Changes in Roles and Relationship within the Family

Families are viewed by functionalists as a nuclear family structure, which are composed of a father, mother and approximated two children. According to Murdock in every society have a form of nuclear family structure, which are the majority type of family in every society that he investigated. However, family structure have gradually changed by several reasons, and different family’s structures have emerged in UK.
Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons, suggested that there are two important role within the family, called expressive and instrumental roles. The woman is the expressive role, and it means that she was the one who raised, disciplined, and educated family morals to the children. The father is the instrumental role, which means that is whom maintained the family financially, suggesting these are a segregated type of family, as they have separated conjugal roles. Parsons argued that this separated roles occurred naturally, and it is fundamental in order to have a well-structured family.
Young and Wilmott (1970) suggested that nuclear families become to have joint conjugal roles, leading to the development of a more symmetrical family structure, as men and women’s roles become more balanced, with similar roles. They believed this new family structure was developed within the middle class families, and extended to other family class such as working class, knowing as the principle of stratified diffusion. They research showed that couples commenced to share family decisions; and it also showed that the man started to stay more in the house, performing housework and looking after the children, where women began to leave the house to have a salaried job.
However, feminists has criticised the idea of symmetrical family, such as Ann Oakley. She believed that there are still existing a considerable difference in conjugal roles. She interviewed several mothers about their family’s relationship and their household roles; and the results showed that women still mainly responsible for the children and the housework, although some assumed that they have had a little amount of help from their partner. This research was supported by others feminists such as Boulton (1983), who also investigated symmetrical family and discovered that domestic division labour still unequal.
Margaret Benston (1972), a Marxist feminist, also believed that women are overloaded with jobs, and she named it as triple shift, which are the roles that women execute on the daily basis such as childcare, housework, paid job, and on the top of all of this, they have to deal and manage the emotional side of the family, acting as a therapists. This showed that all this effort that women put into the family are mainly beneficial to their husband, as he would have everything ready for him, such as clean clothes, ready meals and therefore he would be able to go out fresh, and successfully perform well at his job, and eventually leading to pay increase, as he do not have as much responsibilities as the woman still doing at home.
Consequently, woman have adopted feminist ideas and decide to reject tiring family’s roles, and from that onwards, family structure have changed even more. Laws such as the 1975 Equal Pay Law Act and Sex Discrimination was stablished, and the number of women going out to paid jobs have expanded. For this reason they become more independent financially and there was no more need to rely on husband financial earnings.
Furthermore, women was influenced, and supported by feminists, to divorce or to leave unsatisfied relationship Subsequently, this idea of independence have caused an increase on the numbers of divorce rates, and new family structures have emerged, such as reconstituted family. Reconstituted family structure is when a single parent try to build a new family, with another person that may even have had children, and they raise their children together. Nowadays it has become the most popular family structure in UK.
Over the years, a diversity of family structures have developed, and some of the possible reasons that facilitates those new trends, a part of the financial independence, are the changes on divorce laws. This legal changes collaborate and simplify legal proceedings, such as legal aid act and divorce law reform act. As result, people have more access to divorce, and encouraged to leave failed relationships, such as empty shell marriages, as there were no love between them, but simply other reasons that kept them together, such as the children or financial dependence, and in consequence more family structure emerged. Singletons is also another family structure that have surged as result of divorce, which means that when someone decide, or have to go and live alone. The majority of this type of family structure are constituted by males. However, New Right supporters have linked divorce laws to the reasons of the high rate of family breakdowns, because individuals are not devoted to their family as their used to be
Postmodernists see diversity in family structure and consumer choices, as factors that indicates that the society have acquired more choices and freedom. Individuals are not judged as before if they do not live in a traditional family structure, as people’s acceptance have expanded towards new ideas and beliefs, which has led to new laws and rights, in order to support and protect every family, making them equally respected. Postmodernist Beck-Gernsheim (2002) argued that family diversity are the replacement of family traditions and marriages expectations, as people do not feel obligated to follow traditional ideas. The result of this change are the increase of divorce, birth outside marriage, and new different family structures such as same sex family, or cohabitation, which means people that live with someone without being married. However, this have been criticised and disagreed by others that believe that family diversity become extremely, and they believe that basic family traditions still intact by the majority of the society.
Childhood has also been affected over the years. Phillipe Aries believed that childhood is a process of development, as in the middle age it did not exist. Children were treated from an early age, such as seven, in the same way as an adult. In the twenty century, people recognised that children were not emotionally and physically strong as an adult, resulting in the decline of child mortality, as their living standards began to improve. Therefore, children’s laws has been stipulated in order to protect them, such as Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1889; Children’s Act 1989, which refers to the right to choose which parent they want to live with if they divorce, and 1991 Child Support Act, which demands the absent parent to provide financial contribution. Children also become more family centred. However, Melanie Phillipes argues that the parents are slowly losing their authorities over their child, as the children’s right have given a considerable amount of power to the children. This result in their innocence been taken away with it; as they are in many cases using those rights in order to threat their parents; instead of being motivated to respect their parent’s authority. Adding to that, she argues that the mass media have more influence and effect on the child’s behaviour compared to their parent’s advice, and that they are not prepared and mature enough to understand it. On the other hand, this has been criticised for example by Morrow, whom suggested that generalised conventional approaches do not allow the children to be aware of the dangerous that they can be exposed in the real world.
Postman, also believes that the media are ending with today’s childhood, by facilitating them to enter into the adult word at an early age. Nonetheless, David Brooks has criticised it, suggesting that this view was exaggerated and parents has become extremely protective, controlling their child, taking away the child’s own common sense and awareness to what is surrounded them.
Britain become a multicultural country as result of international migration. The increase in the ethnicity variety has brought a huge influence on British culture and family traditions. Asian families are more likely live in extended families, whether Afro-Caribbean tend to form lone parent families. In consequence, mixed race marriages has influenced and changed family traditions in Britain, such as the increase of extended families, where more than one family generation live together.
In conclusion, there are a variety of reasons and influences that have modified and increased the variety of family structure in UK. Postmodernists argued that relationships are based on voluntary individual’s commitment. Interactionists such as Clark, suggested that one relationship is different from the other, and some couples are encountering difficulties, and living day after day, without setting any direction. Furthermore, families become diverse and multicultural, and are all influenced by their immediate surroundings through society, media, learning and work environment, and social interactions have a strong effect on relationships roles, resulting in the increase of the variety in family roles and structures in UK.

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