The family and identityKey words:Identity – how we see ourselves and how others see us.Social roles- parts we play in society; each role has its own socialnorms which tell us how we should act in that role.Norms – the rules within a culture (e.g no killing)Values – ideas about what is worthwhile and important in aculture (e.g human life)Culture- the way of life of a group of people; it is learned andshared. The main parts of culture include knowledge, skills, socialnorms, values and beliefs.Socialisation – the process of learning to become a member ofsociety.Family – consists of people we are related to by ties of blood,marriage, adoption, civil partnership or cohabitation. There aremany different types of family.Functionalist sociologist- sociologists who believe that eachpart of society has roles to fulfil in order that society can surviveas a whole.Family is a big part of our identity; we learn our social roles fromour family and develop a sense of identity of who we are throughour place in the family.Family is primary socialisation and teaches us the norms andvalues of the society we live in. We learn the language of ourculture from our family and the family also influences ourpersonality.
Examples of non-socialised children are Kamala and Amala,who were found living in India in the 1920’s. They were livingwith a she wolf and looked wild, with matted hair and dirty bodies.They behaved like wolves, walking on all fours, howling andsleeping curled up on the floor. Amala died after a year of beingfound and Kamala died 9 years later. During her time withhumans Kamala learnt to walk and make friendships with humans,although she only learnt 40 words whereas a five year oldsvocabulary is 2000 words.Conclusions about non-socialised children• Children need good physical care• Children have the ability to learn• Socialisation is necessary to be full members of society• Some children can recover if their early socialisation is disrupted• If learning a language starts too late, a ‘critical period’ might have passed and it may be unable to develop fully Functions of the familyFunctionalist sociologist argue society works in harmony, justlike the human body with every organ working to make the wholebody work. So does each institute in society work in harmony tocreate a whole functioning society. For example family socializeschildren and if they fail to do this then the crime levels may rise.The Functionalist View of the FamilyThe traditional nuclear family is ideal for modern day living as itmakes best use of men and women’s different natural abilities.The family also provides:• Primary socialization• Comfort and support for adults and children- referred to as the ‘warm bath’, family life washes away the cares of the outside world.Functionalist 7 functions of the family 1. The regulation of sex 2. Reproduction 3. Physical care
4. Socialisation and social control 5. Emotional support 6. Economic support 7. A place in society • geographical mobility- moving away • social mobility- achieving a different social class than family (gaining an education and attaining a higher social class or going to prison or illness and attaining a lower social class.Criticisms of family functions• Feminist argue family benefits men. Physical care and emotional support is provided for by the woman even if they are in paid work as well. Men benefit from being married for example it increases their life expectancy and improves their health. These gender inequalities are passed on to the next generation through socialisation.• Marxists argue that the family benefits the ruling class. The family provides a new generation of workers, families also provide workers with emotional and physical support to keep them able to go out and make money for the ruling classes.• Others point out that family is not functioning as well as it used to, many women are remaining childless, 12,500 children were on the child protection register in 2007 (suggesting a lack of physical care) and in the Mental Health Survey 2004 10% of 5-16 year olds had a mental disorder (suggesting a lack of emotional care). Traditional definitions of the familyKey terms:Households – A group of people that share a home or livingspace.Marriage – A legally recognized relationship between two adults.Nuclear family- a two generation family, consisting of parentsand their dependent children.Extended family- any family larger than a nuclear family. Thereare different types of extended family.
