Discuss Changing Family Structures in the Uk and Give Examples of Sociological Theories That Provide Explanations as to Why and How Families Have Changed.

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Discuss changing family structures in the UK and give examples of sociological theories that provide explanations as to why and how families have changed.

This essay will discuss the various family structures in society. It will give theoretical explanation as to why and how families have changed. The essay will also bring statistical, historical and political evidence to back up the reason for these changes.

During the pre-industrial society the ‘extended family’ was the most common family structure. This family structure involves three generations including the parents, children and either the grandparents (vertical-extended) or uncles and aunts (horizontally-extended). The extended family structure was essential for this society as families were a ‘unit of production’ so they needed as many workers as they could get. Michael Anderson (1971) argued that in ‘critical life situations’ there was a dependence on the extended family for help and support. Then Parsons (1949) said large families were economically beneficial, so the extended family was the most suited structure. However, during in the industrial revolution family life changed. It was no longer seen as a ‘unit of production’ but now a ‘unit of consumption’. The ‘nuclear family’ emerged and became the main family structure. However, the extended family may become popular again as in our current society people are living longer and state funding on residential care has decreased so this has shifted the care and responsibility onto the family. Also, there has been an increase in Multi-generational families. ‘The earlier age of child-bearing reducing the age gap between generations’ (Fulcher and Scott, 2011: 446)

The ‘nuclear family’ consisted of two generations, the mother, father and their children. Parsons (1949) argued that industrialisation resulted in a shift from the extended family to the nuclear family, as its characteristics are more typical for a capitalist society. Parsons (1956)...
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