Different types of Family

  1. Single parent families: One parent and there dependent children. 
  2. Nuclear Family: Two parents and their dependent children. 
  3. Extended Family: Nuclear family with additional family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. 
  4. Blended/Reconstituted Families: These are families with step parents and children for someone who is getting married the second time after death or divorce of their first partner.
  5. Civil Partnerships: a relationship between two people usually of the same sex that has been formally registered giving them similar rights to married couples.
  6. Household Units: This is a group of people living together in the same residence and sharing living space.

Sociological approaches to family:

 Functionalists:  They argue that family is the bedrock of every society. They believe that the nuclear family is beneficial to society as it provides functions such as reproduction, primary socialisation, social control, care of the children, regulating sexual behaviour and economic support. 

New Right:  They outrightly endorse the nuclear family because of the various types of family that exist in our contemporary society. See the family as negative for society, if not nuclear. They opined that children from Nuclear families do better at school, get better jobs and do not turn to crime and delinquency. New rights approach publicly condemn divorce as it breeds feminism.

Marxists:  They agree with functionalists on the importance of family but the disagree on the functions of the family. Marxists believe society is based upon conflict between classes. They believe the family helps to maintain class differences in society as the rich can give children better start than poor. They believe the family socialises the working class to accept it is fair that classes are unequal.  They believe family is the main unit of consumption, they also argued that having families makes it difficult for workers to go on strike because they wont be able to support their families.

Feminists:  They believe the family is bad for women as family teaches patriarchal values through the teaching of gender roles during socialisation. They fully believe that women should stay out of relationship if it is based on male superiority as it is exploitative.

Different Types of marriages

Monogamy: A marriage between only one man and one woman. This is legal in many countries.

Polygamy: This is a marriage that involves at least three people . It can take 2 forms:

  • Polygyny: A man has several wives, this has a widespread in Africa, Middle East and Southern Asia. Islam allows a man to have up four wives.
  • Polyandry: A woman has several husbands, this seems to be rare in this present dispensation.

Serial Monogamy: This is when someone has more than one marriage partner during their life but only one at a given time. This has become more common as a result of increase in divorce rate.

Alternatives to marriage

Cohabitation: This is when two people live together in a sexual relationship but are not married to each other. The following are the types that exist:

  • permanent or long term relationship: this differs from marriage as a formal ceremony has not taken place
  • Short term relationships without commitment
  • trial marriages: living together before marriage.

Civil Partnership: This is a same sex marriage. In some few countries in the world they are allowed to marry.

Changes in families in modern societies: 

  1. More people living together without being married: Religion isn’t so influential nowadays so it isn’t considered a sin any more to have children without being married. Divorce rates are rising and nowadays many people decide not to remarry with their new partner. Same sex couples were unable to marry until very recently and people are likely to trial living together before marriage. These are all factors influencing these changes. Feminists say this is a good thing as marriage is a patriarchal institution. Functionalists and New Right disagree as they believe nuclear family is the only family type that can do the job properly. 
  2. More single parent families: The divorce act in 1960’s made it easier to get a divorce. There are more teenage pregnancies than in the past. The availability of in vitro fertilisation are all factors behind these families. Functionalists are completely against these families, they do not think a single parent can perform all the important functions of the family. 
  3. More same sex families: More socially acceptable due to campaigns by gay right groups. Gay couples are now allowed to adopt. 

Roles within the family: 

  • Segregated conjugal roles: When Husband and Wife do not share household responsibilities and childcare. They do not partake in the same leisure activities. 
  • Integrated conjugal roles: Partners share common friends, leisure activity and decision making as well as household jobs. 

Domestic division of labour: The amount of housework carried out by men and women is referred to as domestic labour. Traditionally women were responsibly for housework and the man was the bread winner however it is argued that times have changed and the division of labour is symmetrical. Young and Willmott: argued men and women are sharing housework and childcare more equally. The symmetrical family according to the two is…

  • nuclear
  • privatised
  • equal

Ann Oakley; a feminist, criticised Young and Willmotts findings arguing they were exaggerated. She believed there is no equality when it comes to conjugal roles and that females work much harder. 

Why are families more child centred? 

  • Smaller families mean more care and attention can be devoted to child
  • parents work shorter hours therefore have more time to spend with children
  • welfare benefits
  • parents concerned of safety of children. 

Functions of the family: 

  1. Emotional support 
  2. Economic support
  3. physical care
  4. reproduction
  5. socialisation
  6. social control

EXAM QUESTION: Is the family in decline? Yes it is: 

  • Around 40% of marriage in the early 2000’s will end in divorce
  • In Britain today, about a quarter of families with dependent children just one one parent.
  • About 40% of births are outside marriage, and the proportion in growing every year. 
  • There are well over a million cohabiting couples (couple living together when they aren’t married) who have refused to get married. 
  • Rising rates of divorce, cohabitation, lone parent and reconstituted families show a picture that family is in decline. This has been blamed for a wide range of social problems such as social disorder and crime. 

No it’s not: 

  • The rising divorce rate is caused by easier divorce laws, more sympathetic public attitudes, rather than marriage breakdowns.
  • Lone parenthood arises from a variety of reasons and lone parents are able to provide care and security for children as two-parent families.
  • Despite the record number of children being born outside of marriage, nearly 80% of those births are registered jointly by parents with the same address. 
  • Many of those who cohabit eventually marry – about 60% of first time cohabitations turn into marriages. 
  • The causes of these social problems all too often are blamed on the family. Those whole blame the family are often looking for a simple solution.