The cardinal household types in modern-day Britain include Nuclear, Extended, Reconstituted, and Lone parent households. The construction of a household is influenced by societal and economic factors, and can be interpreted differently based on cultural norms and values. Over the past 300 years in Britain, the household has adapted and changed as society transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial society.
Sociologist George Peter Murdoch, who defined the concept of the Universal Family, stated: "The nuclear family is a universal social group. It exists as a distinct and highly functional group in every society, either as the most prevalent form of the family or as the basic unit from which more complex forms are composed." The idea of the pre-industrial extended family can be seen as somewhat misleading when considering the high mortality rates among working-class families.
The extended household is know...
n as perpendicular extensions. This includes aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings, as well as grandparents, kids, and grandchildren who all live together. These relationships are referred to as horizontal extensions and involve sexual relationships. Within the extended household, these relationships are monogamous. However, polygamous relationships do exist within certain civilizations and faiths. For example, in the Moslem faith, polygamy is still practiced. Additionally, Christian religious orders like the Latter Day Saints also practice polygamy, though it is not legal according to European or American laws. The extended household can also be seen as an extension of the atomic family through the inclusion of seniors such as grandparents. This is particularly common in matriarchal households where single parents are often female and may live near or with their own mothers.
The term "extended reconstructed households" refers to situations
in which two adults, of either the opposite or same sex, who have dependent children, get married or live together. This results in the creation of what is commonly known as a reconstructed household or stepfamily. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the fastest-growing family type is the reconstructed/stepfamily. According to statistics, when parents go through a divorce or separation, the majority of children remain with their mothers. As a result, most children in reconstructed households end up having stepfathers. This brings up questions about societal care and upbringing versus biological care and upbringing.
In British contemporary society, it is quite common for single parents to cohabit with their partners. In fact, 31% of all parents are reported to be part of this norm (source: ESRC Society Today). Lone parenting remains primarily associated with females in today's British society; however, there has been an increase in men taking on the role of lone parenting. It is estimated that around 11% of lone parents are now men.
Despite changing societal attitudes, lone parents still encounter ostracization from the media and authorities. They are often seen as less capable and burdens on society, a perspective that aligns with conservative viewpoints. At present, conservatives are pushing for a tax break that favors traditional nuclear families but penalizes cohabiters and lone parents. This only serves to perpetuate the stigma faced by lone parents (source).
In pre-industrialized Britain and early industrialized society, single female parents were not socially acceptable. Any offspring they had were often sent to kids' places. There are infamous examples of how these mothers and their children were mistreated, and these can be found in Ireland's History
of Catholic unmarried female parents. Functionalists subscribed to a theory that the nuclear family is a positive societal institution. Their viewpoint is conservative, asserting that it fulfills the needs of a contemporary industrial society. Functionalists stress that the ideal family structure in modern society is the traditional nuclear family, consisting of a working husband, a stay-at-home wife, and 2.4 children. American sociologists, including Murdock, Parsons, and Goode, have further developed this perspective.
The functional position on the household identifies various activities that households typically perform, including reproduction, socialization, raising children, maintaining a family hierarchy, and providing emotional support. In the 1950s, Talcott Parson, a prominent American sociologist, believed that the structure of a household was centered on stabilizing adult members and socializing children. According to Parson, for a family to achieve maximum satisfaction on multiple levels (family, society, and culture), they needed to adhere to complex social structures and functions. This includes three systems: personality system, cultural system, and physical environment that individuals and society must adjust to. Parsons developed a model consisting of four functional requirements: adaptation to the physical environment, goal attainment, integration of skills and conflict resolution strategies, and latency to maintain stability.
The text explores the development of subsystems within different systems to meet mental and physical needs. These systems encompass cultural, societal, personality, and biological aspects, which are further subdivided into socialization, societal control and integration, political, and economic subsystems. Within feminism, there are various perspectives on family that range from broad to extreme views on its impact on women and society. While feminists typically critique the effects of family life on women, their perspectives can differ significantly and even contradict one
Broad feminists challenge the notion that household lives simply mirror the economic structure of society. They contend that grasping feminist issues requires recognizing the cultural and societal aspects of gender inequality. Most feminists maintain that the family unit subjugates women while empowering men, rooted in the belief that society is patriarchal (dominated by males). Patriarchy encompasses ideologies, cultural practices, and systems that uphold male power. Liberal, Radical, and Marxist feminism each aim to confront patriarchy in distinct ways: Liberal feminists perceive the family as an embodiment of sexism due to its perpetuation of mainstream culture's sexist norms. They advocate for change through legislation and education.
