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The Sociology Teacher

a level sociology family diversity essay

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Topic 1 - COUPLES

In a nutshell

Sociologists have different opinions on how couples do and should divide up domestic labour. They also have different opinions on how decision making happens. Finally, some sociologists believe domestic violence results from patriarchy (Dobash and Dobash), whereas others believe it’s cause by stress from being poor (Wilkinson).

Topic 2 - CHILDHOOD

Some sociologists argue that the position of children in society has significantly improved due to the introduction of laws that protect children's rights. However, some sociologists believe childhood has turned ‘toxic’ due to rapid technological and cultural change.

Topic 3 - THEORIES OF THE FAMILY

Functionalists hold a consensus view of the family arguing that it plays a vital role in providing beneficial functions to meet the needs of society and its individual members. Alternatively, Marxists take a conflict view of the family, arguing it helps maintain class inequalities. Feminists also hold a conflict view of the family, whereby they believe the family is the main source of oppression of women.

Topic 4 - Demography

Some sociologists believe the quality of life has significantly improved, whereby life expectancy is increasing, birth rate is decreasing and infant mortality is decreasing. Technological, cultural and social change has led to such an improvement. However, some sociologists disregard this in arguing there is now an increased dependency culture which is a burden on society.

topic 5 - CHANGING FAMILY PATTERNS

Divorce is increasing and marriage is decreasing. Reasons for this include secularisation, decline in stigma, changing position of women, and changes in the law.

topic 6 - Family Diversity

Family diversity has increased, and there as been a shift away from the traditional nuclear family. Nowadays, it is more common for reconstituted, lone-parent and cohabiting families to exist. However, functionalists and the new right reject this in arguing the nuclear family is the only family type functional for society.

topic 7 - Family and Social Policy

Social policy can have a big impact on families. International examples with huge impact include China’s one child policy and Nazi Germany’s policies. In the UK, some sociologists believe social policy can be used to help families, however others believe it is there to oppress them.

Family and Household Diversity

Marriage and the conventional nuclear family are no longer the only signs of commitment in a relationship, resulting in many different types of family and household.

Illustrative background for New Right and functionalists

New Right and functionalists

  • According to New Right and functionalist sociologists, the conventional ‘cereal packet’ family, with its gendered divisions of labour and instrumental and expressive roles, is the most desirable type of family in which to raise children.

Illustrative background for Late modernists and postmodernists

Late modernists and postmodernists

  • Late modernists and postmodernists argue that there is growing individualisation and uncertainty now in society and that people have more choice in relationships that are no longer controlled by tradition and norms.
  • Marriage and the conventional nuclear family are no longer the only signs of commitment in a relationship.

Illustrative background for Types of diversity

Types of diversity

  • Family structure: dual worker families, extended families, beanpole families.
  • Cultural diversity among ethnic and religious groups.
  • Social class diversity (upper- middle- working-class families).

Illustrative background for Types of diversity 2

Types of diversity 2

  • Regional diversity (rural, suburban and inner city communities).
  • Living at home – people are living with their parents for longer, often due to financial constraints.
  • Alternative families (families of choice where people choose to live with friends).

Illustrative background for Types of diversity 3

Types of diversity 3

  • Life-cycle and life course diversity, for example, where partners have children, separate, form another relationship or live alone, or grow older and have grandchildren.

Illustrative background for Modern society

Modern society

  • Diversity suggests that the functionalist and New Right view of the ‘typical family’ no longer conforms with current reality.

