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Assess the argument that decline in marriage and the increase in both cohabitation and births outside of marriage are significant threats to the stability of the family.

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Introduction

Essay Title: "Assess the argument that decline in marriage and the increase in both cohabitation and births outside of marriage are significant threats to the stability of the family." The family is a central institution in most - probably all - societies the family is normally considered to be a central social institution for two reasons: Firstly, children grow-up within some sort of family structure. Through their experiences in this social group children make their first contacts with a sense of "wider society". Secondly, because of this experience of primary socialisation, the family group plays a vital part in the framing of the way people develop individually (in terms of their "personality") and socially (in terms of wider relationships with others). In this essay I am going to look at the nature of such things as marriage, divorce, illegitimacy, separation, cohabitation and so forth, within a framework that focuses around the question of whether or not the family is stable. One significant social factor, concerning divorce, is legal changes over the past century. Whenever divorce has been made easier, more people have divorced. Whether or not this is evidence of "widespread" marital breakdown (always allowing for the fact that the number of divorces in any society will have implications, on the micro level, for family life), we ...read more.

Middle

than with any clear-sighted, objective, analysis of family life. One has to look briefly at the social significance of cohabitation as a form of family organisation in contemporary Britain. Cohabitation as either an alternative or prelude to marriage has become increasingly popular over the past ten years in Britain. The significance of this trend is difficult to evaluate (in terms of family organisation) mainly because many couples appear to cohabit for a number of years prior to marriage (in effect, cohabitation is less an alternative to marriage than a sort of "trail marriage"). One significant point to note, however, is that if increasing numbers of people in our society are choosing to have children with a cohabiting - rather than legally married - partner, the number of technically-illegitimate children in our society will increase. A major underclass theorist, Charles Murray ("The Emerging British Underclass", 1990), sees rates of illegitimacy as one - very important - indicator of family breakdown. From this assumption Murray relates the supposed breakdown of family life to such ideas as socialisation and social control in a wider social context. Murray considers illegitimacy in Britain to be "sky-rocketing" out of control. For example, illegitimate children are considered more prone to forms of "anti-social" behaviour (high levels of crime, juvenile delinquency and so forth). ...read more.

Conclusion

As Peter Laslett ("The World We Have Lost", 1979) has shown, one parent families are not a new phenomenon in our society. In Victorian Britain, for example, one parent families were probably as - if not more - common than today (mainly because of high mortality rates). Then - as now - the interpretation placed upon the social significance of one-parent families is of interest. While we shouldn't minimise the consequences of single parenthood (both in wider social terms and in terms of the life experiences and chances of those involved - something that tends to overlooked by "crisis theorists"), it is important not to over-dramatise these consequences in the context of overall family stability / instability. In my opinion I think that the family is not under threat. I think that there isn't such a thing as a "family". In that I mean there is no such thing as the nuclear family as today do many different types of family. The fact that today, even though there aren't as many nuclear families as before, people still have a loving and caring environment means that children are still being socialised in the proper way and therefore does the same job as nuclear families set out to do. ...read more.

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