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
• Types of society: Pre-industrial and industrial.
What are the differences between these two?
• Pre-industrial: Agricultural, work centres on
home, farm, village and market.
• Industrial: Society after industrialisation. Work
centres on factories and production of goods in
• What effects do these structures have on the
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?
• 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
• 1. Lots of functions are taken over by the state in
industrial society (examples?)
• 2.The nuclear family can focus on its function of
• 3.Geographically mobile ‘isolated’
Functionalist – Roles and status
• Status in pre-industrial society was ascribed
• In industrial society, an individual’s status is
• 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
• 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
• Feminist research suggest equal roles don’t
Critiques and other perspectives
• Wilmott and Young supported the theory that working class
families had closer extended kinship networks than middle
• 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
• Give an example of social change caused by
• What roles did Parsons believe men and women
had within the nuclear family?
• What is meant by the term ‘the symmetrical
• Outline one criticism of Willmott and Young’s
‘march of progress’ theory
• 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