Using Sociological Theories and Evidence Discuss Why the Contemporary British Family Is Characterised by Diversity.

Topics: Family, Nuclear family, Extended family Pages: 5 (1214 words) Published: May 15, 2013
The British family is changing. Traditionally the family was not diverse, specific family types were very much associated with the time period, eg, pre industrial Britain the family type was the unit of production and 1850 - 1950 we had the classic extended family. 1950’s to 1970’s was the nuclear family. However in recent times there is evidence to suggest that this has changed. There is still the nuclear family which is usually a small family, with independance stable employment very much able to support itself but the nuclear family is very much diminished. We can also find many different types of families in society, there is now an extended family which has a wider kinship and are interdependent, a lone parent family where there is only one parent raising the family and also a reconstructed family which includes children from previous relationships.This essay is going to explore using sociological research why the contemporary british family is so diverse.

One perspective on the changing functions of the family is post modernism. Sociologist Giddens (1992) believes that a ‘in post modern society relationships are emotional and reflexive therefore this accounts for the diversity of family types and increasing flexibility within an individuals own life time’. Sociologists Beck and Beck - Gernsheim (1995) agrees stating ‘ individuals don’t have as many strict guidelines to follow with regards to relationships. We now produce our own rules on how we want our relationship to run’. There is now a higher expectation in relationships and marriages. Postmodernists stress the chaos and uncertainty in society and argue that social structures like the family are breaking down, people now live in such a wide range of ever changing personal relationships. Unlike functionalists they believe social structures cease to exist, to be replaced by a mass of individuals making individual choices about their lifestyles.(Ken Browne 2006)

Functionalists strongly disagree with the postmodernism views. Sociologist Talcott Parsons developed a school of thought known as structural functionalism.He believed that Family, Education, Economy, Politics and Cultural are all interlinked. Functionalists recognise that families in Britain has gone through many changes since industrialisation, Parsons are very much of the opinion that nuclear families are best equipped to meet needs of the society. He found evidence that segregated conjugal roles are most functional. Parsons stated that the family is losing many of its traditional functions which are being transferred to more specialised institutes eg, Education and Health system, he calls this process structural differentiation he believes that there are now two main functions of the contemporary family, Primary socialisation of children and stabilisation of adult personalities. Sociologist Fletcher (1966) disputes this claiming that the family actually has more responsibilities than ever before. Feminists also believe that the family described by parsons is an oppressive institute that benefits men and oppresses and exploits men.

Both perspectives post modernism and functionalism play a huge part in understanding diversity in contemporary families.

Its is also important to note that the roles of women and men are changing within the family. In previous times nuclear families were the main family type, men and women had segregated conjugal roles and the family was highly functional. However in current times this has changed. families with joint conjugal roles are more common, women are more likely to have careers now than in previous times and due to economic reasons women are more likely to have to return to work once they have a child.The Office for National Statistics research showed that at the end of 2010 66% of mothers are in some form of work should that be full time or part time. (
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