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Problems in Definition of Family

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Explain and discuss why the definition of family is problematic from the perspectives of history, ideology and policy. How does violence within families challenge the functionalist approach to family? I am discussing how history, ideology and policy perspectives establish problems with the definition of family. My main focus will be identifying how family violence and abuse within families challenge the functionalist approach to family. The definition of ‘family’ is extremely broad; however I will only be focusing on the functionalist approach which is the nuclear family.

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Functionalists believe that the nuclear family is the ‘ideal’ family type and is seen as the traditional family. The history perspective will explore how domestic violence has become more of a problem throughout the year. I will include how domestic violence has appeared to increase over the years which also link with policy and ideology because there are new laws linked to domestic violence and theorists such as feminists who have spoken up about domestic violence.

History is used ideologically to produce policies for the present.

Ideology will focus on different peoples beliefs on the definition of family and the effect domestic violence can have on a functionalist approach to family. The perspective of policy will concentrate on new laws that have been put in place which have a positive effect on the damage of domestic violence. A policy perspective also emphasises how important these laws have become and the effect it has had on the functionalist approach to family. An understanding of the past and present helps society to understand where present policies and ideologies have been produced.

All of these perspectives have a connection with one another, for example, throughout history there have been new policies put in place to help decrease domestic violence. Domestic violence can be described as violent, threatening behaviour or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members. According to 2009/10 British Crime Survey, nearly 1 million women experience at least one incident of domestic abuse each year. The abuse can be physical, sexual, financial, emotional and psychological.

A definition of domestic violence was developed by the Oregon Domestic Violence Council (1995, 3) as “a pattern of coercive behaviour used by one person to control and subordinate another in an intimate relationship. These behaviours include physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse. Tactics of coercion, terrorism, degradation, exploitation, and violence are used to engender fear in the victim in order to enforce compliance’. Dallos & McLaughlin (1993, p11), suggest that there is a key ‘subjective’ element in the definition in the extent to which a couple agree that a form of behaviour is acceptable in their relationship.

A feminist approach, stated on woman’s aid, quotes ‘Domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’. Domestic violence may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently ‘violent’. Mooney (2000, p24) tells us that since the 1970s, domestic violence has been ‘increasingly recognised as a serious social problem’.

This shows that society is becoming more aware that domestic violence is a serious common crime. In the past, domestic violence was accepted throughout history therefore the ideology of domestic abuse was different to the ideology of it today. Dobash (2000: 190) state “From late medieval times to well into the nineteenth century, the ‘nagging’ or ‘disobedient wife could be subjected to punishments such as the ducking stool or branks bridle which were meant to restore domestic order and the authority of the husband’. This demonstrates how domestic violence was acceptable and seen as normal behaviour in the past.

Men had a right to physically discipline their wife. When domestic violence was seen as acceptable, it would not have disputed the functional family as it was seen as ‘normal’. Policies have been put in place now to prevent and help decrease domestic violence. Laws relate to domestic violence help change the ideology of individuals. If a law states that domestic violence is not acceptable then this will influence others to realise it is not acceptable behaviour. Therefore this shows that ideology, policy and history all relate to each other. A great deal of changes have changed regarding laws, peoples ideologies etc throughout history.

For example, men are encouraged to participate more in domestic life and not see being the breadwinner as a necessity. In the past, it was not normal for a woman to work, however, in modern society it is seen as normal for women to work. The definition of family may be seen as problematic in relation to history because there have been different ideologies throughout history on what types of family are acceptable. For example, in the past, the traditional family was seen as the most suitable family and the ‘norm’ which could provide for the family best and gave structure.

However new family types such as a single-parent family and same-sex couples are now accepted by society and many people will class them as a family. Throughout history, there will have been discussion and debates on what types of family are acceptable and what should not be classes as a family. However everyone has their own opinion, which is their ideology, on what they would class as a family. Laws have been put in place to help protect individuals who suffer from domestic violence. For example, the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1976) and the Divorce Act (2002).

Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1976: 50) states that it is a law put in place to amend the law relating to matrimonial injunction; to provide the police with powers of arrest for the breach of injunction in cases of domestic violence. Harwin and Barron (2000, p205) discuss how the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act in 1976 allowed a court order to prevent further violence and prohibit their violent partner from the home and in certain situations it allowed them to arrest an individual.

