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Evaluate The Claim That The Nuclear Family Is Still The Norm In Modern Society. A nuclear family consists of married parents and their children. Changes in the rates of divorce and marriage contradict the idea that the nuclear family is still the norm. Changes in attitudes also mean that the nuclear family may not represent the majority of families. Over the last 100 years, the trend in divorce has risen. For example, there were 3,000 divorces between 1921 and 1923 and in 1923, the grounds of divorce were equalised for men and women.
In 1949, legal aid was given to divorcees, making divorce cheaper, this could’ve lead to the 27,000 divorces in 1961. Also, in 1971, The Divorce Law Reform Act came into effect. Further changes following this would be; the 1984 change of the minimum period of marriage from three years to one year before divorce was allowed, in 2004 homosexual couples in a civil partnership were given the same rights as heterosexual couples concerning divorce and in 2007 the number of divorces rose to 170,000.
After divorce, several types of family can be formed e.g. a lone parent family, a cohabiting couple or a reconstituted family. This suggests that the nuclear family is no longer the norm as divorce has caused greater family diversity.
There is also less of a reason to get married. This is because of stigma, secularisation, rising expectations of marriage and the changing position of women.Declining stigma and secularisation lead to a decline in the number of marriages, this is because it is no longer considered a sin to be in an unmarried sexual relationship.
Rising expectations of marriage also lead to a decline in marriages, this is because there is less motivation to get married especially as gender roles are changing. The changing position of women means that they can work and live independently from men, so it is not necessary for them to marry.
The decline in marriage means that nuclear families are no longer the norm as people now prefer to cohabit or live alone for example. Functionalists believe that the nuclear family is the ‘functional fit’ therefore the norm in society. They believe this because a family needs to be socially and geographically mobile so that they can physically move to employment and also metaphorically move up in a hierarchy, to get to a better job. They believe that other family types e.g. lone parent families are abnormal as they don’t serve their function in society. Due to this, they blame disorder and crime on families such as these, claiming that they can not properly socialise children into the idea that marriage and the nuclear family is normal.
Marxists do assume that the nuclear family is the norm in society. This is because they see the family as benefiting capitalism. The family does this as they are a unit of consumption, they are stigmatised if they don’t have the latest consumer goods, so they buy these from the capitalists and, to earn the money for these goods, they work for the capitalists. If the family was not nuclear, then capitalists would not benefit, so all possible efforts are made to stigmatize other family types meaning that the nuclear family is the norm.
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