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Has The Extended Family Been Replaced By The Isolated Nuclear Family?

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HAS THE EXTENDED FAMILY BEEN REPLACED BY THE ISOLATED NUCLEAR FAMILY? ISAAC GONDWE ACCESS TO HE CITY COLLEGE OF BRISTOL There has been an ongoing debate between functionalist assumptions and historical and sociological research that the extended family gave way to the nuclear family which became increasingly isolated. This essay will examine this question using the arguments presented. Fulcher and Scott in 'Sociology'1999, define the nuclear family as an isolated two generation unit consisting of parents and unmarried children. According to Jack Hobbs in 'Sociology'1986,people who have children will have been members of at least two nuclear families, the family of origin into which they were born and the family of destination which they have created themselves. However this definition by Jack Hobbs does not account for divorce and remarriages which may mean that members may have been in a series of such families. The extended family has been defined by C.Rosse and C.Harris in 'The Family and Social Change,' (Routledge and Kegan Paul,1965) that it is any persistent kinship grouping of persons related by decent ,marriages or adoption which is wider than the nuclear family in it characteristically spans three generations from grandparents to grandchildren .Fulcher and Scott goes on further by saying that it extends vertically to include three generations of grandparents to grandchildren and horizontally to include in-laws , cousins ,uncles , and aunts. ...read more.


about 10% of the households contained kin beyond the nuclear family .This percentage was also the same for England in 1966 according to him .However this low figure was criticised by M. Haralambos as he felt this may be due to late marriages and short life expectancy . Lasletts findings suggest the family pattern in pre-industrial Britain and America are the same today if we may go by the dates of 1564-1821 and 1966, which means that the isolated nuclear family has been and is still dominant. This undoubtedly contradicts with Parson's and Goode's theories. Further contradicting historical evidence is drawn from Michael Anderson who suggests that the early stages of industrialisation in England may have strengthened kinship ties beyond the nuclear family. Anderson found that 23% of the households contained kin other than the nuclear family using census data from Preston. He argues that Preston in 1851 was dependant on the cotton industry. Life for the working-class families was characterised by a severe hardships resulting from low wages, periods of high unemployment, large families and overcrowded houses. I n such circumstances the maintenance of kinship network could be advantageous to all those concerned. These views are in conflict with Parson's and Goode's theories because they suggest that the extended family got coined up because of economic and social hardships. ...read more.


People kept in touch with their relatives through; letter-writing ,visiting and the exchange of gifts. The domestic focus of the middle-class household clearly did not prevent important relationships with a wide circle of relatives. Technological change later made it easier to maintain such relationships, with the telephone providing a new means of keeping contact and eventually car ownership making visits much easier. However Davidoff's description of the extended family is not in line with Parsons description and the functions which he said it performed. To clear up this confusion surrounding the term "Isolated Nuclear Family", Eugene Litwak argued that a new term should be introduced to describe the typical family in modern industrial society, which he called "The Modified Extended Family". Litwak defined the modified extended family as a coalition of nuclear family in a state of partial dependence. Such partial dependence means that nuclear family members exchange significant services with each other, thus differing from the isolated nuclear family as well as retaining considerable autonomy that is not bound economically or geographically, thus differing from Parsons extended family. In conclusion indeed the nuclear family exists today but it still maintains some kinship ties . The welfare state has taken over functions of the extended family. In these circumstances the nuclear family is more suited to develop emotional ties . The evidence provided by the functionalist, historians and social researchers is really confusing as it does not have several things in common. ...read more.

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