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What Do Sociologists Mean By the 'Darker Side of Family Life'?

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WHAT DO SOCIOLOGISTS MEAN BY THE 'DARKER SIDE OF FAMILY LIFE'? The family is regarded as one of the most basic and important institutions in society. There are many definitions of the family, one of which is, "A group of people directly linked by kin connection, where the adult members take responsibility for the caring of the children." (Giddens, 1989) Behind such definitions lie some common assumptions of the family. Giddens definition seems to stress the idea of parental responsibility. Traditionally this was broken down by gender, the father was seen as the main breadwinner while the mother was expected to take on the main role in child rearing and running the home. For most of its history, sociology has been gender blind. The situation began to change with the beginning of organised feminism in the late 1960's. The women's movement had a more immediate influence on sociology than any other academic disciplines. For feminist sociologists who are studying gender, the idea of reproduction has three meanings. One of these three meanings refers to women's child bearing and mothering capacities. The second looks at women's domestic service to her family, and the third meaning shows how women are made to serve their own husbands or partners. ...read more.


Women remain hopeful that the abuse will just end. Other factors need consideration when asking why women stay in abusive relationships; the frequency of violent episodes determines the likelihood of women continuing the relationship. For instance, the less severe and less frequent the violence, the more likely the woman is to stay. Another factor to consider is the way women view the role of men and women in family relationships. Women who hold more traditional values, such as 'for better or for worse' are more likely to stay in abusive relationships. (Websdale 1998). These values set the stage for women to feel that if they leave, the children will be deprived of a mother or father. (Websdale 1998). The most compelling reason why battered women stay, is that she fears if she attempts to leave, the violence will escalate. Unfortunately this fear is all too real. Women have been beaten beyond recognition, and even murdered as a result of trying to escape away from the violence. Domestic violence is a widespread form of crime, which is notoriously under reported, and this leads it to seem low, through official statistics. ...read more.


In the 1990's cases of child abuse, along with child negligence, have become familiar news stories covered in the media. The public recognition the child abuse takes place, the lifting taboo against open discussion and the move in favour of listening to children all help to account for the dramatic increase in the rates of recorded child abuse, not only in Britain, but internationally. It is likely that many cases remain unrecognised and unrecorded due partly to a misplaced sense of shame or embarrassment on the part of the abused, or even due to threats made by the abuser in the event of the facts becoming public. Statistics imply that levels of abuse are higher in poor and working class areas. However it is significant that we realise that child abuse occurs in all strata of society. Public concern over child abuse has expressed both the sense of moral outrage and perhaps the community's awareness that it bears some sort of responsibility for allowing such behaviour to persist. Many people suggest that the protection and reinforcement of family values is problematic in that it reinforces the very institution which is the source of conflict. However because people have higher expectations than ever of family life, the family in all its forms continues to play a vital role in society. Sociology May2003 ...read more.

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