Is the nuclear family in decline?

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1s the nuclear family in decline?

The family have always being seen by most people as the bed rock of the society. In both pre- modern and modern times, the importance of the family in carrying out basic but vital functions of the society has long being valued. Most people belong to at least one family during their life time and see the family as a source of identity, reassurance and safety. Like many contents that are familiar with us, the family is generally looked upon favourably, for example we see most politicians stressing the importance of Family values and associate themselves to being family friendly, even church and other religious leader are not left in preaching the importance of family environment to communal, national and international harmony. The media and adverts even use the happy family to advance their cause. The nuclear family is the smallest family unit and consists of husband, wife and their own dependent offspring. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the nuclear family was the norm and was assumed uncritically that this kind of family was a good thing as it positively provides for the needs of its members and at same time contributes to the society by carrying out basic and vital functions of reproduction. This view, although dominated by persons and Bales (1955) and Goode (1963) were tailored to suit the modern, industrial society (The family 2001). Over the years it seems this kind of family unit is seriously threatened and in some occasions appears to be ignored or undermined. The aim of my research is to find out 1. If the nuclear family is in decline. 2. What factors lead or contribute to this decline. 3. What is a good nuclear family?

Many sociologists have long agreed that the family is a universal social institution. Others claim that groups of kins living together as recognised social units occur in all human societies, but some do argue that there are exceptions to virtually any definition of family. From the functionist view Murdock sought to show that some form of family structure was the basis of society and that the family is universal. It concluded by saying that the family 1.stabilizes sexual and reproductive functions. 2. it provides basis economic requirements such as food and shelter, 3. It provides the functions of socialization of the next generation into the norms, values and other aspects of culture in the society. Although a functionist, persons (1959) did disagree on the exact meaning of the nuclear family. From the Marxist-feminist view (Barrett and Mc In tosh 1991) did suggest that the nuclear family is presented as an ideal for us all to aspire to, and this makes the concepts of family ‘anti social’ as it presents other forms of family as inferior. On the other hand the new right sees the nuclear family as division of labour between breadwinner and home maker. Although different debates carry different views as seen above, it might also be important to look at family as having a number of structural forms which varies according to how many people are considered family members, and what the relationships are.

 Murdock definition of the family includes at least one male, however significant proportion of black families in the island of west indies and central America do not include adult male. This may indicate that the family is not universal as Murdock suggested or that the family might be defined in another way.

Talcott Persons argues that the family retains the basic and irreducible functions which are common to all societies, this he called the primary socialization of children and the stabilization of the adult personality. Persons believed that families are factories which produce human personalities. According to him the institution of nuclear family is more peculiar and important to the western industrial societies, since it is largely isolated from kins, thus couples increasingly look to each other for emotional support. According to persons the nuclear family does not form an integral part of a wider system of relationships, although there might be contacts between members of a wider family and others. persons suggested that might be as a result of choice rather than anything binding, this he put forward make the institution of the nuclear family less involved in different functions of the family and as such these functions have being transferred to factories and other institutions (halarambos p483)

Sociologist and alternative thinkers like Gough (1972) did criticise person and argued that the nuclear family and monogamous marriage exist in small scale societies, they form part of a larger kinship group. According to Gough when individuals marry, they take on a series of duty and obligations to their spouse’s kin. Communities are unified by kinship ties and consequently it becomes a large extended family.

Nicholson sees the nuclear family as a unit were parents and children live together, where bond between husband and wife is very important. According to Nicholson working class people have always aspired to form a nuclear family even thou their low income usually prevents them from doing so, as they sometimes have to share accommodation with others outside the family and this was so until the 1950s and even before that time some groups lack of resources for this type of family was still a hindrance, therefore alternative family forms were developed such as guys, lesbians and heterosexuals, also parents living alone  and married couples with husband at home caring for children, as well as step families, single parents and others.

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Postmodernist have argued that there has being a fundamental change in the modern family, thus denying any one family type can be seen as the norm. According to them, although the modern society have held up and promoted one dominate family type, the changing trends makes it no longer possible to produce a theory of the family as traditionalist have always believed. Therefore different explanations are needed for different types of families (Halarambos p465)

The family appears to be seen more problematic than it was in past times. In looking further, George Peter Murdock carried out a study ...

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