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Explain how and why family forms have changed in Britain.

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Introduction

Explain how and why family forms have changed in Britain. Family forms have changed dramatically in Britain throughout time. Single parent families, co-habitation and same sex relationships are now becoming the norm but this was not always the case. Culture and society pay a large part in family forms in Britain and Europe and the following essay will provide a breakdown of the changes throughout the years. In Europe in the middle ages, it is deemed that nobody married for love. There was a medieval saying "to love ones wife with ones emotions is adultery". Men and women married usually to keep property in the hands of the family or to raise children to work in the family farm. Romantic love was regarded as at best a weakness and at worst a kind of sickness (Giddens, 2006). It was only in the late eighteenth century when the concept of romantic love made its presence. In Britain today it is deemed the norm for people to marry out of love. It is also deemed the norm to be prosecuted for polygamy if married to more than one person but it is regarded as deviant behaviour to have relationships with several partners at the same time whilst one is unmarried. This is not the case in all countries. George Murdock (1949) found that polygamy was permitted 80% of the time. ...read more.

Middle

It can be argued, that as a result, there are fewer bonds to unite its members. N. Dennis suggests that the specialisation of function that characterises the modern family will lead to increased marital breakdown. In 2007 the provisional divorce rate in England and Wales fell to 11.9 divorcing people per 1,000 married population compared with the 2006 figure of 12.2. The divorce rates is at its lowest level since 1981 (www.divorce-online.co.uk). For the fifth consecutive year, both men and women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all five-year age groups. In 2007 there were 26.6 divorces per 1,000 married men aged 25-29 and 26.9 divorces per 1,000 married women aged 25-29. Since 1997 (www.divorce-online.co.uk). Since 1997 the average age at divorce in England and Wales has risen from 40.2 to 43.7 years for men and from 37.7 to 41.2 years for women, partly reflecting the rise in age at marriage. One in five men and women divorcing in 2007 had a previous marriage ending in divorce. This proportion has doubled in 27 years (www.divorce-online.co.uk). In Willmott and Young's (1957) study of family life they argued that the extended family (supposedly superseded by the nuclear family in an era of advanced industrialisation) remained an important part of peoples lives. Kinship ties provided a strong network of assistance across a range of areas such as childcare, finance and emotional support. ...read more.

Conclusion

Eli Zaretsky also made the point that as the family consumes the products of the workers this creates an economy and this ensures that capitalism continues. Marxist-Feminist Margret Benson (1972) stated that "the amount of unpaid labour performed by women is very large and very profitable to those who own the means of the production. To pay women for (house) would involve massive wage scales, would involve a massive re-distribution of wealth. At present, the support of the mainly is a hidden tax on the wage earner - his wage buys the labour power of two people". Feminists have sought to show the presence of unequal power relationships within the family means that certain members tend to benefit more than others. Feminist Sociologists have undertaken studies on the way the domestic tasks, such as child care and housework, are shared between men and women. They have investigated the validity of the claims such as that of the "symmetrical family" (Young and Wilmot 1973) the belief that over time, families are becoming more egalitarian in the distribution of roles and responsibilities. In summary family forms have changed a great deal in Britain with marriage no longer being the basis for union between two people. Divorce and single parent families are becoming more and more normal. As we have seen, as a result of the economic downturn, families are reverting back to their families for support and this is an example of how family forms are constantly undergoing change. ...read more.

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