticised for overstating his case. Childhood is a long way from disappearing. For example, children remain a distinct group – they are a major force in the market place (toys, media products etc), and they remain dependent on their parents for longer.

  49. Childhood Level One (you MUST know these for a BASIC understanding of the sociology of families and households). Level Two (you SHOULD know these for a SOUND understanding of the sociology of families and households). Level Three (you COULD know these for a SOPHISTICATED understanding of the sociology of families and households).

  50. Social construction of childhood. Ariès He wrote centuries of childhood. 1960 He studied the historical perspective of childhood & examined how there is historical relativity in how children are treated. KEY CONCEPTS: social construction of childhood; historical relativity. SUMMARY OF THEORY: * He argued that the concept of childhood did not exist in medieval Europe and claimed that soon after children were off their mother’s milk, they were regarded as little adults & treated as such. From an early age they worked alongside adults in the fields or in cottage industries, they dressed like adults and in many ways behaved like adults. * Ariès sees the modern concept of childhood developing from the separation of children from the world of adults which began in the 16th century when the upper classes started sending their kids to public schools to be educated. Then, throughout the 19th century, a series of factory acts banned the employment of children in mines and factories. By the end of the 19th century, most European children were made to go to school. So now children were physically and legally separate from adults. * Children are now seen to have special needs compared to adults and as a result there are a variety of professionals to meet those needs: child psychiatrists, paediatricians & parenting experts. RESEARCH METHOD: Examined letters from medieval times and other documents as well as how children were depicted in paintings. WEAKNESSES: It has been said that Ariès has overstated his case & that there were some separate laws for children in medieval Europe, such as not being allowed to marry under the age of 12.