In a post modern society such as Britain, are traditional family and marriage necessary?
This essay will explore whether traditional family and marriage are necessary in Britain today. The change of societal views and attitudes will need to be considered, as well as analysing statistical evidence. The ideology of the family and marriage will then be discussed and contrasted, in relation to various theoretical perspectives such as functionalism and post modernism. Government views and policies will also be reviewed in order to show how family has evolved for various family types.
Before discussing if there is a necessity for traditional family and marriage in Britain today, it only seems logical to first understand what is meant by the term traditional family. A traditional family or nuclear family, as it is sometimes referred to as, consists of a heterosexual monogamous couple that are legally bound through marriage and their healthy, dependent 2.5 children, Muncie et al. (1999). There is usually a clear division of labour where the male predominantly plays the instrumental role of the breadwinner and the female predominantly plays her expressive role as the homemaker and care giver, Bernardes (1997). This is based on the theory of Functionalism (which has dominated theories until the mid 20th century). They seem to place importance on the division of labour, as they believe that this structure is the most effective way of performing family functions.
This image of family would have been very accurate if it was based families around the 20th century as it was considered to be the norm, to get married and have a family with males and females playing their respective biological roles. According to Pascall (1986) in Muncie et al (1999, p44), the Beveridge Report recognised three key characteristics of the associated with the idea of the family; 1 Women are available to do housework and care for children and elderly relatives, without pay. 2 Couples consist of one full-time worker (usually a male breadwinner) and one ‘housewife’ whose work outside the home is insignificant... 3 Women look to men for financial support.
As time has evolved the idea of what family is has become varied and not quite as meticulous in its structure, although this is still the image of some households. These characteristics that are noted in The Beveridge Report may be deemed as dated by most individuals in the 21st century, as it is evident that family structure has changed dramatically. This report would have been disregarded by feminists, as a patriarchal family is not what they believe in. This clearly shows the woman as being dependent on a man.
According to data from the Office of National Statistics (2012), it is clear that the nuclear family (married parents with an average of 2 child dependants) has continued to be the most ordinary family type, although this number has slowly begun to decrease as the years have moved on. What can also be identified is that the number of people in other family types, for example single parent families and same-sex families, has begun to increase gradually. This suggests that people are beginning to accept that ‘family’ does not have to be the ‘traditional nuclear family’. The fact that it is documented at all shows that there is no huge necessity for marriage as there once was. Also there is the opinion as per Duncan and Phillips (2008, p5), that ‘marriage and unmarried cohabitation are socially similar (as agreed by two-thirds of individuals when surveyed) and one-third felt that ‘unmarried cohabitation shows as much commitment as marriage’. There is also the suggestion that cohabiting relationships are actually lasting longer, for example in 2006 it was 6.9 years, compared to 6.5 years in 2000. This demonstrates how views and relationship types have changed in Britain, as if this survey was done in the early 20th century there probably would have been remarkable difference in...
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