Matrilocal- living with or near to the wife’s family.Traditional extended family- a three generational matrilocalfamily in which family members have frequent face-to-facecontact.Patrilocal-living with or near to the husband’s family.Neolocal- the couple set up their own home.Polyandry- a rare form of marriage where the women has morethan one marriage partner.Polygmy- the man has more than one marriage partner, commonin Islamic countries.Polygamy- this term includes polyandry and polygamy. The traditional nuclear familyThe traditional nuclear family consisted of:• Married parents• They had not cohabited before marriage and the white dress of the bride symbolised her virginity• In the marriage ceremony they vowed to be together until death parted them.• Husband and wife have different roles; the man is the breadwinner and the wife the housewife/homemaker.Feminists criticise the traditional nuclear family because:• Men dominated over women• The role of the mother/housewife was unfulfilling• The ‘happy family’ image hid a ‘dark side’ of domestic violence and abuse• Women had few choices, other options such as staying single or being a single parent were considered deviant
New Right sociologist and politicians disagree and view the 1950’sas the ‘golden age’ of family life where traditional family valuesand a stable home life created a strong society.Young and Willmott (1957) found evidence of the traditionalextended family in their research of working class communities inEast London. Families were matrilocal and gave more thanfriendship; mothers give help and advice regarding marriage,pregnancy and childrearing as well as support both financially andphysically.In later studies Young and Willmott (1973) argued the traditionalextended families were disappearing and that a Symmetrical familywas emerging. This is due to a change in the community (lessterraced housing and more high rise blocks of flats) a change inthe work force (a lack of manual jobs and needing to move to findemployment). The symmetrical family according to Young andWillmott had less traditional set roles for men and women andwere more privatised and did not rely on the extended family on aday-to-day basis. Cross cultural evidence of family lifeMurdock (1949) studied 250 different cultures and found that thenuclear family was in each, he argued that nuclear families are‘universal’.Evidence against Murdock’s claim:• The Nayar people of India in the 1800’s. The women had a ritual husband but then would have up to 12 ‘visiting husbands’. The woman and children were looked after by female relatives and brothers.• Polyandry common in Tibet where there is a lack of fertile land and a low population. The woman may marry brothers, in this way a farm can be cared for, the children are all related and the men do not know who is biologically theirs so treat all children as their own. Family in multicultural Britain
Dench, Gavron and Young (2006) found extended families in whitecommunities non existent but among the Bangladeshi communityover a quarter lived in patrilocal extended familiesIn Afro-Caribbean communities’ matrilocal households are morecommon. Structural changes in the familyKey terms:Cohabitation – When people live together without being marriede.g. halls of residenceDivorce – The legal termination of a marriage, leaving the couplefree to remarry.Secular society- a society that is not ruled by religious beliefs.Serial Monogamy – A person has more than one marriagepartner in their lifetime. The main reason for increased serialmonogamy is increased divorce rate.Reconstituted Families – a family in which one or both partnershas been married or cohabited before, and has a child or children,creating step relationships.Lone Parent Families – Families with only one parent.Commune- a group of people living together who agree to shareat least some of their property.Boomerang family- a family in which non dependent childrenreturn home to live with their parents.Beanpole family- a tall, narrow extended family often containingfour (or five) generations.One of the big debates in Sociology is the fact that traditionalfamily life in Britain is changing. The main reasons for this changeis:
• The changes made to the Divorce Act in 1971.• The subsequent increase in divorce.• Religion having less of an influence on people (secular society)• Couples cohabiting rather than marrying.• Children being born outside of marriage.Interestingly, the portrayal of the stereotypical traditional nuclearfamily is still one promoted both in the media and by politicians.Is the nuclear family dying? 1971 1991 2007% of households 35 25 21that are nuclearfamilies% of people who 52 41 36live in nuclearfamiliesThis table shows a decline but not a death of the nuclear family.Many people will live in a nuclear family in their lifetime. Cohabitation and the decline of marriageMarriage has decreased over the last 30 years and cohabitationhas increased. Reasons for this are:• Church weddings are expensive, formal and religious• Feminists argue women are aware of the exploitation of marriage and the nuclear family• Cohabitation is seen as preparation for marriage• Religion has become less influential so cohabitation has become more acceptable25% of unmarried adults are cohabiting. A result of increasedcohabitations is an increase of births outside marriage- they nowaccount for 1/3 of all births, 40% of all births are with parents whoare not living together due to a breakdown of the marriage duringthe pregnancy or the woman deciding to bring the child up alone.Couples are marrying later the average now is 29 years old forwomen and 31 years old for men.
