Examine the Extent of and Reasons for Family Diversity in Today’s Society

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When it comes to family, there was no way to define such a word. Post-modern society has allowed for the diversification of the family structure, bringing today’s society further away from the idea of the ‘ideal’ family. According to Modernist theory, the ‘ideal’ family also known as the nuclear family consists of two parents (both sexes) and a small amount of children. In this type of family (it being the only type seen as acceptable at this time) the father had the ‘instrumental’ role, meaning that he was responsible for looking after the family’s needs on a financial basis. The mother had the ‘expressive’ role which meant she was responsible for caring after the family needs on a physical and emotional basis, this also included housework. Parsons agrees with this theory as it is a suitable for a more geographically mobile workforce, being ‘structurally isolated’ from extended relatives allows families to meet the needs of the industrial society. In Parsons view there has been a loss of functions due to society industrialising, whilst changing the structure of the family from extended to nuclear this is where the functions were lost forcing the nuclear family to specialise in these two ‘irreducible functions’. These functions are ‘the primary socialisation of children (preparing children with basic skills and society’s values to enable them to cooperate and fit into society)’ and ‘the stabilisation of adult personalities (the family is a place where adults can relax and release tension so they are refreshed for the workplace the next day)’ Unlike Parsons, the New Right believe that this theory is correct but on a more conservative and traditional level. The new right believe that the nuclear family is the ‘natural’ family type and is based on the biological factors of men and women and the differences between them. They believe that family is the ‘cornerstone of society’ and that diversity is the cause of many social problems. Chester(1985) agrees with this theory to some extent, he believes that there has been an increase in diversity over the years, but not as much as the New Right are describing in their theory nor is he seeing the diversity through the eyes of negativity. He argues that the diversity that has taken place in society is purely a change in the ‘dominance of the traditional or conventional family’. This means that the body seen as the ‘instrumental carer’ in the nuclear family no longer has the full burden of supporting the family on a financial basis but shares it with the expressive carer. He defines this theory as the ‘neo-conventional family’. In contrast to both Parsons and the New Right, the Rapoports argue that there is significant amount of diversity but it is essential for us to understand our family life today. They believe that we have drifted away from the nuclear family type as being the ‘norm’ into many different family types. This allows us to explore different cultures and the different needs and wishes of people through the diversity which gives us greater freedom and acceptance. Both Chester and the Rapoports’ theories can be seen as appropriate today to some extent as many families today have neo-conventional families where both parents are at work and there has also been a large amount of diversity allowing us to experience different ways of life other than the nuclear family setting. Having said that, perhaps the Rapoports theory isn’t comprehensive enough. The Rapoports believe there are only five different types of family diversity; Organisational diversity(differences in the ways family roles are organised), cultural diversity(different cultures, religions and ethnic groups having different family structures), life-stage diversity(family structures differ depending on the stage in the life cycle), social class diversity (differences in family structure partly because of the family's income) and generational diversity(older any younger generations having different attitudes...
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