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Discuss the major changes to have taken place in family life in Britain since the 1950's. How do sociologists understand these changes?

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Introduction

Q.7. Discuss the major changes to have taken place in family life in Britain since the 1950's. How do sociologists understand these changes? The family is a major social institution since it fulfils many fundamental human needs and is a central place for socialisation. As with many aspects of social life the family is commonly seen as constantly changing. Since the 1950's the subject of the family has seen many significant changes in Britain that effect everyone including sociologists themselves. The modern British family is quite often seen as being in a state of decline because of these changes. A general concern is the privatisation of the family in contemporary industrialised society and the evolving ideologies that people have developed. Developments explored here include divorce and single parent families as well as the issue of gender that is to say masculinity within family life. To understand fully how and to what extent family life has changed in Britain one must first be aware of family life and theories of it before the nineteen fifties, or especially before industrialisation. Before industrialisation marriage for many was an alliance, people got married for economic reasons. ...read more.

Middle

A substantial cause is in respect to the changing position of women in society. Women no longer have to be subservient and in contemporary society they have the power to change their situation that was not always the case (Abercrombie, 1994). Women are also more likely to be unsatisfied with a marriage as 'They account for 72 percent of the petitions for a divorce' (Abercrombie, 1994: 296). Perhaps the most obvious cause for divorce rates is the changing attitudes towards it. In today's society attitudes are much more relaxed. Because of these changing attitudes Allan argues: 'There is less pressure for a couple to stay together because their break-up has little impact outside the domestic sphere and causes fewer ripples than it would in a society where kinship is more central to the wider social organisation' (Allan, 1985: 104). Many sociologists see the decline of family life through the idea that family members are neglecting their moral duties rather than the fact that it is their right to be able to divorce. As Edmund Burke writes: 'The rising divorce rate demonstrates that spouses are putting personal satisfaction before marital and parental duty' (Burke, E. ...read more.

Conclusion

Role allocation for Parsons sees that the 'masculine role tends to be instrumental and the feminine role to be expressive' (Farmer, M. 1970: 54) and these contribute to the maintenance of the nuclear family as a social system. However masculinity in today's contemporary society is often said to be in crisis since many changes have occurred benefiting women with evidence suggesting that men are becoming the new victims of sex discrimination. Because women in contemporary society now lead a more independent life the masculine role of the husband's status is now evaporating (Farmer, M. 1970). Although the male of the household may be the sole breadwinner, the fact that the female is also working can undermine the masculinity of the husband's role however: 'Basically the distinction between the masculine instrumental roles and the feminine expressive roles remains in western societies' (Farmer, M. 1970:55) but the distinction between the husband and wife role has become 'blurred'. In conclusion, since the 1950's family life has seen many changes. Families in Britain today are in some ways more privatised than they used to be due to more interest in immediate family life although activities outside the home. ...read more.

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