slo 5 family - kellymeliasblog

of the
The Family
The family is a area of great interest to
sociologists especially when set in
comparative context over time and
Our understanding of the family has
increased over time as changing patterns
have emerged and the its role within the
wider society.
The Family
The Family in Ireland has being defined as ‘an
important symbol of collective identity, unit
and security’ (O’Connor, 1998: 89).
People’s conception of the family has changed
with time as research, discussion and
enquiry have brought new information to
the fore.
“The family is an intimate domestic group
made up of people related to one another
by bonds of blood, sexual mating, or legal
(Scott & Marshall, 2005: 212).
It has and to this day being very resilient
social unit that has survived and adapted
through time.
The family is a basic and important institution
in society, because at the end of the day it is
where society is reproduced in it’s basic
form, the individual.
Family patterns have undergone rapid change
over the past several decades
Family Types
• The extended family: Consists of
parent(s), children, plus other relatives.
• The nuclear family: Consists of two adults
living together in a household with their
own or adopted children. Live in a unit
that is separated from the wider family
• The reconstructed family/step family: Consists
of two people who have children from
previous relationships and who are now
married or live together and each bring their
children to live together with the new children
they may decide to have.
Families, therefore are linked by kin connections
Marriage Defined
Marriage can be defined as ‘legally
sanctioned relationships, involving
economic cooperation as well as
normative, sexual activity and childbearing, that people expect to be
(Macionis and Plummer 2002: 436)
Perspectives of the family
Functionalists view of the family
This approach believes that families perform
vital functions for their members and for
society. These functions include:
Regulation of sexual activity
Social placement
Material and emotional security
kinship ties are ‘connections between individuals
through marriage or through lines of descent
that connect blood relatives’
(Giddens 2001: 173)
1. Monogamy- one man married to one woman
2. Polygyny- one man married to several women
3. Polyandry- one women married to several men
(O’Donnell 2002: 36)
Power relations
Families can and will be classified by power and on
lines of descent
• Patriarchal: wealth and power come from the
father and he controls the family.
• Matriarchal: the mother controls the family
• Egalitarian: Authority in the family is more or less
Criticisms of functionalist perspective
1) Children are socialised outside the
traditional family
2) People have sexual relations outside the
3) Evidence of violence and abuse within
families- Dysfunctional place
4) This perspective minimises the problems
of family life
Conflict theory
Class based analysis of family
This perspective views the family as another
institution that is involved in
“promoting dominant societal values and
perpetuating the exploitation of subordinate
groups by upholding the norms and values
of capitalist society”
(Marsh 2000: 554)
Marx studied and analysed the role of families in the social
reproduction of inequality - Socialisation of children,
race and ethnicity
Through the socialisation of children, the family
produces the labour power and a false ideology
which keeps the capitalist system going.
This is summarised by Macionis and Plummer when
they suggest that “Families thus support the
concentration of wealth and reproduce the class
structure in each succeeding generation”
(2002: 440)
families transform women into the
sexual and economic property of men.
Women perform unpaid labour in the
home that would otherwise cost a lot
to those who benefit from it.
The female-carer unit is the foundation of
the single-mother family, the two-parent
family, and the extended family in its
many forms. Thus it is certainly the basis
of family household life in Britain today,
and is a phenomenon, even since preindustrial farmsteads and communes, we
know that female carers predominate.
Sheeran, 1993
I would argue that gay or lesbian
households that consists of intimate
communities of mutual support and that
display permanent shared commitments to
intergenerational nurturing share the
kinship bonding we observe and name as
Callahan, 1997
Feminist approaches-family
They focused on the presence of
unequal power relationships within
the family and on showing that
certain family members tend to
benefit more than others.
Feminists highlight the continuing
exploitation of women in capitalist
societies, not least in terms of the way in
which their contribution to the bulk of
the private domestic work remains
unrecognised, unrewarded and
undervalued labour”
(Marsh 2000: 552).
