Assess the claim that the nuclear family as a dominant form of family structure has been replaced by a wide variety of types of families

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Assess the claim that ‘the nuclear family as a dominant form of family structure has been replaced by a wide variety of types of families’.

The ‘nuclear family’ has been described to be a family in which there are two parents in a heterosexual relationship with their biological children, some sociological perspectives would view the nuclear family as the best type such as Functionalism and the New Right. Between 1961 and 1998 the percentage of households qualifying as nuclear families had fallen from 38% to 23%. There have been rises in other types of family such as gay and lesbian families, lone parent families and reconstituted families. Other types of family have become more accepted in recent years, this trend is likely to increase over the next generations. This assignment will explore the nuclear family as a dominant form of family structure, the variety of types of family and whether the nuclear family has been replaced, by these by using case studies and theories. The Rapoports, The New Right and Postmodernism all believe that the nuclear family has been replaced by a wide variety of other family types, whereas on the other hand Jennifer Sommerville and Robert Chester will argue against this claim. Both perspectives will be examined in this assignment.

In 1982, RN & R Rapoport [The Rapoport’s] conducted a study known as ‘Families in Britain’. It identified five different types of family diversity in contemporary Britain including life cycle diversity, class diversity, cultural diversity, cohort diversity and organisational diversity. Firstly, life cycle diversity refers to the difference in family life which occur as the result of the life cycle, for instance a family with teenagers and older parents is very different to families with an ‘empty nest’. Secondly, class diversity explains the separation between different classes, as there are differences between day-to-day routines, norms values and morals as well as class differences in child rearing. Thirdly, the difference between family structures in different cultures is known as cultural diversity in which families will be different depending on their culture. Different ethnic groups will have different customs and beliefs. Beliefs in contraception can affect areas of the family such as family size, stability and the division of labour. Fourthly, cohort diversity describes the generational links between the family in which children may have different experiences to their parents at the same age. Lastly, organisational diversity occurs in terms of broad family types including conventional, reconstituted and lone parent families. The Rapoports succeeded in proving the different types of family diversity and have shown considerable confirmation that other family types exist, and are replacing the traditional nuclear family.  Graham Allen and Graham Crow support the Rapoports and argue that it is a continuing trend.

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Furthermore, The New Right, a conservative perspective, opposes diversity but admits that it is replacing the nuclear family, which, in their view, is the best type of family unit for society. They believe that the conventional patriarchal nuclear family, which includes a married couple and traditional gender division of labour, best meets individual and social needs. New Right supporters would argue that it is because of the replacement of the nuclear family by wider family types that, in their view, society is failing.  They believe that other types are unnatural and have lead to family decline and social problems ...

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