“Examine the ways in which laws and social policies affect family life” To start with a social policy is an initiative or plan that the government would put in place to try and fix a problem or to make a positive change in society. Various political and social groups have different opinions on social policies, for example in the UK conservatives are very right wing and as of the moment Mr Osborne is proposing to save £10billion by making cuts across the board in its welfare fund. The Labour party however would be unlikely to make such drastic cuts if they were in office.

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This essay will explore marriage and divorce, the welfare state and domestic abuse policies. Marriage affect many families, the government has a number of laws to control people behaviour inside marriages for example marriages must be monogamous (You can only be married to one person at a time) Governments tend to encourage marriage as they believe the nuclear family is the ideal environment to bring up children, couples receive tax credits and other benefits this also discourages divorce, Marxists would believe that this is the governments way of supporting capitalism, by encouraging people to marry it means they remain a productive asset that they can continue to exploit.

The new right would agree that the nuclear family is the best place to bring up a family but would not want to give tax credits or any other financial encouragement as they believe that its best to keep out of peoples affairs. Feminists would feel this is another way of oppressing women, by using financial means to discourage divorce the women may feel as though they are trapped in the relationship especially if they have to support outside the family. Divorces where first made legal in 1857 although at that time they where incredible hard to get however changes in divorce laws in the late 1960s made divorces much easier and since then divorce rates have been steeply rising. Functionalists and the New Right think that divorce is a bad thing andbelieve once there is marriage between two people this marriage should be permanent.

Page 2 Laws and policies affect family life Essay

Both perspectives see males and females as having different roles in the family, the male – earns the wages and the woman – Cares for and brings up the children on top of the housework whilstthe man is working. These perspectives, believe that this is the right way for the family to be and that single parent families are wrong because they have not got one of the parental figures around, they feel single parent families are wrong because they lack the support you get from having 2 adults. Feminists would disagree with this view and would say that women are exploited by men, both in the workforce and at home, and seen as figures in relationships who are there to please men’s needs after being at work.

Marxist Engels states “The housewife’s position is one of ‘ glorified prostitution’ Engels (1902)” Feminists see this as one explanation to the dramatic increases of divorce, they say women don’t want to be in a relationship where they are exploited. Feminists also believe that the government offer benefits that are not available to different types of couples such as cohabiting couples; they see this as the government’s way of encouraging marriage and discourage any other ways of living they feel this is causing less people to have a divorce even though they may not be happy.

Welfare state, the welfare state is the system where benefits are given to those who are entitled or qualify for them, for example the job seekers allowance where the government gives you money if you are searching for a job. Marxists see this as supporting capitalism because if the proletariat are working for the bourgeoisie they are being actively exploited by being grossly underpaid for the services. This happens because the Bourgeoisie own the means of work.

The welfare state appease the poor and makes the Proletariat feel as though they are being well treated but its just a smoke screen to stop them seeing the bigger picture, Its a tool used by the government to prevent class consciousness and revolution. The new right disagrees with this view and in fact sees it a weakening the family because they feel the families become over reliant on the generous benefits the welfare state grants them new labour although it has similar views as new right feels that the welfare system is a good way to support and encourage young people to work.

Feminists have the independent view that the benefit system only supports the patriarchal nuclear family and neglects all other forms of family. When men get benefits they feel this weakens the women’s position because the man is in control of his wages and the benefit. However feminists also feel the benefits women do get “more maternity leave” and “control of child benefits” are trying to cement the view that women should be staying at home and looking after the children. The government has laws that are designed to protect all members of the family from domestic abuse, this is achieved by social services taking children out of dangerous families or the police will remove the violent family members, there are also various programmes and counselling available to try and fix family problems to maintain stable family life. It is hard to depict how successful theses measures are as many domestic abuse cases go unreported due to fear, embarrassment and love.

So even though the government provides services such as counselling and social services its unlikely we will ever know the true extent of domestic abuse because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Liberal Feminists would believe that the safeguards put in place are a step forward to protecting women however Radical feminists would feel that it was not enough and moor should be done to help protect women. Marxists are not opposed to sanctions put in place to help protect the family. To conclude i would say social policies effect families in positive and negative ways, while the new right believe that social policies should favour the nuclear families while feminists and Marxists feel that the government need to recognize other family types such as cohabiting couples and gay couples and make laws which benefit them.

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