1 Theory & Methods

1.1 Sociological Theories

1.1.1 Marxism

1.1.2 Feminism

1.1.3 Social Action Theories

1.2 Sociological Methods

1.2.1 Types of Data

1.2.2 Positivism & Interpretivism

1.2.3 Research Design

1.2.4 Research Considerations

1.2.5 Values in Research

1.2.6 Modernity & Post-Modernity

1.2.7 Sociology as a Science

1.2.8 Sociology & Social Policy

1.2.9 End of Topic Test - Sociology Methods & Theories

1.3 Sources of Data

1.3.1 Introduction

1.3.2 Experiments

1.3.3 Surveys

1.3.4 Longitudinal Studies

1.3.5 Questionnaires

1.3.6 Types of Questionnaires

1.3.7 Interviews

1.3.8 Observation

1.3.9 Case Studies

1.3.10 Documents

1.3.11 Official Statistics

1.3.12 End of Topic Test - Sources of Data

2 Education with Methods in Context

2.1 Role & Function of the Education System

2.1.1 Introduction

2.1.2 Functionalist Theories

2.1.3 Marxist & Feminist Theories

2.1.4 The New Right

2.2 Educational Achievement

2.2.1 Social Class: Internal Factors

2.2.2 Social Class: External Factors

2.2.3 Social Class: Attitudes to Education

2.2.4 Social Class: Difference in Achievement

2.2.5 Gender

2.2.6 Ethnicity

2.3 Relationships & Processes Within Schools

2.3.1 Processes

2.3.2 Labelling

2.3.3 Categorisations

2.3.4 Student Experience

2.3.5 End of Topic Test -Education with Methods

2.4 Educational Policies

2.4.1 Equality

2.4.2 Privatisation

2.4.3 Marketisation

2.4.4 Government Policies by Party

2.4.5 Globalisation

2.4.6 End of Topic Test- Educational Policies

2.4.7 Practice Exam Question - Social Policies

3 Option 1: Culture & Identity

3.1 Conceptions of Culture

3.1.1 Culture

3.1.2 Mass Culture

3.1.3 Popular Culture

3.1.4 Global Culture

3.1.5 End of Topic Test - Culture and Identity

3.2 Identity & Socialisation

3.2.1 Identities

3.2.2 Socialisation

3.2.3 Secondary Socialisation

3.2.4 Theories of Socialisation

3.2.5 End of Topic Test - Identity

3.2.6 Practice Exam Question - Socialisation & Equality

3.3 Social Identity

3.3.1 Social Class

3.3.2 Upper & Middle Class

3.3.3 Working & Underclass

3.3.4 Social Class Evaluation

3.3.5 Gender

3.3.6 Changing Gender Identities

3.3.7 Ethnicity

3.3.9 Disability

3.3.10 Nationality

3.3.11 End of Topic Test - Social Identity

3.4 Production, Consumption & Globalisation

3.4.1 Production & Consumption

3.4.2 Globalisation

3.4.3 Evaluation

3.4.4 End of Topic Test - Production

4 Option 1: Families & Households

4.1 Families & Households

4.1.1 Definitions

4.1.2 Functionalist & New Right Perspectives

4.1.3 Marxist & Feminist Perspectives

4.1.4 Postmodernist Perspective

4.1.5 End of Topic Test - Families & Households

4.1.6 Practice Exam Question - Function of Family

4.2 Changing Patterns

4.2.1 Marriage

4.2.2 Divorce

4.2.3 LAT Relationships

4.2.4 Child-Bearing

4.2.5 Lone Parenthood

4.2.6 Diversity

4.2.7 The Sociology of Personal Life

4.2.8 Government Policies Post-WW2

4.2.9 End of Topic Test - Changing Patterns

4.3 The Symmetrical Family

4.3.1 The Symmetrical Family

4.3.2 Evaluation

4.4 Children & Childhood

4.4.1 Childhood

4.4.2 Childhood in the UK

4.4.3 Childhood as a Social Construct

4.4.4 The Disappearance of Childhood

4.4.5 Child Abuse

4.4.6 Domestic Violence

4.4.7 End of Topic Test - Family & Childhood

4.5 Demographic Trends UK

4.5.1 Introduction

4.5.2 Birth Rates

4.5.3 Death Rates

4.5.4 The Ageing Population

4.5.5 Studies on the Ageing Population

4.5.6 Migration

4.5.7 Globalisation

4.5.8 End of Topic Test - Demographics UK

5 Option 1: Health

5.1 Social Constructions

5.1.1 The Body

5.1.2 Health, Illness & Disease

5.1.3 Disability

5.1.4 Models of Health & Illness

5.1.5 End of Topic Test - Social Constructions

5.2 Social Distribution of Healthcare

5.2.1 Social Class

5.2.2 Gender

5.2.3 Ethnicity

5.2.4 Regional

5.3 Provision & Access to Healthcare

5.3.1 The NHS

5.3.2 Inequalities in Provision

5.3.3 Sociological Explanations

5.3.4 Inequalities in Access

5.3.5 Inequalities in Access 2

5.3.6 End of Topic Test - Distribution Health

5.4 Mental Health

5.4.1 The Biomedical Approach

5.4.2 Social Patterns

5.4.3 Social Constructionist Approach

5.5 The Globalised Health Industry

5.5.1 The Functionalist Approach

5.5.2 The Postmodernist Approach

5.5.3 The Globalised Health Industry

5.5.4 End of Topic Test - Mental Health & Globalisation

6 Option 1: Work, Poverty & Welfare

6.1 Poverty & Wealth

