Assess the view that the Nuclear Family is no longer the norm'' - Functionalism vs. Post Modernism

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Rosalind Cresswell

‘ Assess the view that the Nuclear Family is no longer the norm'' - Functionalism vs. Post Modernism

The Nuclear family is seen as the traditional family and it is made up of a husband, a wife and one or more children, which can be either biological or adopted. In the family the husband is usually the breadwinner and is instrumental towards the children, where as the wife should be responsible for the housework and plays an expressive role towards the children. This is known as a 'cereal packet' family. Murdock a functionalist sociologist (1949) argued that nuclear family is a 'universal social grouping', which can be found in all societies, however according to postmodernists nuclear families are not necessarily the most effective family.

One reason that the nuclear family isn’t necessarily considered the norm anymore would be an increase in same-sex couples because it has become more socially acceptable as homosexuality was legalised in the UK in 1967. This has meant that there are more same sex couples and they now have the chance to adopt. Technology as well as social acceptance has made major advances recently so gay and lesbian couples are able to use IVF treatment. Functionalist sociologists do not believe that same sex couples would educate a child to the same extent as single sex families however studies of same sex families could not see any significant effects un terms of gender identification or sexual orientation. Weeks (1999), a Postmodernist, states that increase social acceptance may explain a trend in recent years towards same sex cohabitation and stable relationships that resemble those founded among heterosexuals. Postmodernists believe that family life can be anything as it is characterised by how diverse society is.  However Cheal (2002) criticises homosexuals by saying ‘while gay and lesbians welcome the opportunity to have their partnerships legally recognised, others hear that it may limit the flexibility and negotiability of relationships.’ Which shows that functionalists feel that homosexuals are not willing to commit and therefore they should not be counted as a family.

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The number of one-parent families has tripled from 2% in 1961 to 7% in 1998. There are now almost 1.7 million in Britain and this makes up 25% of families. Women who have either had a divorce or separated from a partner head most of these families, this could be due to divorce courts being more likely to grant custody to the mother, the mother being single by choice, the widespread belief that the mother are by nature suited to ‘the expressive role’’ and primarily in the working class females experiencing abuse. Functionalists associate lone-parent families with under- achievement ...

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