‘a Family Can Be Defined as a Married Heterosexual Couple and Their Children’. How Have Social Scientists Challenged This Kind of Conventional Definition of the Uk Family?

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‘A family can be defined as a married heterosexual couple and their children’. How have social scientists challenged this kind of conventional definition of the UK family? Since there are lots of different perceptions or even conflicts on family life, the sociologist is challenging greatly of the family (Cheal, D. 1991:1). The changes in family living and household composition are mainly concerned as a contemporary core. (Jagger, G. and Wright, C. 1999:1). According to Sherratt and Hughes, although families are fluid and diverse, the divisions’ persistence and family’s inequalities still exist (Fergusson, R. and Hughes, G. 2004:75). This essay will argue the functional approach to family is more crucial than the structure approach for social scientists to challenge the conventional definition of family in the United Kingdom. Also, the diversity structures of family and the changes of power in family such as feminism will be explained in this essay respectively.

It is suggested that the structure approach to family is less important than the functional approach to family. Cheal defined the structure of family as grouping of system’s parts, such as the family roles of mother, father and child (Cheal, D. 2002:162). For the approach of structure of family, the kind of family members, the relationships, positions or roles, are consisted within the family and the members of family are interacted but the activities of the family or the consequences of their activities are not included. For instance, it included the main roles of the parents in family might be transited values to child, to let child get ready to go to school and provided food for them. Still, it tends to be insignificant for social scientists to challenge. Therefore, they emphasis on family functions more (Cheal, D. 2002:7).

The functional approach to family focus on the activities when people being together and the methods to support between them. The family are responsible for certain functions such as to care or love each other, reproduction or adoption, socialization of child, social control over members and providing materials. As this approach helps to solve the hard problems, it is more useful for social scientists to dispute the definition of family (Cheal, D. 2002:8).

The conventional family in the 1950s was idealized family which was the ‘golden age’ of the nuclear family (Cheal, D. 1991:3). Furthermore, one of the social scientists, Cheal (2002) suggested that a lot of sociologists thought the nuclear family is composed of a married couple in legal with their children which living together as long as the children moved out (Cheal, D. 2002:4). This is the conventional definition of family in the United Kingdom. For conservatism, the key tasks of the family are reproducing the future generation, protecting the dependent child and transiting the proper moral values or social values to their child (Sherratt, N. and Hughes, G.2004:60).

In addition to the nuclear family, there are other structures of family raised since the traditional family was declined in the late 1960s to 1970s (Cheal, D. 1991:6). It is suggested that the nuclear family has been diversified into other different structures such as extended family, cohabitation, homosexual family, lone-parent family and step family (Sherratt, N. and Hughes, G.2004:75). First, the extended family is a family more than one couple or pair of parent-children with family ties and inter-support of practical. Mostly are intergenerational families which involve three generations of families (Cheal, D. 2002:155). Nowadays, more young parents are likely to go to work and have no time to take care of their child. In the other words, grandparents would take care of the child instead. In the future about twenty years, the number of extended families in the United Kingdom will increase from 75,000 to 200,000 according to the report shown by Skipton Building Society mentioned in BBC NEWS(April 29th 2004)....
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