Most sociologists agree that the nuclear family first became popular in the United Kingdom in the 1950 – 1960’s after World War 2, although it existed from approximately the 18th Century. It originally occurred in upper-class families that could afford to live in this way and then eventually filtered down to the middle-classes and finally became popular amongst most classes in the twentieth century. The nuclear Family ‘(consisting of husband and wife with dependent children) this was idealized and promoted in the 1950’s with the husband going out to work and the wife taking care of the house and family matters.
This was seen as the foundation of a healthy society, every child given a strong moral foundation to work and grow from. The Father figure was given the authority and the power over the other family members. This was demonstrated by him being the ‘breadwinner’ and responsible for supporting the family financially. The role of the dominant male within the family seems to be eroding.
This could be due to the high number of single families, same sex families and the rising number of teenage pregnancies.
Statistics reveal that one of the most important reasons for the increase in single parent families is due to divorce, suggesting that 1in 4 children were affected by it. The rise in divorce rate could be attributed to the change in law in the 1970’s making it easier and more socially acceptable. We look at women and their roles in the last fifty years and realise that depending on our culture or how we were moulded as children, women can have many different roles.
The most common for women is attending to men, the house and bearing their children, this role is called the housewife.
They have always been expected to be weaker and maternal, some women have shown that they can be stronger than men by taking on their roles as well as their own but sometimes not by choice for example: single parenting, poverty (where no work for men and women work the streets etc), illness and even maybe religion. Since equal rights and opportunities came into force, more couples have both partners working, more mums have help to go back to work, men are doing their ‘fair’ share of the house work and also couples are making ‘equal’ decisions.
Women by now were also able to use contraception to prevent having a high quantity of children, which gave them a bit more freedom. Since 1970 families have become more equal and privatised, it wasn’t a big change for men as from 1950 families started to slowly progress towards being symmetrical. There are many benefits when families become more equal, it can take pressure off one another due to sharing roles and even if the wife takes up a part time or full time work this can help them financially but a vast majority of women prefer to remain as housewife’s this due to high maternal instinct.
Now a days children are listened to by their parents more, children didn’t use to have a say in what they wanted to do, boys were sent to school to get a good career and girls were kept at home to learn house skills. These days both genders can get an education and its quite normal for children to go to cri??che as young as 1 year old, this helps them to interact and to learn social skills So the decline of the Nuclear family and male dominance could be attributed to the opportunities facing women today that were not available in the 1950’s when the ‘ golden age’ of families was being promoted.
Women now can earn in the workforce and look after the children, to the extent of replace the male in the family completely with the female fulfilling both roles within the Nuclear family. There is also now evidence to show that the extended family is increasing at the moment due to the problem of a lack of care homes, rising directly from the increase in life expectancy. This coupled with the idea that teenage pregnancies are on the rise (UK has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe! ) would suggest that a slight rise in the extended family would be almost definite.
The extended family could also be on the increase in Britain now due to us having a more diverse ethnic background, with Asian families in particular valuing the extended family. It can also be seen that more people are choosing to be single than ever before, again I can bring the issue of ethnicity into this as it is widely reported that a lot of Afro-Caribbean families are single parent families, where as this was once seen to be something that society would question, it would now appear that society has become more accepting of individuals who would like to live alone, and put such things as career or education before a relationship.
The Single Parent Family, is not however only becoming more common due to divorce, undoubtedly there are other factors to take into consideration such as cohabiting couples with dependant children parting ways. Less common family types are also starting to have a more established place in today’s society. There is a growing trend of gay/lesbian families, a lot of whom are choosing to adopt children. The rising acceptance of society on this issue allows such family types to prosper, thus reducing the amount of Nuclear families.
In conclusion, it would seem that the nuclear family was the most popular family format in the 1950’s and has been a form of living for hundreds of years, and although it may become less popular due to the increase in divorce, rise in reconstituted families and those more infrequent family types such as gay/lesbian headed families, there is no reason for it to become a thing of the past. So although there are now more variations in family type it is still the nuclear family that is most prominent.
However it is important to notice how the nuclear family is evolving and all family members are a lot more equal in their roles within the household and out of the household compared to the nuclear family in the 1950’s. It is important to note that in this essay I have been stereotypical and appreciate that for example that not all Asian’s in Britain live in extended families and not every Afro-Caribbean family is a single parent usually single mother household.