Sociology Revision What is the family? “The family are a close group of people, usually related not always. Who support each other and at some point in their lives tend to live in the same household. ” There is no correct definition on the family, Sociologists do not agree on a definition, broadly there are two types of definition; •Exclusive definitions – These focus on the specific relationships within the family unit i. e. marriage •Inclusive definitions – These focus on the functions of the unit e. g. support. The Cereal Packet Family
A popular image of the family in Britain in the late twentieth century has been described as the cereal packet family. The ‘happy family’ image gives the impression that most people live in a typical family and these images reinforce the dominant ideology of the traditional nuclear family. Functionalists Roles of the Family – Parsons The Functionalist Talcott Parsons sees two main functions that the family performs these are: •The primary socialisation of children Parson argues that every individual must internalise the norms and values of society.
He said it is the family that moulds the child’s personality to fit the needs of society, producing children who are committed to shared norms and values and who have a strong sense of belonging to society •The stabilisation of adult personalities Adults need emotional security, which is given by partners in a marriage, and they also need a source of release from the stresses and strains of daily life, which they get from being able to indulge in childish behaviour when playing with their children. This ‘stabilisation’ is often referred to as the ‘warm bath theory’. Other functions of the family; The family is an important agent of social control. It defines what is socially acceptable behaviour. The family also allow individuals to know the difference between right and wrong backed up by positive and negative sanctions. •The family also has a number to economic functions. It provides children with economic support. The family provides the economy with workers and they are also a central unit of economic consumption. •Marriage is also regarded as important, and reproduction is an essential function because the family provides new members of society to replace those that have died. Criticisms of the Functionalists Functionalist’s theories tend to focus on the positive functions of the family and give little consideration to its disadvantages. I. e. Feminists emphasise the male dominated nature of the traditional family. •Functionalists assume that the family is of equal benefit to everyone. But Marxists argue that society is shaped by the needs of the capitalist economy and that the family exists to serve these needs rather than those of its members. •Functionalists fail to consider the viability of alternatives to the family •Many functionalists, particularly Parsons, do not consider the diversity of family types.
Even within one society, there are variations based on class, region, ethnicity, religion etc. •Interpretive sociologists argue that functionalists concentrate too much on the importance of the family for society and ignore the meaning family life has for individuals. Marriage and Divorce What is happening to Marriage? •There is a decline in first marriages •But there has been an increase in remarriages •The average age at which people get married is increasing Cohabitation Living together is no longer seen as ‘living in sin’ •Two thirds (67%) of the British public now regard cohabitation as acceptable, even when the couple have no intention in getting married. Marriage Patterns for African-Caribbean’s •Only 39% of British born African-Caribbean adults under 60 are in a formal marriage compared to 60% of white adults •This group is more likely than any other to inter-marry •Only one quarter of Caribbean children live with two black parents. •There is also a tradition of women living independently from their children’s father in the African-Caribbean community. Consequently half of Caribbean families with children are now single parents. Marriage Patterns for Asians •Marriage in Asian families whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh is mainly arranged and consequently there is little inter-marriage with other religions or cultures. •Asian children tend to respect religious and cultural traditions and they feel a strong sense of duty to their families and especially their elders. Divorce Patterns •There has been an increase in divorce rates •From 1971 to 1996 the number of divorces has more than doubled. Patterns in Marriage and Divorce
Feminist sociologists see the trends as a sign of the lack of satisfaction provided by traditional patriarchal marriage, with individuals seeking alternative types of relationships and living arrangements. New Right thinkers have seen the trends as a sign of the breakdown of the family and have argued for a return to ‘traditional values’. They suggest that because of the easy availability of divorce, people are no longer as committed to the family as they were in the past. Changes in legislation which have made divorce easier but also social changes in which the law reflect are seen as the main causes of the increase in divorce rates.
