Diversity in Modern Family Life

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Diversity in Modern Family Life.

Holly Anderson.

"Explain and discuss how modern family life is catagorised by diversity."

George Peter Murdock (1949) believed that the nuclear family should perform 'vital functions,' namely sexual, economic, reproductive and educational. He argues that 'No society has succeeded in finding an adequate substitute for the nuclear family, to which it might transfer there functions. It is highly doubtful whether any society will ever succeed in such an attempt.' [1.] Functionalists such as Murdock are inclined to ignore any diversity in family life in industrial society. There are few mentions of lone-parent families, cohabiting families and reconstituted families, or a variety of family lifestyles based on class, ethnicity, religion and locality.

Of course there are alternatives to these opinions. R.N. Rapoport and R. Rapoport (1982) are critical of the assumption that the nuclear family is the 'ideal' family type. They mention that in 1994 only 20% of nuclear families still named the father as the sole breadwinner and the mother as the home-maker. The Rapoports argue that family life is now charactarised by diversity and that there is now a wide range of family types, other than the nuclear, in British society. The Rapoports believe there are five main elements of family diversity in Great Britain. Organizational, Cultural, Social Class, Life-Cycle of the family and Cohort. David Eversley and Lucy Bonnerjea add a sixth variable, Region.

With organizational diversity, each family can choose their own way of living with and organizing their family. According to 2002 statistics, 14% of British households are made up of cohabiting couples, with the 1986 statistics at 5%, it is clear that more men and woman are now opting out of a married life. British families headed by a single, never married, mother rose from 1% in 1971 to 11% in 2000, with households headed by a lone mother rising by 16%. 2.5 million children in the UK in 2002 lived with step-parents. [2.] This number had risen by 2007, to the point where the UK had the second highest number of children living in single-parent families or with step-parents in the developed world. [3.] Some of these family structures may have developed from an existing nuclear unit and so, even though only 39% of all British households are made up of a nuclear family, it's important not to dismiss the 'traditional' as irrelevant. Numbers of cohabiting couples with children and reconstituted families, and other families of organized diversity, are rising and the nuclear family are now in the minority.
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Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Oxford, Ceridwen Roberts argues that these people may have 'chosen' their own path, but that this may be because they have few other options. She points out that the men involved may not have jobs to support these single mothers and because of this, and various other negative reasons, they could be a bad role-model for the children in question. She also reminds us to look at the 'economic underpinning of the situation of these very vulnerable families.' [4.]

But ...

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