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Assess Sociological Explanations of the Nature and Extent of Family Diversity Today

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  • May 3, 2012
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Assess sociological explanations of the nature and extent of family diversity today (24 marks)

Rhona and Robert Rapoport (1982) argue that diversity is of central importance in understanding family life today. They believe that we have moved away from the traditional nuclear family as the dominant family type, to a range of different diverse types. Families in Britain have adapted to a pluralistic society; a society in which cultures and lifestyles are more diverse. In their view, family diversification represents greater freedom of choice and the widespread acceptance of different cultures and ways of life. Unlike the New Right, the Rapoports see diversity as a response to people different needs and wishes, not as abnormal or deviation from the assumed norm of the nuclear family. The Rapoports identify five different types of family diversity. Organisational diversity refers to the differences in the ways family roles are organised. For example, some couples have joint conjugal roles and others have segregated conjugal roles. Cultural diversity is the belief that different cultural, religious and ethnic groups have different family structures. Social class diversity is the differences in family structure that are partly the result of income differences between households of different classes. Life stage diversity states that family structures differ according to the stage reached in the life cycle- for example, newly-weds, couples with children, retired couples whose children have left home and widows or widowers who are living alone. The last type of family diversity is generational diversity; older and younger generations have different attitudes and experiences that reflect the historical periods in which they have lived. For example, they may have different views about the morality of divorce or cohabitation.

Modernist approaches to the family such as functionalism and the New Right emphasise the dominance of the nuclear family type in modern society....