Have Women Broken up the Family? The position of women has changed in a number of ways, such as the wife does not have to put up with an unsatisfactory marriage. Women now have more independence and are in a better financial position if they were to want a divorce; they are no longer totally reliant on their husbands. Growing Secularisation Secularisation refers to the declining influence of religious beliefs and institutions. Goode and Gibson argued that secularisation has resulted in marriage becoming less o a sacred, spiritual union and more a personal and practical commitment. Changing Social Attitudes
Divorce has become more socially acceptable and there is less social disapproval and stigma attached to divorces. As a result of this people are less afraid of the consequences of divorce and are more likely to end an unhappy marriage. Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons and Renoald Fletcher argue that the increased value of marriage may have caused a rise in marital breakdown. As people expect and demand more from a marriage and expect it to be perfect. Fletcher argues that a relatively high divorce rate may be indicative not of lower but of higher standards of marriage in society.
Privatised Marriages Allan argues that the family has become increasingly defined as a private institution. The wider family, and society at large, do not have the right to interfere in family life and therefore the family unit is not supported by its integration into a wider social network, which means family problems cannot be so easily shared. Love and Marriage - Why are Arranged Marriages Stronger? Within an arranged marriage people have more realistic expectations than those who marry for love Births and The Ageing Population Births One of the strongest trends has been the rise in illegitimacy.
Illegitimacy rates are rising, as more people have children without being married. Some of the stigma associated with illegitimacy no longer exists. This is countered by the New Right’s assault on unmarried mothers, who have been the scapegoat to a certain extent by the media who blame them for the modern failings of society. Unmarried mothers may not be that different to nuclear families as some of these children born outside of a marriage are born to a couple who cohabit or are in a stable relationship, so will therefore have the same advantages / life as a nuclear family child.
It is just that the mother and father / couple are not legally married. More and more women are deciding not to have children, as they’d rather focus on / have a career. Having a career may also be the reason for women having children later on in their lives. The Ageing Population The population as a whole are getting older as people are now living longer. According to the negative view this gives a greater dependence ratio whereby the working population have a greater burden to take care of those not working. Increased pressure on hospitals, social services and pensions will lead to a greater tax burden.
On the positive side, it can be argued that since older people are now more likely to stay fit and healthy they may become an important part of our families (childcare for grandchildren) and as part of the voluntary workforce. Social Policy and The Family Most government policies gave tried to protect the individuals within the family and some have been aimed at maintaining the traditional nuclear family. ‘Feuding Parents Better for Children than Separation’ A study of 152 children in Exeter found that children being brought up by both parents experienced fewer health, school and social problems than those whose parents had split.
It was also found that children from reconstituted families were at least twice as likely to have problems with health, behaviour, schoolwork and social life and also to have a low opinion of themselves. Political Consequences – The CSA The Child Support Agency (CSA) was set up in 1993 to make divorced fathers more financially liable for their children. The New Right disapprove of easy divorce and are in favour of strengthening marriages and family life for the sake of a healthier society. Although if marriages do break down they are in favour of the CSA, so that the state and taxpayers have less of a financial burden.
Some Feminists also initially support the principle behind the CSA, focusing the poverty of former ex wives compared to the ex husbands who generally recover financially from divorce in a few years and in the long term are no worse off. Government Influence on the Family Government policies have always had an impact on family life. Taxation, welfare, housing, medical and educational policies all influence the way people live their domestic lives. The policies can encourage and discourage people to live certain ways and in certain types of households.
The Ideology of the Nuclear Family Feminists and other radical critics of government policies believe that they are biased in favour of the traditional nuclear family. For example It is argued that the state encourages families to take responsibility for their elderly members, either in practical or financial terms. Diversity in the Family Structure Cohabitation For most people cohabitation is part of the process of getting married and is not a substitute. It has become more acceptable to live together without ever getting married and also to raise children in this arrangement.
The New Right criticises cohabitation as they say that relationships can be more abusive as there is no respect, they argue that people are more likely to be unfaithful, depressed and a relationship like this is generally more stressful. Reconstituted Families Step families can be a result of things such as divorce or if someone is widowed. Such families are on the increase as a result of the rise in divorce rates. De’Ath and Slater’s study of step parenting identified a number of challenges facing reconstituted families.
As children may find themselves being pulled in two directions, especially if the relationship between the two parents is strained. Tension may also arise if the new couple decide to have children, as this may result in the existing child feeling envious. Single-Parent Families The number of one parent families is increasing, approximately about 25% of all families in Britain are one-parent families. Some characteristics of Single-Parent Families •A great majority of single parents are working class women. •Single mothers are less likely to work than married mothers and if they do, it is likely to be part time work.
