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What is the crisis in the British family a crisis about? How is the crisis gendered?

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Introduction

What is the crisis in the British family a crisis about? How is the crisis gendered? The term 'family' officially evokes the image of a heterosexual, nuclear institution where each member is related to the other by marriage/law or blood, and the state, religion, media and other important institutions in our society encourage this image. However, lived realities are often very different and in recent years this form of the family, which is assumed to be normal and the norm, has been displaced by various other family forms which are labeled as deviant and which are assumed to be the root of current social problems. Hence has risen a 'crisis' in the British family. This crisis has been highlighted by the various social institutions mentioned above which encourage the heterosexual nuclear family form. Quoting Wright and Jagger, according to them 'the turn of the century is marked by a growing crisis in the family, a crisis that may prove terminal unless decisive action is taken', and the crisis has been pointed out as the collapse of marriage and the 'family'. This crisis however is not new and a similar was said to have risen at the end of the 19th century. ...read more.

Middle

Marriage certainly has become less popular in the last 2 decades. Cohabitation, teen pregnancies, the number of children outside marriage has seen a marked increase. Homosexuality also has become much more widely accepted in society and many homosexual couples live with their children - adopted or from previous relationships. Divorce rates have also shot up dramatically with 1 in every 3 marriages ending in a divorce. These changes have been constructed into a national crisis by the state and the media. The statistics have been used to create moral panic among the people. In Britain, the government whether the New Right or the New Left have supported the 'traditional family'. In the debates and policies of the New Right or the New Left, there is seen to be a particular connection between deviant family forms and social ills and there can be seen a particular vision of the individual, family and state responsibility. Policy units, the think tanks like the Social Affairs and the Economic Affairs units and the newspapers rather than the academic press stress are the agencies that stress more on the importance of the 'traditional family values'. [Jagger and Wright, 1999] The lobbyists on behalf of the ' normal' family say that government policies and feminist ideologies threaten it. ...read more.

Conclusion

The traditional family is seen as one in which the male is the breadwinner and the woman is the homemaker - looking after the house and the children. This was in fact the Victorian middle class ideology. Though today women are no longer thought of as not going into paid work, it is still considered that her primary duty lies in looking after the home - thus she has a double burden of her job and housework. Men however have no such responsibilities and the symmetrical family that Young and Willmott talk about in which housework is shared equally between men and women instead of men thinking that they are doing a favour by helping, will take a long time to come if it ever does come at all! These family relationships - the inequality of women in their relationships with men ( in either marriage or cohabitation) is linked to wider social and economic factors and is infact sanctioned by the power of the state. Thus gendered division of labor is a part of the 'normal' family ideals. The crisis in the family means that this gender division no longer works within a majority of the families anymore. This is the feminist explanation for the rise of a 'crisis' in the family by the media and the state. ...read more.

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