According to Jennifer Somerville, a liberal women's rights activist, radical and Marxist feminists have failed to recognize the societal changes that have allowed women to enter the workforce on equal terms with men. They also overlook the social changes that have eradicated limitations on women, such as child care and household duties. In today's society, men are more involved in caring for their children and many share responsibilities at home. The traditional notion of men being the head of households is no longer dominant, thus achieving equality within families. On the other hand, Kate Millett, a radical feminist who authored "Sexual Politics" in 1971, argued that sociology merely observes the current state of affairs without taking a stance on it. Consequently, it avoids addressing the discriminatory nature of gender relationships. However, by gradually transforming statistics into facts and functions into prescriptions while rationalizing bias as biology or something else ambiguous; sociology ends up justifying what has been socially imposed or enforced as normality. Sociology gains influence through its claim of objectivity
which reinforces stereotypes...
Functionalists seek to save the institution of the household, just like other ultraconservatives. On the other hand, extremist women's right activists perceive the household and men as a harmful and deceptive force against women. These activists argue that patriarchy serves as the primary source of division in society. Essentially, men exploit women in various roles such as husbands, partners, sons, and brothers. This manipulative dynamic is reflected within the household, where women carry out all the work for the benefit of men, thereby reinforcing capitalist ideologies. Extremist women's right activists consider men as adversaries, causing a division among feminists. They firmly believe that no woman should be subjected to domination or control, and they advocate for abstaining from any sexual relationship with men as the only means to achieve this.
According to Valerie Bryson (1992), all radical feminists share the belief in the primary and universal oppression of women. However, this perspective is not definitive within radical feminist thought and does not solely rely on collective feminist ideology. From a Marxist feminist standpoint, society's fundamental division arises from class, highlighting the importance of women's advancement for capitalism to thrive. Women's unpaid domestic work has historically benefited capitalists who viewed them as cheap labor until Britain implemented equality laws in 1975 (which have since been revised). To access the latest legislation on sexual equality, visit http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/corporate/pdf/equalityimpactassessment.pdf.
Friedrich Engels' book "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State" (Engels, 1972), published in 1884, argues that Marxists believe households were established to address inheritance issues linked to private property. Men required knowledge about their children to pass down their possessions; hence households were designed to control
women and safeguard property.Engels argued that under capitalism, the nuclear family was created to maintain male power by ensuring the inheritance of property and land, while also devaluing women economically and socially. This ultimately served the interests of capitalism. Marxist feminists believe that women's traditional roles in tasks like housework, childcare, cooking, and emotional support contribute to men's continued dominance and negatively impact women. Moreover, women also provide sexual and emotional assistance to their husbands or partners, which reinforces the hierarchical structure of male-dominated households. Delphy and Leonard recognize that the household is a common situation but acknowledge that each case can be seen as both confirming and essential for fostering a supportive relationship.
Today, households in contemporary Britain are characterized by diversity in terms of household groups, cultures, ethnicities, classes, and economic statuses. The number of independent nuclear families is increasing as a result of migration or internal relocation within the country. These households bring their own cultural, religious, social class, or economic backgrounds and incorporate them into their new lives. Moreover, lone parents and working mothers from traditional nuclear families contribute to this diverse landscape due to financial necessity or personal career choices. Same-sex parents now enjoy equal marriage and parenting rights compared to heterosexual parents. Living together before marriage is becoming more common and children are being born outside of wedlock; all of these practices are now widely accepted socially and culturally. Despite these changes, the concept of family remains unchanged in its definition and who truly benefits from it.
We bring life into the world and therefore learn from our children. Families provide the essential attention and nurturing needed to shape our identities
and where we belong. What has changed, however, is the flexibility and diversity in defining a family based on personal preferences and circumstances. Neither the government nor society should impose a normative and authoritarian definition. When examining various types of families, each has its pros and cons. However, Murdoch was incorrect in stating that every society had a form of the nuclear family, as proven by the Nayar and Kibbutz societies which demonstrated that the function of a family can be fulfilled outside of the Western-defined boundaries of the nuclear family structure. Different cultures, values, and norms shape the variations of families and assign different levels of importance to their societal statuses.
