The Family

The Family
Basic Concepts
• Family: is a group of persons directly linked by Kin
connections, the adult members of which assume
responsibility for caring for children.
• Kinship: ties are connections between individuals, established
either through marriage or through the lines of descent that
connect blood relatives.
• Marriage: it can be defined as a socially acknowledged and
approved union between two adult individuals.
• In virtually all societies we can identify what sociologists and
anthropologists call the Nuclear Family , two adults living
together in a household with their own or adopted children.
• In most traditional societies , the nuclear family was part of a
larger kinship network of some type.
1. Polygyny
2. polyandry
 Many sociologists believe that we cannot speak about the
family as if there is one model of family life that is more or
less universal.
• Two-parent family
• Step-parent family
• Long-parent family
The Family in History
• Sociologists once thought that prior to the modern period , the
predominant form of family in western Europe was of the
extended type.
• In England throughout the eighteenth and the nineteenth
centuries, the average household size was 4.75 persons. The
current average in the UK is 2.4.
Factors that made family groups impermanent than now:
• Rates of mortality
• Infants did not survive beyond the first year
• Women frequently died in child birth.
The Development of Family Life
Lawrence Stone has charted certain changes leading from
Pre- modern to Modern forms of family life. Distinguished
three phases in the development of the family from the
1500s to the 1800s.
1. In the early part of this period , the main family type was of
Nuclear Family.
• As Stone puts it , the family during this period ‘was an openended , low-keyed , unemotional , authoritarian
institution,……it was also very short lived , being frequently
dissolved by the death of the husband or wife or the death or
very early departure from the home of the children’
2. This type of family was succeeded by a transitional form that
lasted from the early seventeenth century to the beginning of
the eighteenth. This latest type was largely confined to the
upper reaches of the society.
There was a growing stress on the importance of marital and
parental love, although there was also an increase in the
authoritarian power of the fathers.
3. In the third phase , the type of family system we are most
familiar with in the west today gradually evolved. This family
is a group tied by close emotional bonds, enjoying a high
degree of domestic privacy and pre occupied with the rearing
of children.
• It is marked by affective individualism , the formation of
marriage ties on the basis of personal selection.
• Quote by John Boswell- pg. 205
Changes in The Family Pattern
• There is a diversity of family forms today in different societies across the
• The origin of these changes are complex.
• One is the spread of Western culture.
• Development of centralized government.
• Peoples lives being influenced by their involvement in a national political
Recent Developments
• Clans and other Kin groups are
declining in their influence.
• There is a general trend towards
the free selection of a spouse.
• The rights of women are
becoming more widely
• Arrange marriages are becoming
more common.
• There is a general trend towards
the extension of children's right.
• There is an increased acceptance
of same sex partnership
• High level of sexual freedom is
becoming more common.
• Pg.212-216
Inequality within the Family
• Balancing Work and Care
• Housework
• Intimate violence
• Child Abuse
• Domestic violence
• Relation between social class and domestic violence?
Divorce & Separation
• The first ‘ no- fault’ divorce laws were introduced in some countries in the
mid 1960s.
• In the UK, the Divorce Reform Act , which has made it easier to for
couples to obtain divorce , was passed in 1969 and came into effect in
• Between 1960 and 1970 the divorce rate in Britain grew by a steady 9
percent each year, doubling within that decade.
• Lone Parent Household: have become increasingly common in recent
decades. In the UK, the proportion of people in lone-parent, one family
households increased from 4 percent in 1971 to 12 persons in 2003.
• Overwhelming Female category and are the poorest groups in
contemporary society.
• Lone parent hood tends to be a changing state, and its boundaries are rather
• The Absent Father: Time from 1930-1970 is referred to as period of the
absent father.
• With rising divorce rates in more recent year, and the increasing number of
lone parent households, the theme of the absent father has come to mean
something different.
• Sociologists and commentators have seized on the increasing proportion of
fatherless families as the key to a whole diversity of social problems.
Changing Attitudes to Family
• Substantial class differences affect reactions to the changing character of
family life and the existence high levels of divorce.
• Lillian Rubin interviewed the members of thirty –two working class
families in depth.
• According to her middle-class parents tend to be more traditional.
• More conflict present in this particular class.