6.1.1 Types of Poverty

6.1.2 Types of Poverty 2

6.1.3 Distribution of Wealth UK

6.1.4 Sociological Theories

6.1.5 Sociological Theories 2

6.1.6 Distribution of Poverty UK

6.1.7 End of Topic Test - Poverty & Wealth

6.2 Welfare

6.2.1 The Welfare State

6.2.2 Theoretical Approaches to Welfare

6.3 Labour Process

6.3.1 Nature of Work

6.3.2 Technology & Control

6.3.3 Work & Life

6.3.4 The Effects of Globalisation

6.3.5 Globalisation & Worklessness

6.3.6 End of Topic Test - Welfare & Labour

7 Option 2: Beliefs in Society

7.1 Ideology, Science & Religion

7.1.1 Types of Religion

7.1.2 Ideology & Belief Systems

7.1.3 Social Stability & Religion

7.1.4 Social Change & Religion

7.1.5 End of Topic Test - Ideology, Science & Religion

7.2 Religious Movements

7.2.1 Religious Organisations

7.2.2 New Religious Movements

7.2.3 New Age Movements

7.2.4 Practice Exam Question - Growth of NRMs

7.3 Society & Religion

7.3.1 Social Groups & Religion

7.3.2 Gender & Religion

7.3.3 End of Topic Test- Religious Movements & Society

7.4 Contemporary Religion

7.4.1 Secularisation UK

7.4.2 Against Secularisation

7.4.3 Secularisation US

7.4.4 Fundamentalism

7.4.5 Economic Development & Religion

7.4.6 End of Topic - Contemporary Religion

8 Option 2: Global Development

8.1 Development, Underdevelopment & Global Inequality

8.1.1 Development

8.1.2 Underdevelopment & Global Inequality

8.2 Globalisation & Global Organisations

8.2.1 Globalisation

8.2.2 Transnational Corporations & International Agency

8.2.3 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

8.3 Aid, Trade, Industrialisation, Urbanisation

8.3.1 Development: Aid & Trade

8.3.2 Development: Industrialisation & Urbanisation

8.3.3 Development: Environment & War

9 Option 2: The Media

9.1 Contemporary Media

9.1.1 New Media

9.1.2 Control of the Media

9.1.3 Sociological Approaches: New Media

9.1.4 Globalisation

9.1.5 News Selection

9.1.6 Moral Panics

9.1.7 End of Topic Test - Contemporary Media

9.2 Media Representations

9.2.2 Social Class & Ethnicity

9.2.3 Gender

9.2.4 Sexuality & Disability

9.2.5 Practice Exam Questions - Presentation of Women

9.3 Audiences

9.3.1 Media Theories

9.3.2 Media Theories 2

9.3.3 Media Representations & Audiences

10 Crime & Deviance

10.1 Crime & Society

10.1.1 Functionalism

10.1.2 Subcultural Theory

10.1.3 Marxism

10.1.4 Realism

10.1.5 Other Approaches

10.1.6 End of Topic Test - Crime & Society

10.1.7 Practice Exam Questions - Social Construction

10.2 Social Distribution of Crime

10.2.1 Ethnicity

10.2.2 Gender

10.2.3 Globalisation & Crime

10.2.4 Media & Crime

10.2.5 Types of Crimes

10.2.6 End of Topic Test - Social Distribution of Crime

10.3 Prevention & Punishment

10.3.1 Surveillance

10.3.2 Prevention

10.3.3 Punishment

10.3.4 Victimology

10.3.5 End of Topic Test - Prevention & Punishment

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WRITING FRAME  - AQA A-level Sociology: Families – Topic  6  Family diversity 20 marker

WRITING FRAME - AQA A-level Sociology: Families – Topic 6 Family diversity 20 marker

Subject: Sociology

Age range: 16+

Resource type: Worksheet/Activity

Sociology Shop

Last updated

13 April 2023

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Detailed writing frame that scaffolds (from introduction to conclusion) a full answer for a 20 marker on evaluating the view that individual choice in personal relationships has made family life less important in the United Kingdom today (family -topic 6 family diversity).

*** Based on AQA specification**

Models and supports students with how to use the item to select points or arguments to answer the question and how to plan essays using planning success criteria.

Outlines the success criteria and provides sentence starters for the full essay (intro, main body and conclusion). Success criteria used for paragraphs in main body of essay is PEELE/A

Outlines the key terms, sociologists, theories that can be used when answering the question.

Supports students who need support and guidance with writing essays whilst providing students who are already good at writing essays opportunities to further improve their essay skills.

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A bundle is a package of resources grouped together to teach a particular topic, or a series of lessons, in one place.

