ssay on Family
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The question is to outline and critically evaluate the functionalist view that the typical family unit is nuclear. The other part of the question is to critically evaluate the work of Willmott and Young that suggests that the family is becoming increasingly symmetrical. In defining the symmetrical family according to Willmott and Young, males and females are becoming equal within the family. Willmott and Young also stated that there are three stages in becoming a symmetrical family. The first stage is the pre-industrial family, which is a unit of production consisting of a husband, wife and unmarried children. The family worked for themselves on the land as a unit of production. This is still represented in a small minority of families today. The family started to decline in the nineteenth –century due to the industrial revolution which gave rise to the emergence of the factory system. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2002). The stage two families began with early industrialization. Factory production replaced the domestic system and such families ceased to be a unit of production and focused more on the individuals employed as wage earners. During the nineteenth century there was high unemployment and widespread poverty amongst the working class. Stage three families began in the early 1970’s. This is a new emerging family called the symmetrical family. It is egalitarian and democratic. The conjugal bond between husband and wife is strong and they share their work and time around the home. The nuclear family has become a large self-containing and self-reliant unit. Wives still have the main responsibility of raising the children with a little help from their husbands. Women started a network of support in order to help each other and their children during hard times. This extension of network was done to cope with poverty by creating an insurance policy and support. The bond between married daughter and mother became closer and the conjugal bond between husband and wife became weaker. A survey carried out by Willmott and Young in the 1950’s showed that stage two families still exists in Bethnal Green. There is still a strong bond between mothers and daughters. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000) Historically the symmetrical family brought changes to the structure of the family. However, there are feminist theories on the family for example, radical feminists believe that that the family is a unit of oppression. Radical feminists see the home as a place where women were exploited by the capitalists and their husbands. Men were the head of the family and household. The men had political and economic powers allowing them to make decisions in the home. As a result the women would be dependent on the men. In order to understand the family, feminism has probably had more influence on the study of the family than any other approaches in society. Feminists have highlighted the dangerous effects on women within the family. Also the dominance of men within the family was highlighted. They also question whether the family life is becoming egalitarian. In addition, feminists view the family as an institution, which has greater benefits for men compared to those for women (Haralambos, 2000). In regards to the Marxist feminist perspective, Marxists such as Engel and Zaretsky recognised that women are treated unfairly in the home. However their focus is on the relationship between Capitalism and the family. Margaret Benston states that women are the emotional support for her husband. This support provides him with comfort, which enables him to continue to go out to perform well in his job. In terms this is good for the Capitalist employee working well in order to perform his role as a wage labourer (handout feminist perspectives on the family). According to Bryson (1997), radical feminists view the oppression of women as the most fundamental and universal from of control. In this view, this is a...
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