Changes of family trends
This essay will discuss some of the changes and trends in family life in Britain over the last 50 years. In order to do this, this essay will firstly define what is meant by the term family in this context. It will then go on to describe the main family types including the nuclear family, the extended family, cohabiting family and more. The family has changed over the years, the main change being the decline in the traditional nuclear family, the reasons of which will be discussed within the main body of this essay.
Other changes of family types will also be discussed along with explanations and arguments of why these changes have occurred. Sociological perspectives on the family intend to shed light on the purpose of the family within society, this essay will outline and discuss two perspectives – one being functionalism and the second being social interactionism. Finally, this essay will come to a conclusion of the research into the changes and trends of family life in Britain.
“A family is a group of persons directly linked by kin connections, the adult members of which assume responsibility for caring for children. ” (Giddens, 1997) This definition also includes the kin connections through marriages which leads to step families. In today’s society there are a huge diversity of family types, these include:- The nuclear family – a household where the parents are married and they live with their biological children. Extended family – a family which consists of three or more generations, grandparents, parents and children living in the same household.
One person household – one adult living alone without any other family members. Cohabiting family – a family where the parents are not married, live with either biological or step children. Lone parent family – this can be either the mother or the father responsible for raising the children. Same gender family – a family where the parents are of the same sex, they may be in a civil partnership and are responsible for children. Multi-racial family – a family where the parents are members of different racial groups.
Adoptive family – a family where one or more of the children has been adopted. Immigrant family – a family where the parents have immigrated with their children. The traditional family types 50 years ago were mainly the nuclear family and the extended family, whereas due to divorce, an increased tolerance towards homosexual couples, unmarried parents, immigration and couples of different racial groups having children, modern family types have become extremely diverse, with certain modern family types becoming more popular than the traditional types.
In 2012 the office of national statistics found that 38% of families with dependent children were married, compared to 39% of families with dependent children being cohabiting couple families. (Office of National Statistics, 2012) This shows how values towards marriage in recent decades have changed and as a result has affected the family values, no longer does the family value traditional beliefs that parents should be of opposite sex, where the father works and the mother stays at home to rear the children.
Modern society has diverse beliefs which directly affect family types and in turn increases the diversity within society as a whole. Through research and studies the Family Policy Social Centre found similar findings “today it is estimated that nuclear families make up only 36% of British families” (Family Policy Social Centre, 2009) Another argument for this decrease of nuclear families is that modern society has introduced legislation related to divorce, contraception and abortion which has affected the nature of women’s roles within the family.
Women were starting to realise they were able to choose when they wanted to have children, they were able to get divorced more easily and as a result get remarried. These legislations led to an increase in divorce, abortion rates and woman getting remarried, therefore as a direct result led to an increase in single parent families, step families and women waiting until later in life to have children and families. A major change contributing to the structure of the family is the high rate of divorce in Britain. The causes of the rate of divorce include the difference in priorities and expectations amongst married couples.
Another issue may be sharing the responsibilities of rearing children, and the conflicts caused by working mothers and their traditional family roles. Couples also divorce over financial issues, disagreements about responsibility and unequal status. Married couples may become disinterested with each other and deceive their partner with someone else. As couples become preoccupied with their frustrations and disappointment within their marriage, they may not think about the consequences. ‘For children, divorce is a watershed that permanently alters their lives.
The world is newly perceived as a far less reliable, more dangerous place because the closest relationships in their lives can no longer be expected to hold firm. More than anything else, this new anxiety represents the end of childhood’ (Meng, 2008). Marital breakdown can in itself cause even further problems, as many women become lone parents and their financial situation affects the family’s lifestyle. Many lone parents enter into new relationships and often result in remarriage. ‘In this way reassembled or blended families are created which contain step parents and step children’ (Hill & Irving, 2009).
Parents that have been affected by divorce either through loneliness or financial problems may remarry. ‘The tragedy is that second marriages with children are much more likely to end in divorce than first marriages’ (Meng, 2008). The causes of high divorce rates are arguably caused by the ever increasing acceptance of divorce and single parents by society and as a result teaches the children involved that divorce is a normal part of marriage and life and therefore reinforces the norm divorce and lack of value towards marriage within society.
