Is the modern family breaking down or is it simply changing?

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Is the modern family breaking down or is it simply changing?

The modern family also commonly known as the nuclear family has had radical alterations to its structure, these have been caused by the various changes in the society such as: cultural diversity, more divorce and re-marriage, there is more cohabitation between couples and more births outside marriages. Also there are same sex marriages, and in the cases of female marriages children are often involved.

Family unit is based within a household. In the contemporary U.K diversity can be seen in the household composition, i.e.: in two parent families, both the parents work, one of the parents work, neither of the parents work or it is reconstituted family. Approximately 23% of households consist of a nuclear family, e.g.: a married or cohabiting couple with dependant children.  28% of households are single, with half over and half under the pensionable age, 28% were couple without children, 7% were single parents with children (out of which 90% of the families were female headed). 3% of the households had non-dependant children, 3% had two or more unrelated adults and only 1% were multi-family households. On the other hand, this data isn’t too reliable as the cyclical nature of family life means that many children may still have children, i.e.: all non-dependants children now were once dependents. Also, some single individuals shown in the data were once in nuclear families with children, which ended through either divorce or death, and the children had become dependant therefore moving away from home.

The diversity of family and household types is contributed by the diversity in ethnic minority cultures. Roger Ballard published a book in 1982 titled ‘South Asian Families’, in which he studied Punjabi, Gujrati and Bangali families in England. His study found that the families were extended and highly patriarchal where all the family contributed to the domestic and wage earning tasks although it was clear that men and women’s duties were greatly differentiated. However, improvement was being made as the families were becoming less patriarchal i.e.: more women were going out to work and the extended families were being split into smaller family units. Also, he observed that some British Born Asians were rejecting their traditional authority structures. Asian children existed in two cultures: at home into traditional culture via primary socialisation and at school and work into the wider social culture via secondary socialisation. Ballard thinks that the balance of these influences may depend on one major factor i.e.: the Asian density in a particular area.

Ghazal Bhatti supported this study of Ballard’s in her book ‘Asian children at home and at school’ (1999). She studied a sample of 50 Asian children from Southern England, 44 were Muslim with Pakistani or Bangladeshi family backgrounds, four were Hindus and two were Sikhs with Indian origins. Like Ballard she found retained links with their country of origin to maintain and emphasise family loyalty and traditional marriage practices. “Izzat” was also taken very seriously especially with the behaviour of daughters. Bhatti claimed that “motherhood bestowed status upon these women and they saw child raring as their most important role and duty in life.” Whereas fathers saw themselves as heads of their households and the breadwinners.  

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On the other hand, just like Ballard’s study Bhatti established that some evidence suggested that the younger generation was moving away from some traditional structures. In four of the families the older brother had married white women causing clashes between the parents and the children. Although, she emphasised that these mixed families weren’t the norm and that other generational tensions were minor in comparison with most children happily following the traditional structure of their families.

Joan Barrow also conducted a study on ethnic minority, he studied West Indian families in his book ‘West Indian families: An insider’s ...

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