The lack of free nursery care makes it difficult for single mothers to work. New Right thinkers see a connection between one-parent families, educational underachievement and delinquency. They argue that the lack of discipline is because there is a lack of a stable foundation within the family. However Feminists maintain that the real problem lies with the nuclear family ideal itself. This leads to negative labelling of one parent families by teachers, social workers, housing departments, police and the courts. It is lso suggested that single parents are scapegoated fro inner-city crime and educational underachievement that are actually a result of factors such as unemployment and poverty. The New Right also rarely consider that single parenthood may be far from preferable to the domestic violence, nor that the majority of single parent families bring up their children successfully. Single Person Households As a result of people marrying at a later age, increasing divorce rates, and people wanting a career first, single person households have increased. Some reasons for this may be due to more focus on career’s and overall freedom and independence.
The Continuing Strength of Kinship Functionalist sociologists have argued that the nuclear families have little need for contact with wider kin. However McGlone discovered that unemployment, and poverty community care for the elderly, the increasing number of young people electing to live at home for longer periods and women going back to work create a greater need for family mutual support systems. Other sociologists note that relatively self-sufficient nuclear families still feel a strong sense of obligation in times of a family crisis despite distance. The Neo-Conventional Family
Chester argues that most people are now brought up in what he calls neo conventional families this is where there are two parents, a small number of children and a long-term commitment. The main difference between this and a traditional nuclear family is that married women are now economically active outside the home, although often only working part time while the children are young. Dual Career Families Another changed linked to family diversity is that there has been a growth in the paid employment of married women. In 1991 67% of married women were employed outside the home, nearly half of them working part time.
Dimensions of Diversity: Organisational, Cultural, Class, Regional, Lifecycle, Cohort and Sexuality Functionalists argue that the nuclear family is still the most common or has been replaced by a similar type of reconstituted family structure. The New Right are in great favour of a return of traditional family values, where as feminists and post-modernists welcome and celebrate the diversity of family structures Cultural Diversity Cultural diversity refers to the way groups in society have different lifestyles or cultures and one aspect of this is the way they construct families.
Family Formation in a Multi-Cultural Society Richard Berthoud argues that the families of Caribbean’s, Whites and South Asians can be placed on a continuum, with those characterised by ‘old fashioned values’ (OFV) on one end and those characterised by ‘modern individualism’ (MI) on the other end. He argues that family relationships are moving from OFE to MI. Caribbean’s Some statistics about Caribbean families / relationships: •Low rate of marriage. •If married they are more likely to separate/divorce. •Half of Caribbean mothers are single. •One half of the lone parent families depend on income support. Only a quarter of Caribbean children live with two black parents. South Asians This group consists of Indians, African Asians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Family relationships are characterised by: •A high rate of marriage for all ethnic groups compared to Whites and Caribbean’s •There is a low divorce rate amongst these groups •This group as a whole is less likely to have white partners, although mixed marriages are not uncommon amongst Hindus/Indian Christians, especially men. •Pakistani and Bangladeshi women mainly look after the home and family full-time but this trend is less common if they have good educational ualifications. •Traditionally they have high fertility rates but recently there has been a reduction. Class Diversity Rapoports suggest that there may be differences between middle class and working class families in terms of the relationship between husband and wife and the way in which children are socialised and disciplined. Some sociologists argue that middle class parents are more child-centred than working class parents. However critical sociologists argue that working class parents are just as child-centred, but that maternal deprivation limits how much help they can give their children.
