Explain the extent to which changing patterns of relationships have impacted on the traditional family in contemporary UK society. Use two contrasting theories and relevant studies to support your answer.
The family is very important to society with some form of grouping being found in all societies. Giddens defined the family as a group of people who share kinship and who take care of the next generation. This can be seen as playing a vital role within society with the family often being described as the cornerstone of society. The functionalist Murdock believed the family served four specific functions within society including sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. This was later shortened by Parsons who believed the family served two functions of regulating adult emotion and behaviour and educating the next generation.
However, there have been vast changes to the family in recent years. This can be seen in the type of family with the nuclear family becoming less common and the reconstituted and single parent families becoming more prominent. This is partially due to the increase in divorce. The Divorce Reform Act of 1971 made it much easier to get divorced. There has been an increase from 859 petitions of divorce in 1911 to 183,000 in 1987.
Another change which has occurred is the number of children being born. Women are choosing to have fewer children due to career opportunities and getting married later in life. The number of children dropped from 1.9 in 1966 to 1.3 in 1996.
The recent changes in families can be attributed to the industrialisation of society. Families have become more specialised as other agents have taken over specific functions e.g. families moved from the land causing them to cease being a unit of production. This has led to a reduced need for extended family and a move towards a nuclear family which in turn has led to diversity in family types. There has been an increase in the number of single parent...