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Using sociological theories, e xplain why the modern british family is characterised by diversity

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Using sociological theories and evidence discuss why the contemporary British family is characterized by diversity. In order to discuss the characteristics and diversity of the British family, I must first be sure to fully understand the meaning of the word 'family'. Most text books define the family as a group of people who are related to each other by blood, marriage or adoption, who may share common residence and have ties to each other involving duties, obligations and responsibilities. The oxford dictionary defines the word family to be: 'A group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit. 2 a group of people related by blood or marriage. 3 the children of a person or couple. 4 all the descendants of a common ancestor. 5 all the languages derived from a particular early language. 6 a group united by a significant shared characteristic.' Even within Britain we can see several different types of family. The nuclear family, two parents and dependent children living independently of other family members. The classic extended family- parents children and grandparents. The modified extended family- a nuclear family maintaining close contact with other family members, Lone parent family-parents living separately, on their own with children. ...read more.


Contemporary Britain is a multi cultural society, and there are some significant differences in the families of ethnic minorities. Although a large group of individuals classed as ethnic minorities will have been born in the UK, they will likely be influenced by their older family members. People coming to live in Britain from other countries have helped create greater diversity in the family. Sociologists attempt to explain why changes happen in society. Rhona and Robert Rapoport were the first contemporary British sociologists to seriously challenge the idea that we have a dominant family type. Their research showed that only 22% of households match the classic nuclear structure. They identified five different types of diversity in contemporary Britain, organizational, cultural, class, life course, and cohort. Chester's ("The Rise of the Neo-conventional Family", 1985) argues that although we can identify a range of apparently non-nuclear family forms we should be careful about how we label this in terms of diversity for two reasons. The majority of people in Britain still live at least part of their life within some form of nuclear family structure. Also many forms of diversity are variations on the nuclear family norm - reconstituted families, modified extended, gay etc, all to greater or lesser extents are based on nuclear units and therefore diversity is exhibited in the various different forms of a nuclear family. ...read more.


'Around 26% of fathers said they had switched to a part-time job, while 24% said they had taken up flexible working, a further 14% of fathers said they had stopped working outside of the home altogether after having children.'(www.channel4.com/news) Murdoch (1949) was another functionalist, and he identified four functions of the nuclear family. Economic, educational, sexual and reproductive. There are sociologists who take a New Right approach and believe in the traditional values of the nuclear family. 'Like functionalism, the New Right sees the nuclear family as an ideal type and has an overly harmonious conception of this type of family.'(Carol Waugh, Viv Thompson pg140) In contrast to the functionalist perspective, the post modern view supports the view that families in contemporary UK are diverse. That it is pointless talking only of an institution called the 'family' as people now live in an ever changing wide range of social relationships. 'Post modernists believe that there are few of the social constraints on people that structuralist approaches identify, and society and social structures cease to exist; there is only a mass if individuals making individual choices' (Ken Browne pg 23) In consideration of the ever changing culture of Britain it would appear from the evidence presented that there is no one typical family type. Most sociologists believe that family types are becoming increasingly diverse. ...read more.

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