How has industrialisation changed the nature of the family? Industrialization is considered as one of the main reasons for the family shifting from extended to nuclear. Families began to relocate from more rural areas to more suburban areas to find work. This was mainly due to the fact that plenty of factory based work where available in the cities. This eventually led to urbanisation, as families began to move away from small villages and into large urban areas. After this shift every aspect of daily life was influenced because of industrialisation.
Functionalist such as Talcott Parsons (1951) believed that the effect of industrialisation led to multifunctional extended families, transforming to isolated nuclear families. This was because the government reduced or took over certain functions that the family would normally carry out which reduced the need for a wider kinship network. This included education, as more schools were opened, it took away the need for the parents to home school the children, thus allowing more time for them to work.
So Parsons found a distinct change in structure within the family.
He concluded families living in industrialised societies reduced in size because functions moved elsewhere. This was due to the need for geographic mobility and because status came through their own talents and skills not through family identification. Murdock stated that the family caters to the sexual needs of its adult members and also to maintain stability it limits sexual access of other members of society. The ‘reproductive’ function relates to bearing and raising children. The family provides the society with new members and assume responsibility for raising them.
The ‘educational’ function that Murdock refers to, can also be termed ‘socialisation’. The family has the responsibility of teaching their children a positive way of life, norms and values. This function is an important one as, without culture, the society could not survive, and too much deviation from the norm would disrupt the stability of the society. Also an industrial society requires geographical mobility for the workforce hence an isolated nuclear family is preferred as extended families cause duties and obligations to the relatives. Another functionalist who agreed with Parsons was Fletcher (1996).
He agreed on Parsons theory about industrialisation, saying it resulted in an isolated nuclear family. On the other hand, he disagrees with what Parsons says about the non-essential functions being transferred, as he believes that these functions are retained. Fletcher says that the family is still responsible for these functions as the family interacts with the specialised organisations e. g. governmental and religious functions are both conducted with the home and are picked up by discussion. Religion is a form of primary socialisation and both these functions depend upon the family to turn out believers.
Parental support is required in order for the child to have a good education. Also it is the families’ responsibility to aid the child’s education i. e. private school, study area, rewards for achievements. Other research conducted by Wilmott and Young disagree with Parsons and found that before industrialization, society was based mainly around agriculture. The most common family type during this period was that of a classic extended family. The main research they conducted was that there are three different stages of the Symmetrical Family. They said that pre-industrial families were all agriculturally based and lived in small families.
Then came the move to the middle class and then to the working class of a privatised nuclear family as communities moved from traditional areas close by industry to suburbs. As wages have risen, middle class patterns of living have been followed by the working class in a process called stratified diffusion. In the symmetrical family, husbands became more involved in home life domestic duties. They expected the male to become more career based and the wife to become more domesticated, based on stratified diffusion in looking at managers’ lives. The first stage is pre-Industrial Family, this is when the families worked as units of production.
Everyone in the family worked together in agriculture. Workplace and home weren’t separated. Second stage is The early Industrial Family. Members of families are now working to earn money and the home and workplace are now not considered as the same place, husbands and wives now travel further to go find work. There was now more of a desire to make different friends and get out of the norm of just socializing with family members. Women are now more responsible for different domestic duties whereas men’s purpose is to earn money for the family, although this stage happens more often in working class.
This then gave the huge change in responsibility which gave an opportunity to women to have more time to get jobs. And so the next stage is called Symmetrical Family as there is an economic and social equality between men and women, husband and wife now share their ideas and experience between each other. However, the functionalists have been largely criticised. It is argued that they have not provided any alternatives to the family, that is, they have not considered the other institutions that can also perform the functions that are being fulfilled by the family.
Another one of the main criticisms aimed at them is that it’s too much of an optimistic picture of the family, i. e. Rose tinted. Critics argue that the type of family they depict is not an accurate description of reality. Ann Oakley (1974) criticises Young and Wilmot view on the family. She argued that this did not reflect what was actually going on in the family and that the perfect family that they have explained, does not in fact exist, as there is inequalities between the gender roles in the family.
This was then further backed up by Mary Boulton (1983) who found that fewer than 20% of husbands have a major role in childcare and reiterated the fact that Wilmot and Young have exaggerated their findings, claiming they have misinterpreted tasks involved in childcare rather than childcare responsibilities. The feminists and the Marxists don’t think these functions are in fact accurate as they have sought to analyse the impact of family life on women.
Despite the numerous differences in their approach and main concern, different feminists tend to agree that women occupy a lower position in the family and are exploited in various ways. The Marxist feminists consider capitalism as the main exploiter. This exploitation is seen in terms of the unpaid work they carry out at home. Like the Marxist, they believe that the family also serves capitalism by reproducing the future labour force, but they also say that it is not the family as such that suffers more, but the women. It is women that bear the children and assume the main responsibility for their care.
Women are also exploited in that they are expected to provide outlets for all the frustration and anger that their husband experience at work and therefore prevent them from taking it all out on their employers. In conclusion, a universal definition of the family is almost impossible since the family, as an institution is a product of cultural norms and values. Although it’s clear to see how the family has changed through industrialization, but into what is still an on-going discussion. Factors such as the legal tolerance of divorce leading to much diverse household, such as single parents, have led to a large spectrum of family types.
This then leads onto the fact the there has been an increase in the independence of women/men in single parent situations. So the stigma that once existed with regards to divorce and women bringing up children alone has now gone and seemly become a norm in society. Also Murdock’s definition of the family consisted of two adults of opposite sexes. The image of the typical family also presents a man and a woman. However, not all families consist of partners of different sexes. Gay and lesbian households are increasingly being acknowledged as families.
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