PREPARING FOR THE EXAM - Family Revision and Essay Writing Bundle

Bundle includes: 1. Family PLC - EDITABLE - Personal Learning Checklist for the Families and Households unit in the the AQA A-level Sociology syllabus. PLC includes topic and page numbers from the Westergaard and Townsend book one for content students my find hard to locate. 2. Revision lessons that recaps content and/ or focusses on developing exam techniques for family topics 1-7: -Topic 1 - Couples - also focusses on exam techniques - AO1, AO2 & AO3 -Topic 2 - Childhood -Topic 3 - Theories of the family - focusses on AO1 & AO3 -Topic 4 - Demography - briefly focusses on all AOs but mainly AO2 for 10 markers -Topic 5 - Changing Family patterns - focusses on AO2 -Topic 6 - Family diversity -Topic 7 -Families and Social policy - focusses on planning essays using the item. 3. Five writing frames for 20 markers on family topics 2-6: Detailed writing frame that scaffolds (from introduction to conclusion) a full answer for a 20 marker on: -Topic 2 - Childhood - evaluate explanations of childhod -Topic 3 - Theories of the family - whether the family is beneficial -Topic 4 - Demography - position of the old -Topic 5 - Changing family patterns -divorce -Topic 6 - Family diversity - whether individual choice in personal relationships has made family life less important Writing frames: - Supports students with planning the 20 marker (using the item) - using planning success criteria. - Outlines the success criteria and provides sentence starters for the full essay (intro, main body and conclusion). Success criteria used for paragraphs in main body of essay is PEELE/A** -Outlines the key terms, sociologists, theories that can be used when answering the question.** -Supports students who need support and guidance with writing essays whilst providing students who are already good at writing essays opportunities to further improve their essay skills. **

WRITING FRAMES (for improving essay writing) - AQA A-level Sociology: Families – Topics 2-6 20 marker

Detailed writing frame that scaffolds (from introduction to conclusion) a full answer for a 20 marker on: * Topic 2 - Childhood - evaluate explanations of childhod * Topic 3 - Theories of the family - whether the family is beneficial * Topic 4 - Demography - position of the old * Topic 5 - Changing family patterns -divorce * Topic 6 - Family diversity - whether individual choice in personal relationships has made family life less important *** Based on AQA specification** *** Supports students with planning the 20 marker (using the item) - using planning success criteria. ** *** Outlines the success criteria and provides sentence starters for the full essay (intro, main body and conclusion). Success criteria used for paragraphs in main body of essay is PEELE/A** *** Outlines the key terms, sociologists, theories that can be used when answering the question.** *** Supports students who need support and guidance with writing essays whilst providing students who are already good at writing essays opportunities to further improve their essay skills. **

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Family Diversity

After studying this section, you should be able to understand:

  • the diversity of family and household structures in Britain
  • New Right views on family diversity and the criticisms of these views

The diversity of family life

Sociologists, such as the Rapoports , argue that Britain is no longer dominated by one family type. They argue that we should be celebrating family diversity – there now exists a greater choice and variety than ever before in terms of family lifestyles.

  • The Rapoports note diversity in family structure. Family life in Britain is made up of the conventional nuclear family, cohabiting couples with children, the single-parent family and the reconstituted family . Bear in mind that the  reconstituted family is  also referred to as a  ‘blended family’ or as a  ‘step family’. The reconstituted family is often made up of divorced or widowed people who have re-married and their children from the previous marriage. Such families are on the increase because of divorce, e.g. one in 15 families are step-families; one in 12 children were living in them in 1991. Reconstituted families, and especially children within them, are likely to have close ties with the families of previous partners. Children may be pulled in two directions and have tense relationships with their step-parents. These families may be further complicated if the parents decide to have children of their own. Family life, therefore, may be experienced quite differently from that experienced in a conventional nuclear family unit.
  • Moreover, the study Villains by Foster (1991), of an East End London community, indicated that the lives of working class people, and its younger generation in the 1980s, were still dominated by the values and traditions of extended kin such as parents and grandparents who tended to live nearby. Brannen suggests the beanpole family is increasing in importance.
  • The Rapoports note that families are households, but households are not necessarily families (though some will evolve into families or may have evolved out of them), e.g. ‘married couple only’ households. There is also evidence that single-person households are increasing and accounted for about 30% of all households in 2010. Surveys suggest that an increasing number of young, professional women are electing to live alone.
  • There are distinct differences in the lifestyles of families with different ethnic origins and religious beliefs. Britain is now a multicultural society in that about 11% of the population is from an ethnic minority background. Asian family life is diverse and depends on a wide range of factors such as religion, presence of extended kin and cultural beliefs. We have seen a great deal of inter-marriage between Whites, African-Caribbeans and Chinese, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in mixed-race children .
  • Diversity also exists in patterns of kinship . Some modern nuclear families are ‘privatised’ and ‘relatively isolated’ from kin. However, most are part of a ‘modified extended family’ set-up where nuclear family members still feel obliged to kin and offer emotional and material support in times of crisis. Studies also suggest that extended ties are important to the upper class in their attempt to maintain wealth and privilege.
  • The number of same-sex couples who are cohabiting is increasing and it has become a trend for such couples to have families through adoption , artificial insemination and surrogacy . In 1999, the law lords ruled that homosexual couples can be legally defined as a family and the government has now introduced same-sex civil partnerships (a type of marriage) which means that same-sex partners have similar rights to heterosexual married couples, with regard to inheritance (e.g. of property and pensions) and next of kin status.
  • Eversley and Bonnerjea note geographical variations in family life, e.g. that seaside areas have large concentrations of elderly couples and single-person households, whilst inner-city areas see large numbers of single-parent families, reconstituted families and ethnic minority families. Traditional working class areas see more extended families, whilst the affluent southeast sees a greater proportion of nuclear families.
  • Diversity can be seen in the internal division of labour within families. The Rapoports argue that most nuclear families in Britain are now dual-careerfamilies. Some women will have responsibility for the bulk of child-care and housework. Others may have negotiated a greater, perhaps even equal, input from men in the domestic sphere. The media are fond of announcing the appearance of the so-called New Man . Others may have found husbands who are happy to reverse traditional roles and become house-husbands .