Therefore the working class child’s experience is likely to be less satisfactory because of family poverty, poor schools, lack of material support, greater risks of accidents both in home and in the street, and so on. Regional Diversity Eversley and Bonnerjea argue that there are distinctive patterns of family life in different areas of Great Britain. The area in which a family live can affect / determine their family structure. For example extended family networks are more common in rural areas, and the inner cities have a higher proportion of families in poverty and lone-parent families. Sexual Diversity
There have been a number of studies of homosexual couples and children. It is generally found that there is more equality between partners. It is also suggested that same sex couples work harder at relationships in terms of commitment because they face so many external pressures and criticisms. However research also indicates that they may face the same problems as heterosexual couples, i. e. in terms of domestic violence. Dunne argues that children brought up by homosexual are more likely to be tolerant and see sharing and equality as important features of their relationships with others. Postmodernism and Family Diversity
Postmodernists argue that post-modern family life is characterised by diversity, variation and instability. For example both men and women’s roles have changed, there are now acceptable variations of ways to live. Beck-Gernsheim argued that diversity has led to the recognition of family relationships as people attempt to find a middle ground between individualization and commitment to another person and/or children. Others disagree with this view. They argue that family diversity is exaggerated and the basic features of family life have remained largely unchanged for the majority of the population. Explanations of Family Diversity
Functionalist Views: Parsons Parsons argued that changes in the functions of the family also involve a change in the structure. He argues that in pre-industrial societies an extended family system made it easier to carry out the wide range of functions required since a larger pool of kin was available. In industrial societies this extended system is no longer needed and may, in fact, be a positive disadvantage. Parsons suggests this was because: 1. The nuclear family contains the basic roles and can carry out essential functions, and the functions of the wider kin have been taken over by specialised agencies for example the welfare state. . The workforce in industrial societies needs to geographically mobile. The nuclear family can move from place to place in search of jobs and are not so dependent on the wider kin. He argued that this isolated nuclear family is the typical industrial family structure. Relationships with relatives are now a matter of choice. Young and Willmott: Privatisation and The Family •Their study of Bethnal Green in the East End of London showed how strong extended family networks were and what an important role they had in mutual help and assistance for w-class people. As a 2nd part to their study they looked at families from Bethnal Green that had been re-housed in a new counsel estate in Essex some 30 miles from Bethnal Green. •They showed how the move resulted in ‘privatisation’; by this they mean that family life became more home-centred and based on the nuclear family. Criticisms of Young and Willmott They have been criticised by conflict theorists for failing to address the negative aspects of changes, as their theory seems to suggest that family life gets better and better.
Feminists have also criticised them, as it is inaccurate to talk about a symmetrical family, as it implies that men and women now do the same jobs, which is not the case. Other sociologists have criticised them, as they believe that the extended family may be more important to the nuclear family than Young and Willmott suggested. The Rediscovery of the Extended Family Fiona Devine findings suggest that the degree of privatisation of the family life has been exaggerated. She found that most couples had regular contact with kin, especially with parents.
Geographical mobility had not destroyed kinship networks as cards and telephones enable relatives to keep in touch. Two Contrasting Positions of Family Diversity The New Right argue that the family is in decline which will result in negative social consequences as the family plays an important / central role with in society and socialisation. A Post-Modern view of the family is that the diversity of family structures are evidence that people feel they have more freedom and choice, which is a good thing and that no one family type is better than another nor does one particular type suit all people and / or circumstances.
Power, Inequality and Family Policy One of the key social changes has been the change in the roles of men and women. Women, particularly married women, have taken a much greater role in paid employment and increasingly challenged their ‘traditional’ role in society. Demographic Changes and Women’s Roles There have been a number of important demographic changes that have affected the family: Family Size – On average the size of families has declined Marriage – Has become less popular and the age at which people are getting married has increased.
Life Expectancy – People are now living longer which means that many women have a long period of life ahead of them after completing their families. Female Employment and the Family A further important change, linked to family size, is the growth in paid employment of married women. Willmott and Young claimed that the traditional segregated division of labour in the home is now breaking down. They believe that this trend towards equality within the marriage was caused by the decline in the extended family and its replacement of the privatised nuclear family, as wells as a result of increasing opportunities in paid employment for women.
Functionalists such as Parsons argue that the modern family was characterised by joint conjugal roles compared with the segregated roles of earlier times. Although functionalist’s arguments assume that it makes sense for each partner to specialise in those particular functions, which relate to the biological differences between men and women. They argue that because women give birth to the children it is natural for them to be the one’s who look after them. Gershuny studied men and women’s roles through detailed dairies kept by the participants on a day-to-day and weekly basis.
He found that there was a clear trend towards men carrying out more domestic activities than in previous years. However when women total their working hours, including domestic activities, it still worked out to be greater than the number of hours men did. Therefore undermining the notion that there has been a significant shift towards equality between men and women. Fatherhood Changes in the roles of fathers were also looked at. In the 1990’s men were more likely to attend the birth of their babies and play a greater role within childcare than men in the 1960’s.