Sue Sharpe (2001) interviewed 11-16 year olds and most statedmarriage was “ a choice not a necessity”.However, most people do marry and believe it is the best way tobring up children. Ethnic variations are that Indian, Pakistani andBangladeshi people have low rates of cohabitation and high ratesof marriage.The New Right believe cohabitating couples are more at risk ofsplitting up and therefore people should be married to create astable and secure environment for children to be brought up in.This will ultimately benefit the rest of society. Divorce and remarriageThe divorce Act of 1971 made divorce easier to attain. About 40%of marriages today will end in divorce.Why has the divorce rate increase?• The legal change in 1969 Divorce Reform Act made it easier to get divorced• There has been a change in attitude towards divorce which has led to a more secular society• Changing expectations of marriage, personal happiness put first before the vow “til death do us part”• The changing role of women, having more freedom and choice has led to women choosing not to stay in unhappy marriages• Isolation from a wider supportive extended family can lead to lack of emotional support through the rough time in marriage• Lack of children may mean there is less to keep the couple together• Longer life expectancy may make couples reflect on their relationshipThe effects of divorce are:• Husband and wife have to- divide possessions; decide who will live where, custody of the children, rights of the parent who does not have custody of the children.• Children of divorce parents are- more likely to live in poverty, become anti social, do less well at school, as adults have low
paid jobs, become parents at a young age, use drugs and smoke and drink a lot.• Many people re- marry after divorce which implies it is not the values of marriage that are being rejected but a bad choice of partner the first time around.• Re-marriage creates reconstituted and blended families.The effects of divorce on children are- Rogers and Pryor (1998)looked at 200 previous studies and concluded that:• Short-term distress is common• A risk of longer term problems such as poorer health, lack of educational achievement, bad behaviour, but not for all children.• The child’s age and gender do not affect the outcome of divorce.• Parent’s ability to come, the amount of family conflict and the quality of contact with the absent parent do affect the outcome.Sue Sharpe (2001) concludes that an awareness of divorce isleading young people to view marriage as a choice rather than anecessity.40% of marriages are remarriages, serial monogamy is evidencethat people value marriage. However, the remarriage rate isfalling which suggests divorced people are choosing to live aloneor cohabit rather than remarry.Boomerang families are becoming more common, especially due tothe financial support that can be provided for children. ParentlinePlus (2008) state that children returning home in their 20’s and30’s can create a battleground due to conflicts over money. Family diversityCouple familiesSome couples delay having children or do not have them at all,also due to people living longer, many parents live more yearstogether once their children have left home. In 2007, 25% ofpeople lived in couple family households.
Lone parent familiesA quarter of all families in Britain are lone parent families.Some argue the negative effects of not being brought up by twoparents are:• Underachieving in school• More likely to be unemployed• Become dependent on benefits• More likely to be delinquent, commit crime and use drugsSome argue that a lone parent may:• Be supported by other members of the family• Be able to support themselves economically and provide love and warm environment for children• Be able to protect children from an unhappy childhood by leaving relationship or marriage and living alone• Not bring up children who take drugs and do not achieve academically. Maybe these effects are due to other reasons such as living on a low income not be a lone parent.The child support agency is government run and its aim is toensure all parents support their children financially.Feminists see lone parenthood as a positive choice, but dorecognise that some lone parents may experience problems. TheNew Right are critical of lone parent families stating that boyssuffer due to not having a role model to copy during socialisation.Reconstituted families make up 10% of families withdependent children.Beanpole extended families the role of the grandparents is anvital one in today’s society where many parents work full time.Julia Brannen (2003) called grandparents the ‘pivot generation’ asthey may be looking after their own (very elderly) parents andhelp with their grandchildren’s child care.Gay and lesbian families have increased since the introductionof the Civil Partnership Act (2004). About 17,000 civil partnershipswere formed in the first year of the Act, 60% between men.