The Rapoports conclude that a fundamental change is taking place in British family life. However, Chester suggests that the Rapoports have exaggerated the degree of diversity in British society and argues that the basic features of family life have remained largely unchanged for the majority of the population since the 1950s.

The New Right perspective on family diversity

New Right sociologists argue that nuclear family life is under threat. The nuclear family is said to be under attack and in decline because of the following trends which have been linked to state social policies rooted in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • The impact of feminism on the home. It is argued that this has led to the introduction of equal opportunities and equal pay legislation which have distracted women from their ‘natural’ careers as mothers. The New Right claims that there have been few tax or benefit policies aimed at encouraging mothers to stay at home with their children. The New Right argue that feminism has led to gender confusion about family roles and a corresponding rise in divorce and the number of single-parent families.
  • It is also suggested that working mothers are responsible for social problems , such as juvenile delinquency and anti-social behaviour, because children no longer experience long-term nurturing and socialisation from their mothers who are out at work. The New Right therefore claim that generations of children have been psychologically ‘damaged’ by maternal deprivation.
  • The New Right claims that sexual permissiveness and promiscuity is on the increase and the cause of a moral decay in society. New Right writers argue that government social policy has actually encouraged this decline in morality by decriminalising homosexuality and abortion, making the contraceptive pill freely available on the National Health Service (NHS), making divorce easier through the Divorce Reform Act (1969) and by not doing enough to promote marriage over cohabitation.

New Right sociologists have suggested that social policy in Britain has resulted in the decline of the nuclear family and that this has created a range of social problems, such as unemployment, educational underachievement, rising crime rates and anti-social behaviour.

Criticism of the New Right perspective on family diversity

The Rapoports are very critical of the New Right’s insistence that there  only exists one ideal family type. They note that in 1994 only 20% of  nuclear families contained a division of labour, in which the father was the  sole breadwinner and the mother was exclusively the home-maker/childcarer.  The Rapoports argue that family life in Britain is characterised by a  range of family types which reflect the plurality of British society.

Critics of the New Right suggest that the ideology of the traditional nuclear family has had some very significant influences on government thinking.

  • Tax and welfare policies have generally favoured and encouraged the heterosexual married couple rather than cohabiting couples, single parents and same-sex couples. Allan (1985) goes so far as to suggest that these policies have actively discouraged cohabitation and single-parent families.
  • Social policies such as the payment of child benefit to the mother, and the lack of free universal nursery care, has reinforced the idea that women should take prime responsibility for children.
  • Expectant mothers receive paid maternity leave for six months and unpaid leave for twelve months. In contrast, fathers only receive two weeks paid paternity leave.  Bear in mind that social  policies change over time  as incoming governments  introduce new policies or  modify existing ones. It is  important to keep up-todate  with key policy  change by reading the  quality press.
  • The Community Care Act (1990) encourages families and voluntary agencies to have a greater involvement in the care of the elderly and sick. This has placed an increased burden on women who are often the ones who take on responsibility for the sick, the elderly and disabled relatives who would once have been given free residential care. Less state assistance is given to elderly people who live with their relatives.
  • School hours and school holidays may make it difficult for women to find compatible employment outside the home.
  • The best and most desirable council and private housing is designed for twoparent families.

The Labour government of 1997–2010 recognised that there are few families in the twenty-first century which have exclusively a male breadwinner. Most families rely on two incomes and most women work (albeit often part-time). Lewis notes that Labour:

  • invested in subsidies for nursery child-care
  • lengthened maternity care from 14 weeks to nine months
  • almost doubled maternity pay
  • introduced the right for parents of young children to ask for flexible working patterns from their employers.

However, this explicit family policy has attracted New Right criticism that Labour had constructed a nanny state which over-interferes in personal living arrangements. Feminists too were critical of Labour social policy which they felt emphasised motherhood, rather than fatherhood or parenting in general.

Many prominent feminists, such as de Beauvoir (1953) and Greer (1971), have claimed that nuclear family ideology is merely patriarchal ideology – a set of ideas deliberately encouraged by men because it ensures their dominance in the fields of work, economics and politics. Family ideology is used to tie women to men, marriage and children and consequently females do not enjoy the same opportunities as men.

Barrett and McIntosh (1982) argue that familial ideology is anti-social because it dismisses alternative family types as irrelevant, inferior and deviant, e.g. as a result of the emphasis on the nuclear family ideal and the view that families need fathers, single-parent families are seen as the cause of social problems, such as rising crime rates and disrespect for authority.

