Changes in family structure1

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Information about Changes in family structure1

Published on December 15, 2013

Author: lindseycottle



Sociological perspectives on family structure

Changes in Family Structure The average family today doesn’t have he same structure as the average family 250 years ago.

Types of family structure? • Extended and nuclear. Can you think of any other types? • Types of society: Pre-industrial and industrial. What are the differences between these two?

Society structure • Pre-industrial: Agricultural, work centres on home, farm, village and market. • Industrial: Society after industrialisation. Work centres on factories and production of goods in cities. • What effects do these structures have on the family?

Here’s the debate… • Did the changing societal structure change the structure of the family? • What do you suppose functionalists and Marxist perspectives could be on this?

Functionalist • Industrialisation changed the function of the family • Parsons studied the impact of industrialisation on family structure in the UK and America. HE believed it changed from extended to nuclear as it was the best fit for industrial society. • 1. Lots of functions are taken over by the state in industrial society (examples?) • 2.The nuclear family can focus on its function of socialisation. • 3.Geographically mobile ‘isolated’

Functionalist – Roles and status changed • Status in pre-industrial society was ascribed • In industrial society, an individual’s status is achieved • There is greater social mobility and the nuclear family is best for allowing individuals to achieve status and position without conflict. • Specialised roles – instrumental and expressive. These are most effective. • Who would disagree?

Critique of functionalists • The modern family is superior? • An idealised picture of history, family forms were more diverse than they said • Laslett (1972) the nuclear family was the most common structure before industrialisation. • Laslett and Anderson (1971) the extended family is significant in industrial society.

Wilmott and Young (1960, 1973) • Two studies (in Britain) from the 1950’s to 1970’s. • British Families developed through three stages Stage one: Pre-industrial Family works together as economic production unit. Work and home are combined. Stage two: Early industrial Extended family is broken up as individuals (mostly men) leave home to work. Women at home have strong extended kinship networks. Stage three: Privatised nuclear Family based on consumption, not production – buying things, not making things. Nuclear family is focused on personal relationships and lifestyle called the ‘symmetrical family’ – husband and wife have joint roles. Stage four: Asymmetrical Husband and wife roles become asymmetrical as men spend more leisure time away from the home – in the pub for example.

Critiques • Assume that family life has got better and better as structure adapts to modern society. They’re described as ‘march of progress’ theorists. • They ignore the negative aspects: Domestic violence, child abuse, lack of care for the elderly and vulnerable • Feminist research suggest equal roles don’t really exist

Critiques and other perspectives • Wilmott and Young supported the theory that working class families had closer extended kinship networks than middle class families. • The British Social Attitude Surveys of 1986 and 1995 showed that working class families have more frequent contact and ties outside of their nuclear family. • Wilmott (1988) did more recent work and suggested the extended family ties are still important but held in reserve for times of crisis. • In Parson’s terminology the family is ‘partially isolated nuclear’.

Practice • Give an example of social change caused by industrialisation • What roles did Parsons believe men and women had within the nuclear family? • What is meant by the term ‘the symmetrical family’? • Outline one criticism of Willmott and Young’s ‘march of progress’ theory

Exam Questions • Examine the ways in which industrialisation changed the function of the family • Examine the view that the extended family remains an important aspect of modern industrial society

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