More recently Government has brought about the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and nearly a decade later the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. (Parliament. uk, 2013) These acts have resulted in a sudden increase of civil partner couple families – statistics show that from 2003 to 2013 civil partnership couple families have risen from N/A to 63,000. These findings resulted in research into same sex cohabiting couple families which also showed a rise of N/A in 2003 to 89,000 families in 2013 (Office of National Statistics, 2013).
Due to the increase in these types of family, other family types have been affected. This could be due to either by these couples adopting which also increases the number or adoptive families or by homosexual persons leaving their current established family units to live their chosen lifestyle, meaning an increase in lone parent families. These factors are results from the values, norms and expectations of society changing and accepting same sex couples getting married and adopting children.
With the change in diversity of family types has come change in the families’ role within society. Although the family still mainly provides children with primary socialisation, other aspects of a child’s life also influences their primary socialisation. Due to the increase of working mothers and lone parent families, children are being put into nurseries and daytime care younger, meaning primary socialisation is also being provided by nurseries where the child may learn norms and values which the parents would not necessarily regard as their own norms and values.
This shows how in some cases the family serves less of a role within society, leaving primary socialisation to be provided by the society, however this could lead to an easier and more understandable process into secondary socialisation for the child when starting school. The main role of the family in society is to provide the children with the correct norms, values and morals to live by within that society. Whether or not the family causes society to change or whether society is the cause of changes within families is unknown however it could be argued that changes in society and family go hand in hand.
The family seems to change as society changes and vice versa, for example, multi-racial families were once unheard of, however due to the acceptance of different races within society came the acceptance of multi-racial families which in turn led to the re-enforcing of this acceptance within society through primary and secondary socialisation. There are many sociological perspectives on the family. Functionalism is one of these perspectives. “The functional perspective emphasizes that social institutions perform several functions to help preserve social stability and otherwise keep a society working.
” (Barkan, 2012) Therefore in the context of the family, functionalism refers to the part in which the family plays in the functioning of society. The family mainly provide the primary socialisation for children which gives the children the correct norms and values which help them integrate into society. Functionalists would argue that the nuclear family is the ideal family type in today’s society. Parson’s argues that the nuclear family is now the most important part of society, for the operation of industrial society as a system.
(Chambers, 2012) Suggesting that the extended family is no longer needed since the industrialisation as the nuclear family is more mobile and able to move in order to find work. However research shows that both the nuclear and the extended family is decreasing as other types of families are increasing, as a result of the diversity and change of norms and values within society today. Another perspective is social interactionism which “examines how family members and intimate couples interact on a daily basis and arrive at shared understandings of theirs situations.
” (Barkan, 2012). In the context of social interactionism, families have changed over the last 50 years in the way in which they interact with each other, whether it be how husbands and wives communicate or how parents and children interact. Although divorce rates have risen, studies show that the increase of gender equality has affected the way in which married couples interact – more women are working than ever before leaving men to take on more domestic chores, which in turn has brought about more emotionally expressive men within society.
This in itself has impacts on the family structure, for example, woman attempting to find a more desirable man in relation to his emotional ability to express himself can mean woman are single for longer and therefore meaning less family units. However the main impact is that these new values will be passed down to future generations, leading to new trends within the family for the future as well as the present. In conclusion, the family has seen many changes and trends in family life in Britain over the last 50 years.
Whether it be increased rates of divorce leading to an increase of lone parent families or the decline of the traditional nuclear family through the change of norms and values within society leaving the traditional family type becoming less desirable. The family is continuously changing in society, some would argue that the family plays less of a role within society however whether or not this is advantageous is debated.
Functionalism emphasizes the part in which the family plays in the functioning of society whereas social interactionism examines how the family members and couple, married or not, interact with each other and have shared understandings. (Barkan, 2012) Overall the family plays a vital role in society through providing children with the social norms and values which are continuously changing with time and therefore are necessary in order for society to move forward.