Single-parent families

The fastest growing type of ‘new’ family is the one-parent or single-parent family.

The number of single-parent families with dependent children has tripled from 2% of British households in 1961 to 7% in 2005. There are now approximately 1.75 million single-parent families in Britain, making up about 23% of all families. A third of all British Black families are headed by a never married woman. Recent projections estimate that one in three families (36%) may be single-parent by the year 2016. The great majority of single-parent families are headed by women (91%). There are a variety of reasons why single-parent families come about.

  • Divorce and/or separation – 53% of lone mothers are divorced.
  • Death of a husband, wife or partner – 6% of lone mothers are widowed.
  • Unplanned pregnancy that may be the result of a casual relationship. The media tends to focus on the number of teenage pregnancies, although only 5% of lone parents are teenagers. However, one-third of lone mothers have never been married; 80% are under thirty years of age. Note that the New  Right’s focus on teenage  pregnancies is  exaggerated although  Britain has a worse  problem than most other  Western societies.

New Right thinkers such as Murray (1990) have suggested that single  parents are at the heart of a so-called underclass or ‘new rabble’ that has  appeared in the inner-cities. This group is allegedly socialising its children  into a dependency culture based around voluntary unemployment,  claiming benefits and crime. The New Right are also concerned about the  high economic costs of single-parent families in regard to welfare payments  and alleged social security fraud. This led to the setting up of the Child  Support Agency (CSA) and the pursuit of absent fathers for maintenance.

However, New Right attitudes towards single-parent families have been heavily criticised by feminist and critical thinkers.

  • Chester argues that the ideology of familism , which stresses the nuclear family ideal, has led to the negative labelling of single-parent families by social agencies such as teachers, social workers, housing departments, the police and the courts.
  • Labelling may result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, e.g. housing officers may allocate single-parent families to problem housing estates because of negative stereotypes. Consequently, their children may come into contact with deviant behaviour and are more likely to be stopped by the police.
  • Marxists suggest that single parents, especially teenage mothers, have been scapegoated by regular moral panics about social problems which are caused by structural factors such as unemployment, poverty, racism and the decline of the inner-city.
  • Critical sociologists point out that there is little material incentive to become a single parent. The social and economic situation of many single-parent families is extremely disadvantageous, e.g. 17% of those officially classed as poor are single parents.
  • Single parenthood may be a realistic strategy in areas characterised by poverty and high unemployment. Fathers may be deemed unnecessary by some young women because they cannot provide financial support. Moreover, single parenthood may be an escape from domestic violence.
  • Cashmore (1985) and Phoenix (1993) argue that it is often preferable for a child to live with one caring parent than with parents who are in conflict with each other and who may scapegoat the child.

Most single mothers eventually marry or re-marry. Single-parent families are likely to evolve into reconstituted families.

PROGRESS CHECK

  • What is meant by the term ‘patriarchal ideology’?
  • Identify two ways in which single-parent families might come about.
  • Which aspects of diversity do Eversley and Bonnerjea focus on?
  • On what grounds does Chester criticise the Rapoports?
  • Check Your Answers

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Family diversity revision

Revision on family diversity for AQA AS Sociology Unit 1: Families & Households

  • Increase in SPF's (Single parent families) & the reasons why & impacts
  • Other factors of family diversity (excluding family type)
  • Regional diversity - Eversley and Boonerjea
  • Same sex families
  • Ethnic & cultural diversity: Modood
  • UK South Asian families - Ballard
  • UK West Indian families
  • Neo-conventional family: Chester
  • Created by: Christopher Cartwright
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a level sociology family diversity essay

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Family Diversity

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Daniela Goncalves 12D

There are many different reasons for the diversity in family forms in Britain today. Most sociologists believe that Britain has family diversity; this means many different types of families. Families found in Britain today include, nuclear, meaning mother, father and children; extended, meaning grandparents, parents and children; single parent; reconstituted, meaning step family and cereal packet family; this is how the media show the family, they show the woman as the housewife and mother and the man as the wage earner.

There are many advantages to being in a nuclear family. This type of family has been acceptable for many years; it has never been unacceptable to be in this type of family. Children benefit from being brought up with both birth parents and they are also able to trace their origins. Due to being in a nuclear family, children benefit more from a stable environment. Children raised in a family with the same parents during their growing years have a higher likelihood of having stability in their relationship and emotional bonding rather than children growing up in a single-parent family have higher chances of feeling a sense of loss in relation to the absent parent and miss out on the advantage of having emotional support and dual insights that both a father and a mother can give.

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There can also be a disadvantage to this, if both parents are working then the child or children have to be left by themselves. On the whole, in my opinion, a nuclear family is very stable and is the preferred family overall, with many advantages and only very few disadvantages. Robert Chester (1985) argues that, despite what the critics of the nuclear family may argue, most people spend at least part of their life within this type of family structure.