Burghes found that fathers are taking an increasingly active role in the emotional development of their children. One reason for this was argue by Beck, he notes that in the post-modern age, fathers can no longer rely on jobs to provide a sense of identity and fulfilment, so they look to their children to give them a sense of identity and purpose. However he does state that it is important not to exaggerate their role in childcare. The Feminists Contribution – A Move Towards Equality? The question of who does the housework has been a focus within sociology and is an argument that has been going on for some time.
At times it is argued that the ‘New Man’ has emerged, who shares the household shores equally, or that there are a growing number of ‘house husbands’ who have done ‘role swaps’ with their partners. However, the bulk of evidence continues to show that women (and sometimes children) do the bulk of the cooking, caring, shopping and washing that goes on in families. Furthermore, it seems that, while more women have taken on ‘male’ roles of the breadwinner, they still do more housework than men. Housework in Dual Career Families
A Legal and General survey in April 2000 found that full time working mothers spent 56 hours a week on housework and childcare compared with men who spend 31 hours a week. The number of hours spent by the mother increased to 84 hours if they had children aged 3 and under. The Future Foundation survey in October 2000 found that women are receiving more help in the home from husbands and boyfriends. Two thirds of men said that they did more around the house than their fathers. Evidence from studies indicates that women are still likely to have a ‘dual burden’
Decision Making – A Move Towards Equality? Stephen Edgell in his study of middle class couples interviewed both husbands and wives from a sample of 38 professional couples. Edgell asked them about who made decisions and took into account how frequently they were made and their importance. He found that women controlled decision-making in a number of areas, e. g. food purchases, children’s clothing and household decoration, these decisions were not seen as important. Husbands had the main say in what were regarded as serious decisions like moving house and buying expensive items such as cars etc.
Jan Pahl’s study Money and Marriage examines the control of finances in marriage. Pahl found a variety of patterns ranging from total control by the husbands to arrangements of a joint bank account. Pahl argues that while there are a variety of financial arrangements, in most cases men are the main beneficiaries. Dependency Graham Allen suggests that wives are not only economically dependent on their husbands but socially dependent as well. Married women tend to be restricted to the domestic sphere and are therefore more reliant on their husbands for social contacts.
Similarly it is difficult for women to participate in many leisure activities outside the home without being accompanied by men. Emotional Work and the ‘Triple Shift’ Duncombe and Marsden have studied the emotional side of marriages. According to many women it is them and not their husbands that that are responsible for the emotional work. A study based on interviews with 40 couples found that most of the women complained of men’s emotional distance, their partners had problems expressing intimate emotions. Women did more of this work, thinking and talking about the relationship.
Duncombe and Marsden argue that women are in fact being exhausted by the ‘triple shift’ of paid labour, domestic and emotional labour. Domestic Violence Most researchers have analysed domestic violence as the ultimate form of control that men exercise over women in a patriarchal society. Husbands often resort to violence as a way of regaining dominance when they feel their authority is threatened. Theoretical Explanations There are 4 major theoretical perspectives on the distribution of power and control in the family. Functionalists see the sexual division of labour in the home as biologically inevitable.
Women are seen as naturally suited to the caring and emotional role, which Parsons terms the ‘expressive role’. The New Right believe that traditional nuclear families, and other alternative living arrangements do not adequately perform the functions needed for the smooth running of society. Liberal Feminists argue that women have made real progress in terms of equality within the family and particularly in education and the economy. They believe that men are adapting to change and the future is likely to bring further movement towards domestic and economy equality.
Marxist Feminists argue that the housewife role serves the needs of capitalism in that it maintains the present workforce and reproduces labour-power. Radical Feminists believe that the housewife role is a role created by patriarchy and geared to the service of men and their interests. Like functionalists, both Marxists and radical forms of feminism see women’s exploitation and oppression as rooted in their biological role as mothers. The Relationship between Parents and Children The Period of time that we call childhood is a Social Construction; it is shaped and given a meaning by culture and society.
