Critically Analyse and Evalute The Different Sociological Perspectives On The Types of Family And Households In Britain. Evaluate Their Functions And Roles. To What Extent Do They Take Into Account The Diversity of Family Types In Britain?
In this essay I will be looking at the different sociological theories as they relate to the family household, functions and roles. The socialists include The Functionalist , The Marxist, The Feminists, The New Rights and The Post Modernisms. There is an array of different family types. These include the nuclear family, reconstituted family/step family, single parent family, cultural family, and even more so in the modern times an evolution of different and alternative family types are getting more common such as gay families. The nuclear family is seen as the most traditional family type. It is one where you have a married couple with children, whereby the male is the head of the household and the sole breadwinner and the female takes on the responsibilities of the household and the care of the children.
This type of family was a very common type in the early days compared to the present period in the Europe however, according to Browne (n.d), Pakistani and Bangladeshi families are most likely to live in the traditional nuclear family type. In modern days with divorce on the increase nuclear family types have been replaced with reconstituted families and single parented families. Reconstituted families consist of separated or divorced people who enter a new relationship with someone that already has children. Single parented families are one that consists of one parent that takes care of the child. According to Browne (n.d) ninety per cent of this type of family is headed by women. The nuclear family is the family type that is regarded to the Functionalist, Marxists and the New Rights as the most ideal. The main functionalists’ theories of the family are G.P Murdock and Talcott Parsons. They view the family as a tool in order for the society to function.
Ken Browne (n.d) suggests that the Functionalists believe that the development of an individual is helped by the upbringing from the family. The reason why Parsons believes in the nuclear family is because he believes that the male and the female both serve a role within the family that benefits society. He believes that the female has an expressive role whereby the females’ nature is to be emotionally supportive to her children and husband, providing them with love and nurture. The males’ role is to be instrumental, whereby his duty is to be the provider of the family. Browne (n.d) suggests that Parsons states that the male instrumental role can cause stress and anxiety in which the females’ expressive role takes place in order to soothe her husbands’ tension.
The problem with this view is that the functionalists do not take into account that now in modern times we have an array of family types and family roles have been reversed. For instance, it is very common now for a woman to have a job and be the breadwinner in helping maintain the family. It is also very common for men to be the main carer of the home and the children, especially when you take into account that the rise of unemployed men is high due to the recession, and as a result of this, men are actually taking expressive role into action and the female the instrumental role. And also the nuclear family is now decreasing.
The tradition of children within a marriage isn’t as common as it was in the past as now cohabitation is a common family type. Also divorce rates are high resulting in reconstituted families and single families. The expression for the instrumental and expressive roles isn’t as valid when you apply them into the roles of the sexes, as now with the increase of different family types the roles can be reversed or one parent could provide the instrumental and expressive role.
Marxists do not view the family as acting in the interest of society as a whole but more in the form of a superstructure that benefits the capitalist system. “Marxist see the family within the framework of a capitalist society, which is based on private property, driven by profit and is riddled with conflict between social classes with opposing interest”. (Browne pg 123) According to the Marxists the industrial aspects and the reproduction of people and generations contributes to the system by them working to maintain the economic system. This view on the family fails to take into account the sociological benefits a family can have outside of the industrial perspective. Brown (n.d) states that Engles, an early Marxists, believed that the monogamous practice of the nuclear family guarantees the paternity of the children, therefore ensuring that private property was passed down to the right people. There is also the perception that women married for material gain as, like the functionalists, they believed men should be the breadwinners and women should stay home and take care of the children.
As their view concentrates mainly on the structural perspectives to society they fail to take into account the emotional side of the family and the fact that couples do actual marry for love. As I mentioned earlier, it is now very common for women to work and earn their own money and to be independent therefore minimising Engles’ view on the perception that women married for money and security. Their view on the importance of the nuclear family suggests they do not recognise the wide diversity in the families we now have today as not all families are nuclear. Reconstituted families, in some cases property or money could be shared equally amongst step-children and paternal children, this also indicates that Engles hadn’t taken to account the varieties of the different family types. However, in most Muslim marriages they tend to be arranged and due to the strong religious influence divorce rates are dramatically low in comparison with European and Afro-Caribbean marriages.