In contemporary society, households now encompass a diverse array of configurations, such as those led by same-sex couples and single parents. The acceptance of same-sex relationships has experienced a rise as well. The traditional perception of what constitutes a "household" is no longer applicable in today's world due to evolving societal ideals. This transformation is especially evident in the United Kingdom, where perspectives on raising children have undergone changes. These substantial social transformations have resulted in shifts in norms and values. Advocates for the nuclear family contend that its conservative principles and values play a crucial role in the welfare and moral fabric of society, viewing any alternative family structures as lesser adaptations.
Today's society often idealizes traditional gender roles, portraying the breadwinner workforce and the happy housewife as the perfect family dynamic. However, financial constraints have made it difficult for many parents to fulfill these roles. As a result, more women are becoming the primary providers while their husbands take on the role of
stay-at-home dads. Despite an increase in men assuming this responsibility, women still predominantly shoulder the burden of caring for and arranging alternative care for children within the family.
In pre-industrial times, socioeconomic status and industrialization greatly determined individuals' chances of survival. Wealthy landowners enjoyed better living conditions and thus had a higher likelihood of thriving. Nonetheless, even they were vulnerable to diseases such as the Black Death (Yersinia plague), which caused significant loss of life in England during both 1348 and 1605.
Twice as many impoverished children died compared to wealthy children. The impoverished in the state were at the mercy of poor crops, unfavorable conditions, scarcity, and infections. Additionally, deaths were higher in urban areas where poor countries lacked proper sanitation and faced overcrowding, which encouraged the spread of the virus. Considering that England's population before industrialization and the plague was around 5-6 million people, human deaths could have exceeded or reached as high as 2 million. Neither urbanization nor isolation could meet the basic needs of the impoverished, making it unlikely for any child to survive past the age of 16 with an extended family due to their disadvantaged circumstances. The functionalist viewpoint of the family is idealistic and impractical, as it does not reflect the ever-changing factors of family, culture, economy, and demographics in life and work. While some conservative dreamers may see the functionalist perspective as a plausible aspiration, it is not a viable option for all types of families.
From a Marxist perspective, despite the diversity of feminist viewpoints, gender and equality issues have played a crucial role in advancing women's rights and societal equality. This progress has been particularly notable in the
past century in England, where women from all social classes, ethnicities, and cultures have gained the right to vote. Additionally, working-class women have achieved access to higher education, the right to divorce, and reproductive control within the last 50 years. These changes have had far-reaching impacts on society, challenging traditional notions of the nuclear family and its role in society. However, religious institutions such as the Catholic Church, which possess significant political, ideological, and potentially economic power, have been slower to adapt their views on the nuclear family and industrialized vision of it. For example, their promotion of marriage and opposition to contraception continue to have significant effects on families, including issues related to size, domestic violence, and traditional gender roles. Consequently, women remain marginalized and female emancipation continues to be a relevant issue in modern society.
In today’s society, the concept of family has become a topic of discussion. Over the past 60 years, significant social and cultural changes have taken place. However, these changes have been implemented without proper control or understanding, leading to multiple issues. It is difficult to define family in a singular way, as there is no ideal family unit. Instead, we must consider common sense, pragmatism, societal, cultural, and economic factors. The Western capitalist perspective of the nuclear family, extended family, same-sex family, or single parent may not necessarily apply to other cultures or societies.
The positions of women's rightists today do not agree on female equality or the emancipation and disenfranchisement of women in society. Parents play a crucial role in shaping the values and norms of young girls and boys, which will ultimately affect their future roles. In Britain,
women have the freedom to determine their own lives, whether it be in a traditional family setting, a same-sex relationship, or as a single parent. It is impossible to make a definitive choice as to what benefits the family as a whole, but equal partnership, respect for both genders, and a safe and loving environment are essential. However, domestic violence, drug abuse, and alcohol can all have negative impacts.
The broad women's rights stance is seen as the most practical and neutral position, while the groups and Marxist feminist positions are in opposition in terms of gender conflict.
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