This allows courts to make orders on restraining individuals from molesting their partner and excluding them from the home or parts of the home. The Divorce Act (2002) was put into place which allowed an individual to divorce their partner. The Divorce Act (2007: 27) states that it is an act to make provision enabling a court to require the dissolution of a religious marriage before granting a civil divorce. The Divorce Act (2002) will help individuals escape marriages they are unhappy in where they may suffer from domestic violence.

Therefore this act helps to protect individuals. Policy may cause problems when defining family too. The Civil Partnership Act (2004: 33) allows individuals in a same-sex relationship to form a civil partnership. Therefore this shows that the act is allowing homosexual couples to form what they would call a family. This will influence people’s ideologies on same-sex couples being classed as a family. Therefore policy can change people’s ideology on what can be classed as a family. Ideology is a set of ideas; a person can have their own individual beliefs on a situation.

David Cheal (2008, p5) states that ideology is a ‘system of beliefs and values that define social reality. It structures how we see the world and the conclusions that are drawn about appropriate lines of action’. The functionalist approach to family, the nuclear family, is an example of ideology. Ideology demonstrates how people view the social problem, which is domestic violence. Policies have been put in place to prevent domestic violence, which demonstrates that it is shown as a social problem which needs certain laws to protect people.

In the past, domestic violence was seen as socially acceptable whereas now, in modern society, it is not acceptable. This shows that throughout history, ideology of domestic violence has changed and policies have been created to structure around people’s ideologies. Straus et al (1980) states ‘The family, with the exception of the military in times of war and the police, is societies most violent social institution. This shows that ‘the family’ is at high risk of domestic violence. A person’s ideology on domestic violence will be influenced by policy.

When there were no laws related to domestic violence, individuals seen domestic violence as acceptable and thought of it as ‘normal behaviour’. However, when laws have been put in place stating that domestic violence is not acceptable, their ideology will have changed. Different ideologies will support different family arrangements. One person’s ideology may differ from another individual’s ideology. The ideology of the family consists of values and norms that influence us on how to live our ‘ideal’ family life.

Ideology provides a justification for the type of institution the family is seen to be in our culture and most of the time an individual is unconscious of their ideology. Many people will be influenced by what is seen as the ‘norm’ and will try to live their family life by what they think is acceptable to society. Domestic violence can occur in several places; however the family home is a common place for it to happen. Individuals in a relationship can be violent towards one another. Domestic violence in a relationship could cause marital breakdown.

Therefore this will breakdown their family and their family type will change. Therefore a family classed as a functional approach (the nuclear family) would no longer be a nuclear family if a man and woman divorced. After a divorce there will be concern over who has the right to look after their child, live in their home and who owns what possessions. It will cause a great deal of stress for each individual in the family, including the child. Therefore this is an example of a possible outcome of domestic violence, and the effect it could have on the nuclear family.

New laws have made it easier to divorce a partner, therefore these policies have made it easier for people to escape and avoid domestic violence. In the past, when the divorce act was non-existent, individuals in a relationship who were suffering from domestic abuse from their partner will have had no choice but to stay in that relationship. The new policies help to protect people in these relationships. However, divorce has caused new family types to form such as the single-parent family. Dench (1996) states, ‘The main crisis points in traditional family ideology are divorce, domestic violence, child abuse and the elderly’.

This tells us that domestic abuse can challenge the nuclear family. Domestic abuse can lead to divorce too; therefore this shows that domestic abuse is a huge risk when considering the breakdown of the functionalist approach of the family. This shows that throughout history, with the introduction of new laws, new family types have arisen which are accepted by society. Therefore this shows that society’s ideology of the nuclear family has changed, because other family types are also being accepted and the functionalist approach of family is not seen as a necessity compared to what it used to.

In conclusion, everyone has their own ideology on what they class as ‘family’. Individuals may have issues with certain types of family such as homosexual families or single-parent families. However, policy has helped influence people to accept these families. The Divorce Act (2002) has increased the statistics of single-parent families and the Civil Partnership Act (2004) has allowed homosexual couples to form a civil partnership, which helps society to accept this as a ‘family’. Society, and their opinions has changes and family structures in today’s society has too.

