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Decline of nuclear family

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Introduction

Is the nuclear family in decline? The family is an integral part of the social structure, responsible for primary socialisation of the next generation of society, an important unit of economic consumption and a stabilising influence on its members. Over recent years there has been intense debate about the decline of the nuclear family as an institution and the consequences of this decline for society as a whole. There are many factors cited as evidence of a marked decline of the traditional nuclear family, these will be examined below. Many social commentators argue that the family is vital to harmony and consensus in society. Functionalists view the nuclear family as being the ideal family form to promote the social integration, satisfaction, value consensus and social solidarity necessary to hold society together. Therefore any perceived changes to the nuclear family tend to be seen as having a negative impact on social order as other family forms are not seen as being as effective in providing the necessary functions for society's existence. The New Right also take this view and claim that the emergence of an underclass with single parenthood, particularly female headed households, the dominant family form poses a considerable threat to society as we know it. ...read more.

Middle

This change is seen as being responsible for an upturn in the number of divorces granted and later the law was changed to encourage mediation and reconciliation which now stipulates that couples seeking divorce must wait one year and attend mediation to make sure that if the marriage can be 'saved' then it is given every opportunity to be so before divorce is granted. The argument that changes in the law are responsible for divorce is too simplistic, people do not get divorced simply because the law says it is OK to do so. Indeed, it is impossible to tell the true extent of marital breakdown before the divorce laws as it was hidden by 'empty shell' marriages where people might 'keep up appearances' for 'the sake of the children' or social acceptance, as of course, divorce and the failure of a marriage was viewed shamefully by society at that time. Changes to the law merely facilitate the solution to a problem previously hidden by laws and attitudes that trapped people in unhappy marriages. Most divorces are requested by women, this is evidence of the changes to the lives of women in British society. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perhaps the family is adapting to fit the demands of our modern society rather than experiencing a decline in significance? Rapoport argues that there is not an idea form of family that suits everyone. In fact our modern society enables choice in the relationships we have and how we choose to shape them is based on what we want and need. The nuclear family is an option, but there are other options too, this is not a threat to the nuclear family but is a positive move towards choice and personal fulfilment. In conclusion, although the evidence of marriage and divorce statistics suggests that there are changes to the nuclear family, they can not be taken at face value as the picture is much more complex and are not on their own an indication of the decline of the nuclear family. Family diversity, choice, gender equality in the workplace and improved opportunities for women, consumer culture, serial monogamy, divorce and marriage are indications of the emergence of a modern family form that is defined by the individuals within those families, rather than conforming to a 'one size fits all' approach. The arguments suggest that the family is not in decline but that it constantly adapts to the needs of its members and the society within which they live ...read more.

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