Childhood from the Past to the Present Day Historical Views of Childhood In traditional cultures, the young moved directly from a lengthy infancy into working roles within the community. Philippe Aries has argued that childhood, as a separate phase of development did not exist in medieval times. Children were portrayed as ‘little adults’ they had the same style of dress and took part in the same work as adults. Up until the 20th century, children as young as 7 or 8 years old were put to work. (There are many countries in the world today in which this still happens) The 20th century saw the emerge of a child centred society.
This was probably the result of improved standards of living and nutrition in the late 19th century, which led to a major decline in the infant mortality rate. The increased availability and efficiency of contraception allowed people to choose to have fewer children so they were able to invest more in them in terms of love, socialisation and protection. Legislation – Children and the State Parents’ rearing of children is now monitored through various pieces of legislation, such as the 1989 Children’s Act and the 1991 Child Support Act.
Increasingly children have become more recognised as individuals with rights. The Children’s Act 1989 allows children to have a say in which parent they live with following a divorce. The Child Support Act 1991 requires absent parents to contribute to the financial cost of providing for the child and the parent with immediate parental responsibility is required to cooperate with the Child Support Agency to assist in this process. Theoretical Approaches to Childhood The Conventional Approach Many Functionalists and New Right thinkers tend to see children as a vulnerable group.
This approach suggests that successful child rearing requires two parents of the opposite sex, and that there is a ‘right’ ay to bring up a child. Melanie Phillips argues that the culture of parenting in the UK has broken down and the ‘innocence’ of childhood has been undermined by two trends. Firstly, the concept of parenting has been distorted by liberal ideas, which have given too many rights and powers to children. She argues that children should be socialised into a healthy respect for parental authority, and that these children’s rights have undermined this process.
Secondly she believes that the media and the peer group have become more influential than parents. She argues that many children do not have the emotional maturity to cope with the rights and choices that they have today. An Alternative View Morrow found that children can be constructive and reflective contributors to family life. Most of the children in Marrows study had a pragmatic view of their family role, they did not want to make decisions for themselves but they did want a say in what happened to them. Conventional approaches are also criticised because they tend to generalise about children and childhood.
This is dangerous because childhood is not a fixed universal experience. Historical period, locality, culture, social class, gender and ethnicity all have an influence on the character and quality of childhood. This can be shown in a number of ways: •In many less developed nations, the experience of childhood is extremely different from that in the industrial world. Children in such countries are continuously at risk of early death because of poverty and lack of basic health care. They are unlikely to have access to education, and many find themselves occupying adult roles as workers or soldiers. The experience of childhood may differ across ethnic and religious groups. There is evidence that Muslim, Hindu and Sikh children generally feel a stronger sense of obligation and duty to their parents that white children. •Experiences of childhood in Britain may vary according to social class. Upper-class children may find that they spend most of their formative years in boarding schools. Middle class children may be encouraged from an early age to aim for university and a professional career, and they are likely to receive considerable economic and cultural support from their parents.
Working class childhood may be made more difficult by the experience of poverty. For example research by Jefferies found that children from middle class backgrounds in terms of maths, reading and other ability tests by the age of 7. •Experiences of childhood may differ according to gender. Boys and girls may be socialised into a set of behaviour based on expectations about masculinity and femininity. For example there is some evidence that girls are subjected to stricter social controls from parents compared with boys when they reach adolescence. The End of Childhood?
According to Postman childhood is coming to an end. He argues that childhood is only possible if children can be separated and protected from the adult world. The mass media and television has brought the adult world into the lives of children. For example the growth of TV means that there are no more secrets from children, they are exposed to the real world of sex, disaster, death and suffering. He also states that children no longer seem like children they dress, speak and behave in adult ways. While also adults have enjoyed looking more like kids and youth generally.
As a result the boundaries between the world of children and the world of adults are breaking down. Postman believes that in the long run this means the end of childhood. However, other sociologist have criticised Postman for overstating his case. David Brooks argues that parents today are obsessed with safety and ever more concerned with defining boundaries for their kids and widening their control and safety net around them. (Also linked to Furedi’s paranoid parents argument). Lee argues that childhood has become more complex and ambiguous.