Due to the nuclear family setting in Muslim marriages, Engles theory would best describes them. Browne (n.d) states that the Marxist Feminist has an extended view on the Marxist perspective as the feminists focuses mainly on the female contribution to the family. They highlight the key issues on the negative effects of family life towards women, e.g. domestic violence, which the Functionalist and the Marxists do not acknowledge. Radical Feminist highlights that patriarchy is the cause of restriction on women. They highlight that the duty that women undertake as carer of children restricts them in their workplace and that the upbringing they give to their children socializes them so that they are fit for the working environment. They believe that women’s unpaid domestic labour benefits the capitalist system.
The key problem with the Marxist feminists is that they do not take into account the diversity of modern families. It’s as if they assume that every family consists of a heterosexual nuclear family. Gay families as well as other types of families are not even taken into account in this view. Browne suggests that they also paint a very negative perspective of family life making the family to the woman a burden when in reality not all women feel this way. Some women love the fact that they are considered in their family as the main nurturer, and in other families the roles are shared equally between the mother and father as it very common for both parents to work.
With this said as women have their own source of income women are less obliged to remain with their partner if they are unhappy, highlighting the fact that, according to Browne (n.d) , 70 per cent of women initiate divorces. The New Right theory is politically themed as opposed to socially. They believe that the decline in the traditional nuclear family contributes to various social problems such as spending on welfare, underachievement and the existence of the ‘underclass’ (criminals).
The New Right do not take into account that some nuclear families do also have their problems. The feminists have addressed that domestic violence does take place within the nuclear family. This in turn could affect a child to the point where that child is deeply affected by these incidents within the family home which results him/her to be a nuisance to society in which case, a single parented family would indeed lessen the problems as the domestic problem would have been taken out of the equation. The functions of the New Rights are just indeed theories that all of which do not have any evidence to back them up.
The Post Modernisms embraces every family type and states that no family structure should be considered as more desirable than others. They state that an individual can experience various family structures throughout their lifespan. Although the Post Modernism’s theory does not discriminate households that are deemed as ‘not ideal for society’ by other socialist groups, they appear not to have any boundaries which can be detrimental for society and the individual as they do not enforce a degree of structure. The commonality between all the sociological theories that I have discussed so far is that none of them have taken into account the cultural differences and views of the family.
The nuclear family is not universally accepted. An example of this shown by (FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLD BOOKLET-NO AUTHOR/DATE) mentions that Kibbutz, an Israeli family type, is one that consists of the community taking on the responsibility of the family as opposed to the parents. (THE BOOK STATES) “In the early Kibbutzim, childrearing was separated as much as possible from the marriage relationship, with children kept apart from their natural parents for much of the time and brought up in the children’s house by metapelets….
It is one of the most famous and successful attempts to establish an alternative to the family”. (p117) The Jewish way of life proves that other family type such as theirs can be successful, shadowing the Nuclear family type status to be the most effective way of family life. Another example as to why cultural differences have been overlooked is that Polygyny tends to be quite common in the Muslim culture. This type of family setting would not go in the favour of what the Marxist stand for as the Marxist believes in the monogamy setting where one husband and one wife is all that is required.
The fact that socialists’ still use theories from the earlier period shows that their perspectives are very old fashioned and dated. In the earlier days the numbers of ethnic minorities, homosexuality and divorce in Great Britain was considerably lower to the numbers of today. This suggests that the perspectives were aimed solely for the European nuclear society. As the number of ethnic minorities, homosexuality and divorce features so largely in Britain, the perspectives is in some need of amending as they do not benefit people from different family types and cultures.
Aiken Dave; Chapman Steve: Moore Stephen, (n.d), Sociology AS For AQA Browne Ken, (n.d), Sociology for AS AQA 3rd Edition
New Right and Postmodernist, (n.d), To introduce New Right and Postmodernist perspectives on the nuclear family, available at: http://www.educationforum.co.uk/sociology_2/post.htm Postmodern Sociology, (n.d), available at: http://www.allaboutworldview.org/postmodern-sociology.htm