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What are the implications for social policy of the changes which have occurred in the structure and dynamics of the family in the last 30yrs?

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Introduction

What are the implications for social policy of the changes which have occurred in the structure and dynamics of the family in the last 30yrs? The implication for social policy as a result of the changing face of the 'family' has been enormous. In order to evaluate them adequately, I shall look at 4 main transitory factors which have had, and are continuing to have, implications for social policy, specifically within Europe. These are: Downward trend in marriages, the rise in single parent/lone parent families, increasing participation of women in the workforce and their consequent economical success, and the incessantly declining rate of fertility. The notion of family thirty years ago was relatively simple. A married couple, two children, an extended family in the form of grandparents and even a pet were seen as constituting the norm. One of the main factors that influenced the fragmentation of this image, in Britain at least, was the introduction of The Divorce Reform Act in 1969 (Glennester, pg 163). The immediate period after the introduction of this law, brought on by considerable pressure from feminists in the 1960s period of liberalism, witnessed a sudden influx in the number of women abandoning their marriages in search of bigger and better things. Married couples were increasingly becoming separate entities, and, over time, this pattern has altered to an extent that marriage is now losing its hold as an important social institution. Lewis (1992 In: Glennester Howard:British Social Policy since 1945 pp 164) ...read more.

Middle

The latter figure is also likely to have risen since this period (Eurostat). As well as economically, this has specific social and political implications that the state had perhaps failed to foresee. Women prolong marriage far longer than previous generations, and the birth of children out of wedlock has seized to be scorned upon as a moral issue. Social policy is now faced with the situation of having to form a policy based on the equal rights of the parents of the child, as females are readily equipped to raise children autonomously. If anything, the scenario of late has been one in which men find themselves fighting for a right that society had naturally allocated to them. Whereas child rearing without a fathers' presence was morally (hence politically) unheard of, it has now become an issue which each male recognises as plausible. Social policy is faced with increasing demands to meet the growing needs of fathers who have been denied access from their children, something the state had not taken into account under the assumption that children were inherently the responsibility of the mother. The development of political groups such as 'Fathers For Justice' has further amplified the need to redefine child policies. A further trend associated with this, and which social policy makers will have to address at alarming speed, is the number of people who are now living alone. According to the The Observer (6th February, 2004) this scenario has risen by 31% since 1971, a clear indication that individual needs are taking ascending priority over those of the family as females become economically independent and financially secure. ...read more.

Conclusion

The family-despite all it's changes and it's increasingly unfixed nature-remains one of the biggest institutions of socialisation and it is unlikely to become passive recipients of overpowering policies. If social policy does intervene, for example, in the care of its elderly citizens, it will have to do so in a manner which co-operates with families as opposed to dominate. There are also distinguishable cultural issues to be considered. Despite an increasing amount of marriages undergoing dissolution and as well as fertility rates falling, it is generally recognised that specific ethnic affiliations within Europe are not following this pattern. For example, in the census 2003, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis had the youngest population (40%) against its counterparts (22% Indian, 25% Black Caribbean); as way of specific cultural tradition, the elderly remain important and influential members of certain families, many of whom will not advocate intervening policies. The rising irregularities in family life can also be seen as a result of the contradictions within existing policies. Whereas on the one hand the state urges its members to show increasing participation in the labour force, it also encourages the maintenance of the traditional notions of 'family.' This requires females to remain at home and men to dominate in the financial domain, a lifestyle which is unlikely; financial requirements of raising children are now are so high that it needs dual work, which in turn increases individualisation, one primary reason the state is in a frenzy with regards to childcare. What is required is a balance between the two variations; the traditional and the new, but whether social policy can incorporate the new 'fluctuating' family into it's make up remains to be seen. ...read more.

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