Children are dependent on their parents, but in another sense are independent. For example there is a mass children’s market that children influence – they make choices, they decide which products succeed and fail – but are still dependent on their parents purchasing power. Sociology – Family Unit – The Dark Side of Family Life Whilst many of the functionalist theorists point out the positive aspects of the family, some theorists believe that the family is destructive. The Marxist Perspective Marxists see the family as a means for: •Reproducing ‘labour power’ – reproducing future generations of workers. Consuming – consuming the products of capitalism •Providing emotional support – Providing emotional support to workers, so helping them cope with the harsh realities of capitalism. •Socialising – Socialising children into accepting the inequalities of the capitalist society. Feminist writers link the idea that the family operates to maintain the capitalist system, with the idea that the family is the major obstacle to women’s freedom, and have therefore developed on the Marxists approach. Feminists start from the view that most societies are based on patriarchy or male domination.
Marxists Feminists see patriarchy as resulting from class inequalities in capitalist societies. Radical Feminists see it as built into the structure of society. Both see the family as one of the main sites in which men oppress women. Marxists Feminists Marxists feminists focus on the oppression of women, rooted in the family and linked to capitalism. For Marxists-feminists writers the family meets the needs of capitalism by socialising children into ruling class norms and values (the ruling class ideology), leading to a submissive and obedient workforce, with false consciousness and stability for capitalism.
Women in the family serve these interests in a number of ways: •As mothers within families, women bear children who if male will become the next generation of capitalist ‘wage slaves’. •As wives, women serve and service their husbands by doing the housework, cooking meals and satisfying their sexual needs. Their husbands ate thereby refreshed and restored, ready to return to the world of exploitative work under capitalism •The family has an ideological role in teaching children to accept an authoritarian and exploitative society.
For example by learning to accept authority from parents children also learn to accept authority from schools, employers and the capitalist state. According to this perspective, the family is an oppressive institution that stunts the development of human personalities and individuality. There is a ‘dark side’ to family life that functionalists play down. The Radical Feminists Perspective Some radical feminists argue that it is the family itself, and it’s associated patriarchal structures benefiting men, that are the root cause of women’s oppression.
The sexual division of labour in the family exploits women, since their responsibilities for domestic labour and childcare are unpaid, undermines their position in paid employment and increases their dependency on men. Men often control key areas of decision-making. Men sometimes use force to maintain control. Domestic violence is widespread and the majority of those on the receiving end are women. Around 570 000 cases are reported each year in the UK and probably a far larger number go unreported. True liberation for women can only result from the abolition of the family and patriarchy, some wish to create a society without families and men.
Liberal Feminist Perspective Liberal Feminists believe that change is slowly occurring and through persuasion women are slowly getting men to become more involved in sharing household and childrearing tasks. This view is echoed in the concept of the symmetrical family. Postmodern Feminists All the feminists’ approaches above can be criticised for failing to acknowledge the variety of domestic arrangements produced by different groups. Postmodern Feminists highlight the differences between groups of women in different family situations.
What are the Criticisms of the Marxists and Feminists? They see the nature of the family as determined by the needs of the economic system and/or patriarchy. they tend to ignore the diversity of family forms both within and between capitalist’s societies. They tend to focus on the negative aspects of family life and ignore the real satisfaction it gives to many individuals. According to Brigitte and Peter Berger despite its disadvantages, the nuclear family represents the best environment in which a child’s individuality can develop.
They suggest that collective childrearing systems (as in the kibbutz) create more conformist and less creative people than those raised in a nuclear family. Black feminist writers such as Helen Carby have criticised white feminists for failing to consider the significance of racism alongside patriarchy as a form of domination. They agree that for many black women the family can be an oppressive institution. However, they also point out that black women (and men) are oppressed by racism and that the family often acts as a source of support and resistance to racial discrimination and harassment.
Feminists arguing from the post-modern approach have been criticised for losing sight of the inequalities between men and women in families by stressing the range of choices open to people when they are forming families. By stressing the different experiences of women, difference feminists, tend to neglect the common experiences shared by most women in families. The Psychology of Family Life. R. D. Laing argued that many so-called ‘mental illnesses’ are normal responses to the pressures of family life. However, many psychiatrists rejected his view, arguing that there is a lot more to the cause of mental disorders than family relationships.
