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Evaluate some of the ways in which the movement from pre-industrial to industrial society has been used by sociologists to explain changes in the family.

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Introduction

Evaluate some of the ways in which the movement from pre-industrial to industrial society has been used by sociologists to explain changes in the family. Around 1800, a period of change began to occur. Before this period, people often lived in extended families, i.e. land and other resources would be split between numerous kin besides the conventional nuclear family unit (mother, father, children), e.g. cousins. Home and workplace were basically one and the same, with very few people going out to find work and neighbouring families trading goods with one another. Family roles in work were simply ascribed rather achieved, passed down generation to generation - with no other chance of mobility unless a family member died or moved away for some reason - and each family seemed to have a particular speciality, e.g. pig farming. These extended families all worked together for each other and cared for one another from birth to death. However, the advent of an industrial society brought an end to all that. Instead of a more pastoral existence, the emphasis shifted to factories offering work connected by goods produced through machinery and a process of urbanisation occurred. Functionalism is the theory that social events can be best explained in terms of the functions they perform, i.e. ...read more.

Middle

As well as asking whether Parsons and other sociologists had bothered to include non-family members of households in their calculations, Laslett and Wall also concluded that while the average size of households decreased, the average size of the family did not. In 1957, another pair of sociologists, named Young & Willmott, came up with a theory that also contradicted some of Parsons' ideas. They believe the change happened over a longer period of time rather than being sudden. Their research in Bethnal Green (East London) in the 1950's found that even then extended families were living together because of emotional attachment and obligation, and again, acting as a mutual support network. In 1973 Young & Willmott published a study claiming that the extended family declined in the 1960s with the advent of council housing after extensive slum clearance. Also, welfare and benefit systems introduced by the government in the 1950's lessened the need for a mutual support system. Therefore, the nuclear family only became the social norm in the latter half of the twentieth century. They also believe that the family went through three important main stages (and is possibly in a fourth right now): the first is the pre-industrial family, which they believed was revolved around primogeniture (where the eldest son inherits everything); the second is the family during the period of industrialisation, which again, ...read more.

Conclusion

certain duties were given to certain genders; that when asked it was found that in 81% of households, women had last cleaned the toilet; that only 42% of men found the current domestic division of labour unfair; and finally, they also considered the change in values against changes in behaviour. Edgell (1980) also found there was no evidence for joint conjugal roles in the 38 middle-class couples, although 45% of these couples had shared responsibilities when it came to caring for their children. Edgell also critically introduced the idea of which partner makes what decisions - he found that husbands made all the decisions relating to large sums of money (moving, finance and car). From all these sources, as disagreeing as some of them are, we can tell that the family is resilient - it adapts over time and is flexible enough to fit the society and circumstances it is faced with. We are still in this period of transition right now - although we have many sources to prove Young & Willmott wrong about whether the family is symmetrical or not, this does not necessarily mean that the symmetrical family is a myth. It may not fully exist as Young & Willmott claim, but it is beginning to as we are already in a period of transition towards it. ...read more.

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