Many families today are not nuclear:• Men are deciding to stay at home and women are the main• ‘breadwinner’.• Afro-Caribbean families are generally matrifocal- headed by the mother- this is inherited tradition from the slave trade.• Asian families are greatly influenced by the extended family- sometimes with many generations living together in one householdThere are alternatives to such as:• Cared for children who do not live with their natural parents but are fostered or live in children’s homes.• Communes where many people live together and agree to share common goals and property; a good example of this is Kibbutzim in Israel.• Shared households, which is becoming more common- for example students sharing a house during university or in cities where it is too expensive to live alone.• Singlehood where people make a choice to live alone and not be in a relationship or have children. In 1971 people living alone was 6% and now it is 12%, some are elderly, some divorced and middle aged and some young people who can afford to live alone.Social class and family life• Income- more money= higher standard of living, better health,more likely to do well at school. Low-income poorer livingconditions, unhealthy diet, less likely to do well at school• Middle class people more likely to marry, delay marriage due toeducation and getting a career, delay having children and remainmarried• Working class people live closer to extended family, middleclasses move away from town of birth.• Conjugal roles are more shared in a middle class family•Ethnicity and family life• Rare for Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian people to live alone• Living alone is most common in White and black people• Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian people more influenced bycultural traditions, early marriage (sometimes arranged), patrilocal,early parenthood, larger families and lower rates of divorce,cohabitation, and employment among wives.
The effects of family lifeLife course is the path in which your life takes. In the 1950s itwas pretty much mapped out, school, marriage, kids. Familydiversity has given us more choice about family relationships.Choice has also lead to uncertainty, parents can decide to getdivorced, family members may not be seen as much as they want.Family life does affect society:• Married men live longer than bachelors• New Right sociologists (and some politicians) argue the nuclearfamily is the best place to bring up children•Feminists argue family diversity reduces problems such asdomestic violence and abuse• Post-modern sociologists don’t make judgements about whichtype of family is best but research the good and bad parts of socialchange Changing family relationshipsKey terms:Singlehood- people living alone; elderly people, divorced orseparated, young adults living alone.Conjugal Roles – The different roles of the husband and wife orcouples living together as partners.Symmetrical Family – a family in which conjugal roles aresimilar but not identical. (Some sociologists use the words ‘shared’,‘joint’ or ‘integrated’ conjugal roles instead).Housewife- An unpaid role, which made wives financiallydependent on their husbands.Househusband- A man with the main responsibilities fordomestic tasks and childcare, whose partner is the mainbreadwinner.The “dark side” of family life – A situation in which family lifedamages its members.
Child abuse- Harm caused to a child or young person under 18by an adult.Domestic violence- threatening behaviour, violence or abuse(psychological, emotional, physical, sexual or financial) committedby a family member against another Domestic division of labourThe amount of housework carried out by men and women isreferred to as the domestic division of labour. Traditionallywomen were responsible of the housework and childcare and theman was the ‘breadwinner’ who went to work and provided for hisfamily. This is called SEGREGATED CONJUGAL ROLES,however it is argued that times have changed and the division oflabour has become SYMMETRICAL.Young and Willmott (1973) argued that men and women are nowsharing the housework and childcare more equally. Thesymmetrical family according to Young and Willmott is:• Nuclear• Privatised- cut off from other relatives and neighbours• Symmetrical- husband and wives had similar rolesThey interviewed 2000 adults in London and 400 of them filled in‘time budget diaries’. They found that men and women’s roleswere similar but not identical. Women had paid work and the menspent more time at home.Ann Oakley (1974) a feminist sociologist argued Young andWillmott’s findings were exaggerated. She conducted 40 indepthinterviews with mothers of young children and found that womenfelt the household responsibilities were theirs despite the fact thatthey too may work. In middle class families the man was moreinvolved in housework and childcare.Why have conjugal roles become more similar?• Privatised families- no extended families available to help• Changing attitudes- marriage is seen more as a partnership
• Changing laws- women’s legal rights make them more equal partners• Comfortable homes- men have become more home-centred• Fewer children- women’s lives are no longer dominated by childbearing and childcare• The feminisation of the workforce- more women have paid employmentEarning money- many women now work outside the home this isbecause:• The service sector and part time work has increased• Laws have changed to give equal rights to women in the work force• High achievement and changing priorities of girls in education• Dissatisfaction with the housewife-mother role• Reliable contraception, limiting family size• The growth of consumerism• Longer life expectancy20% of women earn more than men however, there is still notequality in the workforce for example many women work parttime.Many argue that working has put extra strain on women, calledthe part time trap, women are working part time but alsoexpected to do all the domestic chores as well.The dual burden is the term used to describe women’s’experiences of working and also having the responsibilities ofdomestic tasks as well.The triple shift introduced by Duncombe and Marsden (1995)highlights the domestic, emotional and paid work carried out bywomen which men are not willing to do.Gershuny (1992) held an optimistic view that there was a time oflagged adaptation where men took their time to realise theyneeded to input more in the home and child care due to womanworking.
