|Basic Definitions and Family Types
- Family (e.g. Murdock's
definition (old), General Household Survey definition
- Basic family
- Nuclear family
- Extended family
(horizontal, vertical, modified, diffused...)
- Household (examples:
- Single-parent (include
knowledge of causes: e.g. divorce, choice)
- Reconstituted (step-parent
- Homosexual (rare, but
- Note how varieties of
family structure can be related to class and ethnicity
|[Note significance of how "family group" is
Sociobiological, New Right arguments for existence of Universal Family
as essential to human society.
- Debate related to gender
roles and relationships (Universalists argue for "traditional" forms of
- Marxist, Feminist and
Critical Theory arguments against concept of Universal Family
- Alternatives to Nuclear
family (see: Family Diversity)
- Especially Murdock,
Fletcher and Parsons)
- Focus on the functions
(needs and purposes) of the family group.
- Family performs two main
functions for any society
mechanism in society
Social Order: The family as a unit of
- Fletcher: main (core or
essential) functions of the family:
a. Procreation and
b. Regulation of Sexual Behaviour
c. Provision of
- "Non-essential" functions
provide linkages with the wider social world.
- Government of internal
relations (social control and stability)
Economic consumption of
Health care (both physical and
Religious (first exposure to religious ideas /
Recreation / Leisure
- Parsons: Modern family =
two core functions:
The primary socialisation
The stabilisation of adult
|( Note: Marx, Engels,
- Acts to control sexual behaviour:
- Serves to reproduce labour power for
- Is a safety valve for people's
- Channels and legitimates the exploitation of
- Provides "free" services for Capitalists
(reproduction of labour)
- Primary consumer of Capitalist
|(Note: McIntosh, Oakley and Barratt,
- Be aware of different
varieties of feminism
(Liberal, Marxist, Radical,
Socialist, Black, etc.).
- Men exploit and oppress
women within the family
- "Rationalising myths" about
male / female natures legitimate male domination over
- Women have a service role
forced on them ("unpaid servants" )
- Increasingly "Dual role":
women as paid workers and unpaid housewives
|(E.g. Cooper "Death of The
- Leach - family as source of
Social Isolation of
Private world of suspicion and social
- Laing - family and
schizophrenia (mental illness)
|(Mount, Thatcher / Reagan, Paul
- Nuclear family essential
(fundamental co-operative unit in any society)
- Traditional male / female
gender roles and relationships
- Fundamental social unit
(pre-dates all other forms of social organisation)
- Held together by necessity,
love and, in its modern form, marriage.
- Family as source of social
stability ("in changing world").
Socio-biology (Note: Wilson,
Tiger and Fox).
- "Family group" present in
all human societies ("Universal")
- Mother-child relationship
represents the basic family unit predetermined by
- Concept of "human
biogrammer": biological programming that predisposes people to behave in
certain ways. Used to justify traditional male / female gender roles
(men=hunters / breadwinners, women= carers / mothers).
- Nuclear family / extended
family group = biologically desirable
|Family and Household
|Changing patterns over
- This section needs to focus
on historical changes in family structure (for example, the family and
industrialisation - the "Fit Thesis". The idea of a "close (functional)
fit" between the basic structure of the family and the process of
industrialisation is most associated with writers such as Parsons and
Goode (both Functionalists).
- The process of
industrialism (i.e. the change from a predominantly agricultural to a
predominantly industrial society)
- The difference between:
Feudalism and Capitalism (in Marxist terms, the idea of different "Modes
- Basic theory:
Extended family structures
characteristic of feudal, pre-industrial, society
Nuclear family =
characteristic of modern, industrial,
- Main Reason = Lack of
- Criticisms of this theory
(for example, Laslett and Anderson)
- Empirical evidence - the
pre-industrial family in Britain = mainly nuclear, not extended -
therefore, Functionalist theory is incorrect (note that Parsons
developed his version of the fit thesis without using empirical
- Did majority live long
enough to experience "old age"?
- Social class = important
variable in relation to family structures and
- Diversity before, during
and after industrialisation:
a. Upper classes kept a
mainly extended form (Lupton and Wilson)
b. Working classes
developed extended form in first stages of industrialisation.
Middle class families were predominantly nuclear in
- Continuing importance of
"modified extended family and kinship structures" in industrialised
societies (family groups maintain social and economic contacts. (E.g.
Wilmott and Young).
- O'Day: Changes in
pre-industrial family life related to Capitalism, not
- Gomm: Continued importance
of extended family networks for upper classes in modern society. Use of
modified extended family by working class (reciprocal
- Nuclear family core in
modern society, serviced by extended structures.
- Extended households common
in pre-industrial society (all classes).
- Patriarchal nature of
pre-modern family life.
- Concepts of symmetry and
patriarchy significant in this context.
|Types of family
diversity (R. and R.Rappoport)
- Organisational (e.g.
division of family labour)
- Class (between different
- Cultural (between
different ethnic cultures)
- Life-course (e.g.
differences in family relationships at different stages in an
- Cohort (e.g. generational
differences in family life /
- Is there a "typical family
structure" in any society?
- Most societies typified by
diversity of family structures and forms.
- General worldwide increase
in single-parent family structures: Causes:
allowed) / Separation / Desertion
Decline in religion (morality?)
Removal of social
- Chester (Neo-conventional
Family): Even in diversity, majority spend some of their life in a
conventional nuclear family arrangement.
- Single-income and
dual-income families - may be nuclear, but involve very different
relationships and experiences.
- Marital status as form of
diversity (marriage, common-law marriage, cohabitation)
- Significance of
to "Conventional family structures":
- Examples include (see
- The Nayer of Malabar
(India - but no longer in existence).
- Kibbutzim in Israel since
- Communes in America (e.g.
Alternative lifestyles in 1960's)
- Soviet Communes in the
- Household Communities
(e.g. group of nuclear families living as "community" in large
Note: with the exception of
Household Communities (who may not really qualify as a structural
alternative, as such) and Kibbutzim, alternative family structures not
long-lived or very successful in long-term. Be aware, also, of changing
nature of Kibbutz life.
Separation, Cohabitation, Illegitimacy
- For each, you need to be
- Definition, trends,
patterns, causes, consequences.
- Example: Marriage in
- Pattern: Declining number
of marriages. Declining rate of marriage.
- Trend: Long-term decline in
popularity of marriage (but note influence of factors such as 1st and
2nd world war).
- Causes: Demographic
Religious decline (secularisation)
Development of "Underclass"?
Moral decay (New
Family decline / breakdown (New Right)?
Range of social
problems related to single-parenthood
Note: Increasing numbers /
rates of divorce, single-parenthood, cohabitation and
and Conjugal roles
|Need to understand:
- Changing gender roles and
relationships (including gender socialisation).
- The domestic labour debate
(who does it and why - including problems of measurement /
- Power relationships within
family (adults and children).
- Concepts of patriarchy and
- Pro: e.g. Wilmott and Young
(Stages in family development, concept of stratified
- Bott: empirical study of
family networks: Joint conjugal / segregated conjugal and relationship
to age, class, ethnicity.
- Privatised nuclear family
(e.g. Goldthorpe and Lockwood).
- Class differences in
- Anti: e.g. Oakley,
Heidensohn, Elston ("Half our future doctors?" - significant empirical
study of conjugal roles).
- Private and Public spheres
- ideological associations / assumptions.
- Concept of leisure -
different for men and women?
- Dual-systems theory (women
and double-discrimination: sex and class)