Others argue that Laing has overstated hid case, but agree that the family can play a major part in the development of certain mental disorders. Domestic Violence is very difficult to measure and document because it takes place behind closed doors. It is also difficult to define. Measuring Domestic Violence – Elisabeth Stanko She provides the following estimates of the extend of domestic violence in the UK. •1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men report a physical assault by a partner during their lifetime. •Around 10% of women experience domestic violence in any given year. The form of violence is largely male offenders against female victims •1 incidence of domestic violence is reported by women to the police every minute in the UK Some sociologists have reported increases in female violence against men, but it is estimated that this only constitutes 5% of all domestic violence. Nazroo found that wives often live in fear of men’s potential violence of threats, whilst husbands rarely feel frightened or intimidated by their wives potential for violence. Feminists Approaches to Domestic Violence Feminists suggest that domestic violence is a problem of patriarchy.
They suggest that domestic violence arises from two sources: •Different gender role socialisation – Boys are socialised into masculine values, which revolve around risk-taking, toughness, aggression and so on. Many boys / men are brought up to believe that they should have economic and social power as breadwinners. Socialisation into femininity, involves learning to be passive and subordinate, which may be one reason why women tolerate violence. •A crisis in masculinity – Men’s traditional source of identity, i. e. work, is no longer guaranteed.
Working women and unemployment have challenged men’s status as heads of households. Women may be demanding more authority in the home and insisting that unemployed men play a greater domestic role – some men see this as threatening their masculinity. Therefore, violence may be an aspect of the anxiety men are feeling about their economic and domestic role. Feminists argue that as long as men have the capacity to commit such violence, there can never be inequality within a marriage/cohabiting couple. Child Abuse Sociologists have identified four categories of abuse: •Physical •Neglect •Emotional Sexual Taylor is critical of the research methods used to collect information on child abuse All these methods are flawed for several reasons: •There is a disproportionate number of working class or poor families featured in the official statistics as they have more regular contact with social workers or police for reasons other than child abuse. Child abuse may be just as common in middle class families but is less likely to be detected as they have less or no contact with these authorities. •Moral panics in the media may distort the statistics by over sensitising society to the problem. Victims may not realise they have been abused or may not be believed. •Abuse involving physical injury or neglect may be more likely to arouse suspicion than sexual or emotional abuse which tend to have no outward signs. •Response rates to victim surveys are very poor. There may be problems arising from the respondent’s willingness and ability to recall things that happened long ago. •What counts as abuse changes over time and varies between cultures. Explanations of Child Abuse The Disease Model This model assumes that child abuse is the product of illness or abnormality – a defect in the personality/character of parents.
This approach is similar to the media images of child abusers. It sees child abuse as the product of unusual family circumstances. The Functionalist / New Right Theory Vogel and Bell maintain that the dysfunction of child abuse may be a lesser evil than the breakdown of the family. They are focussing on emotional abuse where the child is used as an emotional weapon by the feuding parents. From this perspective, such emotional abuse may be preferable to divorce, with all its attendant problems. Structural Theories Parton is critical of both the above models as they suggest that child abuse is only found in extreme cases.
He argues that it is more routine than society likes to admit. The models above give the impression that only certain sections of society – one parent families and those in poverty – are likely to commit child abuse. He argues that they fail to consider that affluence may disguise child abuse – it may be just as common in middle class households. Parton argues that structural circumstances in which people live can put great strain on personal relationships. For example at the lower end of the economic scale, it may be the stress of poverty, unemployment, debts and marital problems that may lead to abuse.
Middle-class abuse may be due to lack of job satisfaction, financial anxieties and fear of redundancy. Feminist Theories This perspective mainly focuses on sexual child abuse, which is mainly seen as a symptom of male power in a patriarchal society. Feminists suggest that sexual abuse is the product of society where males are socialised into seeing themselves as sexually dominant and into sexually objectifying females. Some men in the family may sexually objectify both wife and daughters and view them as sexual property to be exploited.
They do acknowledge that women too can abuse children, but point out that this is very rarely sexual abuse. They suggest that female physical abuse and neglect of children may be the product of their experience of childcare in a patriarchal society. Women’s anger and frustration, expressed through physical abuse, may be the product of the fact that childcare in the UK is regarded as low status work, is often carried out in isolation and may be stressful, boring and unrewarding. Male abuse on the other hand, is simply an expression of masculinity and of men’s need, learned though the socialisation process, to be powerful and dominant.