In some cases men stay at home and are househusbands,however this is rare. The Time Use Surveys (2000,2005) show:• At all ages women spend longer on household chores than men• Gender affects which tasks are carried out, men are more likely to do repairs and women the cooking, cleaning and shopping.• When comparing household work and paid work, men and women do the around the same, men are longer in paid work and women work part time and do more housework.• The time men and women spend on household tasks tell between 2001 and 2005.Technology has led to the time spent on household tasks beingreduced. People can pay to have their cleaning, ironing andshopping done, there are also many labour saving devices that canbe bought.It is argued that childcare is becoming more shared, adevelopment from the past it the man being present at the birth ofthe child. Feminists argue that men only do the fun tasks andleave the hard work for the women.Decision making in the family is another way of exploring equalitybetween men and women. Edgell (1980) interviewed a smallsample of middle class families and found that the most importantdecisions such as moving house were made by the men. However,recent studies have shown that women have more of an equal rolein decision-making, economic power is an important factor. If thewoman is the main earner then she has more sway in decision-making and vice versa.In the past men were likely to manage the money but now thereseems to be more greater equality in money management.Conjugal roles can vary depending on age, health, ethnic group,social class, occupation and the stage of life. For example,conjugal roles may well have been equal when the couple werechildless but become more segregated when a child is born. Assame sex couples do not have the ‘gender scripts’ of amale/female relationship they have more freedom to create theirown relationship. With an increase in lone parent families (mainlyheaded by women) the woman has all responsibilities for
housework, paid work, emotional work, decision-making, moneymanagement and childcare.Conclusions into research into conjugal roles are:• They are more equal today• BUT inequalities remain• The inequalities vary between familiesChanging relationships between family membersChanges have taken place in the parent/Child relationships:• Children are more likely to survive childhood, infant mortality rates are low• Children are more likely to be cared for by a non parent (grandparent, childminder or in a nursery)• Children today have more money spent on them, own room, toys and education• Children have more parental supervision due to safety concerns• Children have more of a say in family decision making• In two parent families children have parents who share household tasks and childcare• In dual income families there may be less contact with children “cash rich but time poor”.• Children are more to experience the breakdown of their parents marriage• Children now spend some of their childhood in a single parent, reconstituted or same-sex family• Children are more likely to financially depend on their parents for longer, for example in boomerang familiesSocial class differences are that middle class children are morelikely to be better off, be better housed and have a bettereducation, be healthier and have parents that are older.Ethnic differences are that Asian families are more likely to beapart of an extended family, have more siblings and to haveparents that are married and remain married.The dark side of the family
Views on the family are mixed, Functionalists view the family in apositive light stating it provides everything an individual needs.However, Leach (1967) states that the family cannot provideeverything a person needs and that often conflict anddisappointment lead the nuclear family to be “the source of all ourdiscontents”.Some people may be harmed by family members, physically,emotionally, psychologically, and financially and what should be aplace of safety and love is a place of fear and insecurity.Measuring domestic violenceOfficial statistics of domestic violence are not valid because:• There is no crime called ‘domestic violence’Many victims do not report their abuse so the statistics are the ‘tipof the iceberg’The British Crime survey gives a more accurate picture; it has alarge sample of 16-59 year olds from England and Wales. It asksvictims to record any “frightening threats and or physical assaults”.Experiences of domestic violence in England and Wales in 1999Experience of Women Mendomestic violenceYes: in my lifetime 26% 17%Yes: in the last year 4.2% 4.2%Yes: 3 or more times in 2.0% 1.5%the last yearI have been injured by it 2.2% 1.1%in the last yearBCS Home Office and statistics 1999Only 10% of these victims had told the police about the violentincident, less than 50% had told anyone, usually a friend.Violent menMost violent offences are committed by men against women, anaverage of 2 women per week are killed by their partner or expartner according to the Home Affairs Select Committee, 2008.
