In a post modern society such as Britain, are traditional family and marriage necessary? This essay will explore whether traditional family and marriage are necessary in Britain today. The change of societal views and attitudes will need to be considered, as well as analyzing statistical evidence. The ideology of the family and marriage will then be discussed and contrasted, in relation to various theoretical perspectives such as functionalism and post modernism.
Government views and policies will also be reviewed in order to show how family has evolved for various family types. Before discussing if there is a necessity for traditional family and marriage in Britain today, it only seems logical to first understand what is meant by the term traditional family. A traditional family or nuclear family, as it is sometimes referred to as, consists of a heterosexual monogamous couple that are legally bound through marriage and their healthy, dependent 2. Children, Muncie et al. (1999). There is usually a clear division of labor where the male predominantly plays the instrumental role of the breadwinner and the female predominantly plays her expressive role as the homemaker and care giver, Bernard (1997). This is based on the theory of Functionalism (which has dominated theories until the mid 20th century). They seem to place importance on the division of labor, as they believe that this structure is the most effective way of performing family functions.
This image of family would have been very accurate if it was based families around the 20th century as it was considered to be the norm, to get married and have a family with males and females playing their respective biological roles. According to Pascal (1986) in Muncie et al (1 999, pop), the Beverage Report recognized three key characteristics of the associated with the idea of he family; 1 Women are available to do housework and care for children and elderly relatives, without pay. 2 Couples consist of one full-time worker (usually a male breadwinner) and one ‘housewife’ whose work outside the home is insignificant… Women look to men for financial support. As time has evolved the idea of what family is has become varied and not quite as meticulous in its structure, although this is still the image of some households. These characteristics that are noted in The Beverage Report may be deemed as dated by most individuals in the 21 SST century, as it is evident that family Structure has changed dramatically. This report would have been disregarded by feminists, as a patriarchal family is not what they believe in. This clearly shows the woman as being dependent on a man.
According to data from the Office of National Statistics (2012), it is clear that the nuclear family (married parents with an average of 2 child dependents) has continued to be the most ordinary family type, although this number has slowly begun to decrease as the years have moved on. What can also be identified is that the number of people in other family types, for example single parent families and same-sex families, has begun to increase gradually. This suggests that people are beginning to accept that ‘family’ does not have to be the ‘traditional nuclear family.
The fact that it is documented at all shows that there is no huge necessity for marriage as there once was. Also there is the opinion as per Duncan and Phillips (2008, up), that ‘marriage and unmarried cohabitation are socially similar (as agreed by two-thirds of individuals when surveyed) and one-third felt that ‘unmarried cohabitation shows as much commitment as marriage’. There is also the suggestion that cohabiting relationships are actually lasting longer, for example in 2006 it was . 9 years, compared to 6. 5 years in 2000.
This demonstrates how views and relationship types have changed in Britain, as if this survey Was done in the early 20th century there probably would have been remarkable difference in the responses and the types of relationship people were part of. Postmodernists such as Bernard (1997) believe that society needs to accept family diversity, as you would accept different classes, ethnicities and sexual orientation. This assumption of their only being one proper family form needs to be eradicated, as anything outside of this form will been seen as inferior. Morocco (1968) cited in Muncie et al. 1999) suggested the idea of the nuclear family as being a universal. The traditional nuclear family is based on the ideology of families. This ideology is shaped by both the state and the media and it seems to be heavily promoted, whereas other family types might be seen as deviant. It could be argued that this idea of a traditional family is becoming less of an option. According to Elution in Fox (2009, IPPP-459) in order for some families to cope with the strain of ‘domestic labor and paid employment’, both spouses are having to share the responsibility of reducing a salary through paid work.
This suggests that in some households the option of a traditional family lifestyle is unavailable to them, based on the way in which this capitalist state has evolved. According to Duncan and Phillips (2008, Pl), ‘Family life is no longer equated with the married couple’. This implies that this model of the family could be seen as unrealistic in this present modern society, as it simply ignores the different variations that we can now expect within a family unit, such as single parent families, same-sex families and step families to name a few.
The legislation is that there is no family norm and no definite definition to the term family. ‘Marriage, as a social institution, may have simply been reformed, widened and ‘modernized’ rather than being ‘decreed’… If this family form were indeed ‘decreed’, we would expect to find that those who live apart from their partners, solo living and same-sex partnerships are seen as equivalent, rather than inferior family forms’, Duncan and Phillips (2008, pop). The Postmodernism approach seems to take this diversity of family types into account and therefore pushes for this diversity to be accepted within society.
This could be considered to be a more appropriate observation of British society today. This approach family is characterized by ‘choice, freedom, diversity, ambivalence and fluidity’, Harmless and Holbrook (2007, IPPP). This suggests that individuals are more open to live their lives as they please, without judgment and humiliation. According to McNeil et al (2003, up) more and more people delay forming their own families; some may choose to remain Single or childless. This has led some sociologists to argue that there is such a thing as a postmodern family.
This is a more modernized term that Seems to embody what British society is like today. Maybe the term traditional family needs to become redundant and replaced by the more flexible term postmodern family? This may be seen as a more appropriate portrayal of family life in a post modern society. Post-war women had the demands of devoting their lives to their men with domestic roles becoming imminent, Muncie et al (1999). The roles of women have now changed, for the majority. They now have more rights which could affect the dynamics of the family.
