Outline and evaluate the view that state policies have a positive effect on family life [33 marks]
State policy that influences family life refers to the policies and initiatives introduced by governments that have an effect on how family life functions. This policy can affect families either directly or indirectly; direct referring to policy regarding marriage and divorce, for example, and indirect policy referring to that regarding things such as housing and education. Over the past 30 years, the UK has seen a diverse stance on family policy—reflected by the changes in government over this period.
The new right governments of Thatcher and Major saw the breakdown of families as being instrumental of a culture in decline. Thatcher saw the increase of family types that differed from the usual nuclear family as being concerning; an interesting stance, considering being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom doesn’t fit into the traditional view of an expressive mother. However, the new right governments can be seen to have had a positive effect on family life, with examples coming from things such as the Child Support Agency—a body designed to ensure child maintenance was paid by absent parents. In theory, this would have had a massively positive effect on family life for all those who suffered the blight of an absentee parent; but, in practice, it was often not very effective and also focussed on fathers—an inequality that resulted in the formation of pressure groups like Fathers 4 Justice. One of Thatcher’s major changes to family life was allowing and encouraging families to purchase their council houses, this promoted a more independent family and a shift away from dependency on the welfare state; however this policy was largely aimed at the nuclear model of family, and alternative family types, such as lone-parent families, could not afford this purchase. This had positive effects on mostly newly middle-class families who were able to purchase these houses and become independently responsible for their own families, however to the working-class this change was often something unattainable and this policy did not have a large effect on family life.