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There are also many advantages to being in a reconstituted family, also known as step family. One of these is; the ex lone parent may now be happier as they have changed partner, the reasons for the separation may have been due to abuse or unhappiness and now that the ex lone parent has found someone new this makes the ex lone parent happy. They get a second chance of being a family. An advantage can also relate to the one from a nuclear family. The child gets support from both parent figures, even though it’s not their birth parent, they can sometimes been seen as this. There are also disadvantages to a reconstituted family, some of these are; children may feel jealous of the new parent and compete for the birth parent’s attention. The children can also feel resentment towards the step parent of vice versa; this can complicate a lot the relationship and sometimes even destroy it. There is also homosexuality involved in families. These are same-sex families and can have also both its advantages and disadvantages. Parents in same-sex families usually get a wider choice of family members in their family. They get the opportunity to pick who will be part of the family, through adoption or sperm donors. It has become much more acceptable in the UK as from before which it was looked down upon. On the other hand some may argue that children won’t have much stability as they will not have either a female or male figure whilst growing up. Overall research, Fitzgerald 1999 , has shown that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are no different to those raised by heterosexuals. The evidence suggests that what matters is the relationship between the child and its parents and not their sexuality. All these things determine family diversity and is all very common in Britain.

Within these types of families, there are also other things that categorise these families, one being social class. Social class can have a large impact of a family’s life. This has an effect on life chances and opportunities. People say that families living in a lower class have more financial problems and this could lead to breakdown in the family. People living in an upper class family are very stable financially which minimise problems as this is something they do not have to concern about. The difference in standard of living is also very high. These can also lead to problems and cause couples to separate. For example, if a couple do not have the standard of living for both of them they may choose to split up in order for them to go separate ways and get a better standard of living. Another thing that also determines family diversity is ethnic diversity. Research shows that Asian families tend to have a higher rate of extended families than anywhere else. They are also mainly nuclear as divorce rates are very low in Asian families because this is something wrong. Cohabitation is usually unheard of and this is something they believe is disrespectful. Whereas Afro-Caribbean families have a higher rate of single parents families. At least 50% of Afro-Caribbean families are lone parent families. It helps that there are many more kinship networks. All these things also contribute to reasons why there is family diversity. There are many advantages to having a multicultural as it brings a wider knowledge of cultures within the family instead of knowing of just one. It also helps in the whole concept of being diverse. The down side to multicultural families is that different cultures have different traditions and regimes which some people just can’t handle and this can cause a breakdown in the family but if two people truly want to be together then they can overcome all the problems that culture brings.

In conclusion, there are many different reasons to why there is family diversity and there is no main reason to it, it consists of many different things, and many more which have yet to be discovered.

Family Diversity

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  • Word Count 983
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  • Level AS and A Level
  • Subject Sociology

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Family diversity - AQA A level Sociology

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Families: Forms of Family Diversity

Last updated 15 Sept 2022

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Some sociologists argue that there is no “normal” family, but instead a broad diversity of family and household forms in the UK today.

There are a number of reasons for this increased diversity, including:

  • Secularisation (as religion has become less central to UK society, so people are more likely to consider alternatives to marriage and also there is a reduced stigma to divorce.)
  • Legal changes (the legal changes mentioned in the previous section has made divorce easier, therefore leading to more family types)

Late modernist Anthony Giddens (1992) argues that greater gender equality has led to significant changes in the nature of family life. Relationships are now categorised by freedom – people are free to enter into relationships on their own terms rather than bound by tradition or family expectations.

A consequence of this is that people seek a pure relationship : if a relationship is not meeting their expectations then they are also at liberty to end it and seek one that is more fulfilling. Furthermore, relationships have become increasingly about the self : people’s self-identity is explored through relationships.

All of this combines to suggest that people are less likely to get married young and stay together for their whole lives and instead are likely to experience serial monogamy . That is, be part of several partnerships throughout their life course, rather than just one. While in previous eras it was not unusual for people to marry their “childhood sweetheart” it is now very unusual for people in a relationship at 18 to remain in the same relationship for life. While this represents greater choice and freedom , it is also characterised by instability .

Sociologists recognise a large number of diverse family forms in contemporary society.

Examples of diverse family forms

Traditional nuclear family.

This is the traditional family as described functionalists like Talcott Parsons and the New Right: a married couple with their own children (2 or 3 of them) where the husband goes out to work and the wife looks after most of the domestic duties, with clear segregated roles .

Symmetrical family

This family form was described by Wilmott & Young who argued that in the later 20 th century, families were becoming more symmetrical, with more joint roles. Women were increasingly going out to work and men were doing more of the housework.

Nuclear family with house husband or “new man”

Another family form that exists, especially in a postmodern society, is one where the female adult in the family is the “breadwinner” and the husband does most of the domestic work.