They argue that within the family structure, the
women have little decision making
autonomy, housework, looking after children,
the sick and the elderly
(Finch 1989)
Feminists suggest that certain problems are
overlooked by researchers such as ‘wife
battering, martial rape, sexual abuse of
children’ have longed being ignored (Giddens
2001: 177)
Feminist Perspective
1. Importance of women within the
domestic unit
2. Changing attitudes to and the roles of
women in the areas of marriage,
divorce and cohabitation
3. Significance of women’s roles as carers
within the community
(Marsh 2000: 554)
Criticism of feminists
The growing trend towards equality in
decision-making between women
and men
More researching done by women
rather than a man’s point of view
Family structure in Irish society
Structure and nature of the family unit has
undergone major changes over the years.
In particular, most men and women that are not
working outside the home, tend to have more
traditional views in relation to the family.
Modern society the family have transferred to other
institutions crèches, nurseries and pre-schools
Shift in family structure
• 15% lone parents
• 4/5 headed by women
• 28% lone parents were from separation and
• Decline in the marriage rate
• Later age in marriage
• Smaller completed family size
• Increase in number of people remaining single
Major changes resulting in:
• Modernisation of Irish society
• Decrease to religious regulations
• Changing attitudes of women
‘Ireland like many other western countries, has
seen a major change in the nature and
structure of the family unit in recent times’
(Ibid 2003: 245)
Divorce in Ireland
• Introduced to Ireland, by the Family Law Act,
27th February 1997
• Before this Ireland only E.U. country to forbid
civil divorce
• November 1996, the people of Ireland voted
in favour of divorce
Divorce is the last option for most couples,
however, it is a realistic and accepted part of
life in twenty-first-century Ireland
The following statistics support this fact:
• February 1997- December 2001, 10,182
divorces granted in Circuit Court
• 83 more granted in the High Court
• Applications rose from 8,028 to 23,452
• In 2001 almost 3,500 applications were
• Over 60% were women
Patterns and Reasons
‘The true number of violent episodes that occur
in homes up and down the country, as it
remains is a largely a “hidden problem”, taking
place behind closed doors, often with no
witness present’
(Sclater 2000: 445)
Only in the 1970s that violence against women
and children was recognised as a social
It was difficult to estimate the true picture
(extent), whereas also difficult to report
Happens across all social classes
Importantly, men also victims of domestic
violence, however the majority of research
states that women suffer violence on a
larger scale.
• 12 barring orders granted a week in Dublin
• 65 women murdered in Ireland between
1996 and 2002
• Wife/mother responsible for care of the
• Housekeeping duties, areas of farm work
• Different roles of husband and wife meant the
family lacked emotional depth
• Arranged marriages & matchmaking
Family and Social Care
1. The Domestic Violence Act
2. The 1987 Status of Children Act
3. The 1988 Adoption Act
4. The 1991 Childcare Act
These acts give the state the right to intervene
and to take action to protect children and
Agencies involved
• Department of Justice, Equality and Law
• Department of the Environment and Local
• Department of Social and Family Affairs
• Department of Health and Children
• Barnardos Child and Family Services
Sexual abuse highlighted only since the 1980sfull extent unknown
• 1995, 6,415 reports of alleged child abuse
• 1/3 confirmed cases
‘Child abuse statistics show that the number of
cases that have been reported to the health
boards have more than doubled between 1992
and 1999’
(Donohoe and Gaynor 2003: 213)
Child Abuse
According to the Child Care Act (1991) a child is
‘a person under the age of 18 years other than
a person who is or has been married’
(cited in Richardson 1999: 170)
Abuse of children can be in different forms:
Physical, sexual, emotional, neglect.
The family is an important social institution which
helps hold society together .
Sociologists main interests in family includes:
• Site of socialisation
• Structuring basis of society
• Influence in social policy issues
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