Domestic violence has a great impact on the functionalist approach to family. The main reason for this is because domestic violence can breakdown a family. For example, a marriage could result in divorce because of domestic violence, which breaks down the nuclear family. Bibliography 1. Britain Parliament (1976) Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1976: 50) (Act of Parliament) London: HMSO. 2. Cheal, D (2008). Families in today’s world: A comparative approach. Oxon: Routledge. 3. Dallos, R. and McLaughlin, E. (1993) Social Problems and the Family. London: Sage Publications. . Dobash. R. E. and Dobash, R. P. 2000. ‘The politics and policies of responsing to violence against women. ’ In J. Hanmer and C. Itzin Home Truths About Domestic Violence. London and New York: Routledge, p187-204. 5. Gelles, RJ. (1993) Through a Sociological Lens: Social Structure and Family Violence. In: Gelles, RJ. And Loseke, DR. (1993) Current Controversies on Family Violence. London: Sage Publications, p31-46. 6. Geoff Dench. 1996. The Place of Men in changing family cultures.. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. s-cool. co. uk/category/subjects/a-level/sociology/family-ideology. Accessed 09 January 13]. 7. Harwin, N. and Barron, J. (2000) Domestic violence and social policy: Perspectives from Women’s Aid. In: Hanmer, J. and Itzin, C. eds. (2000) Home Truths About Domestic Violence: feminist influences on policy and practice: a reader. 1st ed. London: Routledge, p. 205-227. 8. Harwin, N. and Barron, J. (2000) Home Truths About Domestic Violence: feminist influences on policy and practice: a reader. London: Routledge. 9. Home Office Statistical Bulletin (2010) Crime in England and Wales 09/10. 3rd Edition. Available at: http://webarchive. nationalarchives. gov. k/20110218135832/http://rds. homeoffice. gov. uk/rds/pdfs10/hosb1210. pdf Last Accessed 8th January 2013. 10. McCue, ML, 2008. Domestic Violence: A Reference Handbook. 2nd ed. USA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. 11. Mooney, J. (2000) Revealing the hidden figure of domestic violence. In: Hanmer, J. and Itzin, C. eds. (2000) Home Truths About Domestic Violence: Feminist influences on policy and practice: A reader. 1st ed. London: Routledge, p. 24-43. 12. Oregon Domestic Violence Council. 1995. A Collaborative Approach to Domestic Violence: Oregon Protocol Handbook. Portland: Oregon Domestic Violence Council. 3. Parliament of the United Kingdom (2004) Civil Partnership Act (2004: 33) (Act of Parliament) London: HMSO. 14. Parliament of the United Kingdom (2002) Divorce Act (2002: 27) (Act of Parliament) London: HMSO. 15. Womensaid. org. uk (2000) What is domestic violence? – Women’s Aid. [online] Available at: http://www. womensaid. org. uk/domestic-violence-articles. asp? section=00010001002200410001&itemid=1272&itemTitle=What+is+domestic+violence [Accessed: 25 Mar 2012]. Source Report I used a range of sources for my assignment which included books, internet research and journals.

I was able to access these sources through the internet and the library. I looked for books which related to the topic I had chosen for my assignment and I searched for relevant information on the internet. I got several books from the library, free of charge which is an advantage to begin with. The library had a wide range of books covering the topic I was researching. Books provide me with detailed information on topics that I need research on. Additionally, when I use books, I look at the references throughout the text and the bibliography to see if there are sources they have used that would be useful for me.

Therefore this shows that by using books, I am finding new books, articles, etc to use too. Also, books have a well layed out contents page, which allows me to quickly see what pages are relevant to my research. The books I used were wrote by people who had knowledge about the topics they were writing about, which reassured me that the information I was reading was accurate and reliable. When I was using internet research, I thought it was useful when I wanted current information that was up to date. The internet is quite a fast source which helped me to get any information I wanted quite quick.

Not only that but the internet allowed me to view journal articles and online books which convenient when I found books that I could not access from the library. Using the internet was not time-consuming at all and it included a great deal of multimedia. Whilst I read information about topics relating to my assignment, I was able to access videos and pictures too which helped me to understand information better and encouraged me to keep reading the online information. The internet allowed me to access government publication, which was extremely helpful when I wanted information on legislation.

For example, I got information on acts such as The Divorce Act (2002) and the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1976: 50). I know that journals are checked by academics and experts, which reassured me that this source included reliable information. The journals I used included reports and specific information on the topic I was researching. Overall, my use of sources were all extremely helpful which helped me learn knowledgeable information for my assignment. I noticed the advantages and disadvantages of each source in comparison with one another, but they all contributed to my

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Problems in Definition of Family. (2016, Sep 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/problems-in-definition-of-family/

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