In the past a non married woman might have been considered to be a spinster, but now they tend to be labeled as independent professional women. Some of these changes are down to feminists taking a stand for equal treatment of men and women and eliminating patriarchy, Bernard (1997). This can be evidenced with the Equal Pay Act in 1970, where feminists thought for the right for women to be paid the same salary as their male counterparts, when doing the same role, Lynn Seal in Muncie et al (1997).
Another major turning point for women was in 1 918 when they were finally given the right to vote, after years of campaigning from the suffragists and suffragettes, Women and the Vote, (no date). It is apparent that feminists have conflicting views to the functionalists ND new right regarding the idea of the traditional nuclear family, as they would possibly prefer a more symmetrical family where the authority is shared. They might argue that traditional family and marriage are not necessary, as traditional family in particular is perceived as more beneficial to men.
Gender appears to be Of some importance, as stated by Duncan and Phillips (2008, up), because ‘according to individualistic theory it is women who often lead change, as they break away from traditional and ‘antidisestablishmentarianism and seek fairer and more equal ones’. Feminists Barrett and McIntosh (1 982), maintain that this traditional nuclear family type is anti-social because it exploits women and benefits capitalism, whilst perceiving the more unconventional family types as in adequate.
It is evident that societal attitudes have changed over time regarding the acceptance of the various family lifestyle choices. Society has become ethnically diverse and it could be considered as less judgmental. One of the most recent examples of this change is the consideration, by the coalition government, for gay marriages. The bill is to be submitted as early as next ear; with it becoming law by as early as 2015, Hennessey (2012).
This insinuates that the coalition government are starting to adopt a more post modern view regarding family and marriage. Although according to McCarthy and Edwards (2011 a more recent concept known as New right, which supports many of the primary functionalist beliefs including the importance of monogamous marriage, the nuclear family and the division of labor in maintaining stability within society, is the view currently held by the coalition government.
According to Mainland (2012) Deed Mainland has stated that, “There are many ay couples of faith and there are many faith groups that embrace gay people and so it’s only right for faith groups that wish to conduct same-sex marriages to be allowed to do so under law”. He believes that there needs to be marriage equality for gay couples with the ‘right to marry in churches, synagogues and meeting houses’ that are willing to accommodate them.
If this bill is pasted it may well be another significant triumph for the equality of gay couples since their right to adopt in the UK in 2005 and being allowed to have civil partnerships in 2005, Ross, Gas and Barrington (2011). These hanged were made through The New Labor Government from 1 997, which seemed to embrace the reality of the diversity of family types. This action can be perceived as necessary as it shows that the government have been taking steps to establishing equality and rights for gay people and regarding them as they would a married couple.
They also showed great support for single mothers offering them financial support and paid childcare, Bourbons (2012). This in itself could be seen as evidence of traditional family not being necessary in Britain today and it also shows the support that is been received y these supposed ‘deviant’ family types. This illustrates the rights that gay couples are starting to receive which are the same as a married couple and the support that single parents get from the state. Single parent families are becoming more common with the rise in divorce and separation.
Since the Divorce Reform Act 1969 there has been a rise in divorce in England and Wales, Bourbons (2009). Also Rodgers (2011) explains how Data published by the Office for National Statistics, indicates that since 2009 there has been a 4. 9% increase from 113,949 to 119,589 in 2010. Single parent families seem o bring about the idea of living in a welfare state, where some individuals are preoccupied by state handouts instead of actually supporting themselves. Margaret Thatcher gave a speech in 1 987, which she clearly shows her condemnation of how society had become.
She maintained that some individuals became complacent and dependent on the state to provide for them, because of the benefits that they were permitted to. She suggested that, ‘people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations’, Key (1987). This suggests that some individuals take advantage f the help that is offered and decide not to satiate their obligations of I. E. Trying to find a job. It can be considered as an effortless alternative for some, enabling their unwillingness to work.
Although the welfare state was initially aimed at tackling poverty, it became apparent to some that it actually created more problems. Locks (2000) stated that the idea of the ‘nanny stats? and a ‘culture of dependency’ started to emerge. It seems very fitting that the government is now trying to put a stop to this reliance on the state by capping the benefits that out of work individuals are entitled to (http:// www. Conservatives. Com/Policy/Where_we_stand/Jobs_and_Welfare. Asps; no date).
It will be made law that anyone claiming out of work benefits will not be able to receive more than EWE,OHO per year, which is what the average person earns in employment. By implementing this cap, in 201 3, the government could be seen as trying to create a much fairer system for families and possibly promoting the notion that everyone should work. Although there has been a rise in divorce rates there also seems to be a high level of remarriage, which means that the number of reconstituted families is also on the rise as indicated by Duncan and Phillips (2008).
This could signify that marriage and family is still of some importance to most individuals and regarded as necessary, although there is a rise in divorce, these same individuals are still opting to remarry and create their own family form. In conclusion, it is evident that traditional family and marriage are not necessary in a post modern society such as Britain, although it is still considered as important to some individuals. Family in general seems to have some importance to most individuals, regardless of the family form.
The rotational nuclear family is still seen as the preferred family type according to New right and Functionalists; nonetheless it seems realistic to accept that society has become more flexible in regards to their views on family due to the changes that have occurred. Looking at family from a postmodernist and feminist view it is evident that society is diverse and it makes sense to adopt an understanding nature towards family situations and types.
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