Extended family

Extended family refers to those family members who are outside the “nucleus”: aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, etc. Extended family households can be either:

  • Vertical . Multiple generations living together (e.g. grandparents and great grandparents. The vertical description relates to how it would appear on a family tree.
  • Horizontal . A household made up of aunts, uncles and cousins: the family extended horizontally across the same generation rather than vertically.

These household forms were uncommon in the 20 th century, but had arguably been a feature of pre-industrial and early industrial households. However, life expectancy would suggest that at the time it would have been more likely to be horizontal extended families, whereas today – with an ageing population – the likelihood of vertical extended families has increased.

Beanpole family

Again, looking at how a family looks on a family tree can present us with a beanpole family: a vertical extended family with no (or few) “branches”. This is a multi-generational extended family, or vertical extended family, but is characterised by each generation having few siblings. Again, as the fertility rate has reduced, this becomes a more common family form. In earlier generations, grandparents and great grandparents might be expected to have several siblings, as large families was the norm.

Matrifocal lone parent family

The most common lone-parent family is the matrifocal one: that is one where the lone parent is the mother of the child/children. There are several reasons for this, such as women giving birth (and therefore being the present parent if they are not in a relationship) and courts tending to prefer mothers in child custody cases, following divorces.

New Right sociologists, such as Charles Murray criticise lone parent families suggesting that the lack of a male role model can cause deviant behaviour and socialise children with deviant values, leading to the creation of an underclass .

Patrifocal lone parent family

A less common variation on the lone-parent family is the patrifocal one: a family headed by a single father.

Reconstituted family

A reconstituted family is where two nuclear families that have split up merge (or blend) to form a new family (i.e. with step-parents and step-brothers or sisters). Because of both increased divorce and the decrease in marriage, there are many more reconstituted or blended families in the UK today than there were 100 years ago.

Same sex couples

Of course, there are really a number of different same-sex family structures, not just one. Same-sex couple implies a couple living without children ( coupling describes this household structure for both heterosexual and homosexual couples) but there are also same-sex families where there are children (either naturally the children of one or other parent or adopted).

Living apart together

A living apart together family is where a couple choose not to cohabitate (or are not currently cohabitating). This accounts for approximately 10% of UK adults.

Grandparenting

This is a term for when children are brought up by their grandparents rather than their parents. There are a number of reasons why this situation might arise. It refers to a more formal, permanent or semi-permanent arrangement than just grandparents assisting with childcare.

This term refers to people living on their own. Again this is quite a common household type in contemporary Britain.

Flatmates/housemates

Some households are multiple occupancy. This might be in the form of flatmates or housemates such as university students, or it might be people who do not know each other prior to taking up residence (e.g. some migrant workers).

Empty nest family

This term refers to a household where there is a couple who had children but they have now left the family home. Because people are living longer, there are more empty nest households and they remain that way for longer.

Boomerang family

However, a growing trend has been for boomerang families where children who have left the family home have come back again! For example, this might occur with people graduating from university and then returning to the family home. The cost and scarcity of housing has made this more common.

Polygamy in the strict sense is illegal in the UK: you cannot be married to more than one person under UK law. However, there are people who live with more than one partner (not married) and also some people have other spouses in other countries (not recognised by UK law). In some cultures polygamy is seen as a better option than infidelity and is therefore encouraged.

  • Reconstituted Family
  • Extended Family
  • Symmetrical Family
  • Nuclear Family

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Evaluate the personal life perspective on the family(20)

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020 by Karl Thompson

This is a possible question which could come up in the AQA’s Paper 2, families and households topic . This post is just a few thoughts on how I’d go about answering it.

I think this would be a fair question given that this is quite a difficult topic for students, and quite limited in what you can say for 20 marks.

You might like to review the material on the Personal Life Perspective in more depth before reading what’s below, or before having a go at the question yourself, before looking at the suggestions below!

The Personal Life Perspective argues that sociologists should study family life from the perspectives of individuals, and focus on what families mean to them. If people believe that pets and dead relatives are part of their family, the sociologists should accept this.

This is very different from traditional sociological perspectives such as Functionalism and Marxism, which tended to study the nuclear family and look at what functions this performed for the individual and society.

Using the item and your own knowledge, Evaluate the personal life perspective on the family 

Decode/ discussion.

What you need to do here is firstly show your knowledge of the Personal Life Perspective, and contrast this to Functionalism and Marxism. You can gain evaluation marks by showing how the PLP perspective criticise these older perspectives. Further analysis marks can be picked up by discussing how the former perspectives may have been relevant to a modernist society, but the PLP perspective is probably a better way of analysing the family in a post-modern society.

Finally, to criticise the PLP perspective, you could use Gidden’s Late Modernist theory. Although this would be a stretch for many students, especially as many of the text books don’t even recognise that Giddens is a Late Modernist.

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