Feminists argue violence against women is a product of thepatriarchal society (male dominated) that oppresses women. Themarriage and the nuclear family is a way of controlling women andkeeping them at home, serving men. They say that:• Men have unrealistic expectations of their partners and of themselves• Men think they can use violence to control the family and deal with their partners ‘failings’Critics of Feminists highlight the fact a patriarchal society mayexplain men’s violence towards women but point out that not allmen are violent towards women and that patriarchy does notexplain why some women are violent towards men.New concernsMale victims of domestic violence often do not report theirexperiences for fear of not being taken seriously by the police.Violence in same sex relationships according to Donovan(2007) in her research found 40% of women and 35% of men hadexperience physical and emotional abuse.‘Honour’ based violence can occur in families that becomeashamed of members if they become to ‘westernised’ or disobeythe elders in the family. A related issue is ‘forced marriage’ inwhich young people are forced to marry someone of their parent’schoice. The governments forced marriage unit deals with 300cases a year but the real figure is unknown.Those most likely to report being the victim of domestic violence iswomen aged between 20-24 the lowest figure came from peoplein their 40’s and 50’s.Child abuseThe Child Protection Register if England lists all those children whoare suffering (or likely to be) from significant harm. The figuresfrom the 2007 highlighted the four main types of child abuse are: 1. Neglect 12,500 2. Physical abuse 3500 3. Sexual abuse 2000 4. Emotional abuse 7100Source: The NSPCC website
On average one child a week is killed by a parent, partner of aparent or another relative. There have been cases such as‘Baby P’ in which the child has not been protected from the abuseof their parents. It is thought that the breakdown of relationshipsleave children more at risk of abuse, however, there have alsobeen cases when a parent has been wrongly accused of abuse andfound it difficult to get their children back from social services.Exam practiceIdentify and explain two reasons for the increase in divorce inBritain. (8 marks)Identify and explain two functions of the family. (8 marks)Identify and explain two ways conjugal roles are becoming moreequal. (8 marks)Identify and explain two ways the family can act as an agent ofsocial control. (8 marks)Identify and explain two ways the family can have a negativeimpact on its members. (8 marks)Identify and explain two cultural alternatives to the nuclear family. (8 marks)Identify and explain two ways in which child and parentrelationships have changed. (8 marks)Identify and explain two ways the roles played by husbands andwives are different. (8 marks)Identify and explain two types of family. (8 marks)“Two married parents with their children is the main type offamily today”.Evaluate the arguments for and against this statement. (24 marks)
“Nuclear families are always the best”.Evaluate the arguments for and against this statement. (24 marks)“Marriage is no longer important”.Evaluate the arguments for and against this statement. (24 marks)“Conjugal roles are more equal in Britain today”.Evaluate the arguments for and against this statement. (24 marks)“The main function of the family is to socialise children”Evaluate the arguments for and against this statement. (24 marks)