Examine Changes in the Patterns of Childbearing and Childrearing in the UK Since The 1970’s
In the last 40 years, patterns for both childbearing, which is having children, and childrearing (which is the primary socialisation of children) have changed due to several different reasons.
Since the 1970’s less children are born outside of marriage, we know this due to statistics which show that over four out of ten children are now born outside of marriage which is five times more than in the early 1970’s.
Women are also having children later on in their lives. In 1971 the average age was around 24.3 years whereas in 2005 the average had risen by quite a lot to 27.3 years. Some are even deciding to remain childless and it is also predicting that 25% of those born in 1973 will be childless by the time that they are 45 years old. They are also having less children than in the mid-1900’s. in 1964 the peak was 2.95 per woman, and decreased to a record low of 1.
63 in 2001. Although it seems like it would keep decreasing, in 2006 the numbers rose slightly to 1.84.
There are various sociological reasons for these changes. One of them being that there is a rise in the number of cohabiting couples with children. Cohabitation involves an unmarried couple in a sexual relationship who live together, and the reasons for the increase in this kind of relationship is that there is less stigma related to sex outside of marriage nowadays than what there was in 1989 where only 44% of people agreed that premarital sex is not wrong at all and so because of this decline in stigma and secularisation, which is the decline of religious influence, more cohabiting couples will be having sex outside of marriage and therefore producing children. As well as this, there has been a feminisation of the workforce and due to this happening women may also feel that they no longer have as much of a need for financial security that they would get with marriage and so, decide to opt for cohabitation, because of this woman may rely more on the welfare system after having children even though they can rely on their partner for money sometimes, they may get extra help. It is said that many people see cohabitation as a ‘trial marriage’ and some intend to marry if it all goes well or if they have children, Ernestina Coast (2006) said that cohabiting couple do expect to eventually marry each other.
Although to contradict this, Eleanor Macklin (1980) also said that the term cohabitation covers a diverse range of partnerships and that the relationship between marriage and cohabitation is a very complex and variable one. Another reason for these changes is that more people are living in one-person households, mostly due to an increase in separation and divorce. In 1971 there was a law change which made it easier to get divorced and since this, divorce rates have been increasing as when the law change took place, the number of divorces increased dramatically to almost 425,000 throughout England and Wales, however it has since declined to 155,000 annually in the year 2000 and has remained steady ever since. This could contribute to women having less children as they may not have been married long enough to contemplate having children, they may have wanted to focus on their careers, or they and their partners simply did not want any. If the couple didn’t want children, they also have the benefit that there is now better contraception available through the NHS than what there was in the 1900’s due to an increase in medical technology and the formation of the NHS therefore giving people the option as to whether they want kids or not. Also because of divorce, if a couple has had children, then the courts usually give the mother custody of them as there is a widespread belief that woman are naturally suited to an expressive role.
However New Right believer Charles Murray (1984) believes that the growth of lone-parent families is the result of an over generous welfare state which provides benefits for unmarried mothers and their children which then creates a perverse incentive. This means that he believes that nuclear families are needed in society in order for children to have a correct upbringing because the men are meant to control the child’s behaviour and the discipline of the child, and as women aren’t perceived as being able to do this, it creates children who behave irresponsibly. Woman may also want to raise children on their own due to the rise of the feminist movement where women want to be more independent and rely less on men or be married as feminist believe nuclear families are traps.
In the 1970’s the majority of children were raised within a nuclear family as this was seen as the norm in society. However in recent years many more children are being raised in different family forms throughout the UK for all sorts of reasons. One form is cohabiting couples, the number of cohabiting couples is expected to double to almost 4million by 2021 which is a massive increase as in 1986, the number was around 1million. Children may be raised within this family form due to the woman getting pregnant and her boyfriend wanting to create an almost perfect family so they live together but do not get married. Another reason may be because they feel as though marriage is not the right option but still agree to do the same as what married couples do such as raise children. Another form is nuclear families which was the most common in the 1970’s. This type of family is favoured by the new right and functionalists as they believe it offers a perfect family structure and is perceived as a norm in society as an average family type. Nuclear families is where the parents are married, the father is the breadwinner and the mother is the homemaker. They see this as the essential basis for creating a stable environment in which they can up bring children and believe that divorce and cohabitation creates family instability which has a negative effect on children. According to Amato (2000) family breakdown leads to children being at a greater risk of poverty, educational failure, crime and health problems.
The New Right also argue that the decline of the nuclear family are the cause of these social problems and that lone-parent families are unnatural as mothers cannot discipline their children properly and are a burden on the welfare state. Since 2002, same-sex couples have been able to adopt legally and it is estimated that around 5-7% of today’s population have these type of relationships. In the 1970’s same-sex relationships were frowned upon in society as the stigma related to them was huge and it was also illegal until 1967 and because of this it is impossible to see if the statistics of today’s population is an increase due to not being able to get an accurate number as many relationships were probably hidden. Jeffrey Weeks (1999) seems same-sex families as ‘chosen families’ and argues that they offer the same security and stability as heterosexual families. This means that the child is less likely to be affected than if they were in a lone-parent family as in most same-sex relationships, one takes on the more masculine role and the other the more feminine role, which leads to an almost dysfunctional nuclear family. Another form is lone-parents families which take up around 24% of all families. Because of a decline in stigma attached to births outside of marriage, lone-parents families are increasing, whereas in the 1970’s this was not very common at all and the only reason for the majority of lone-parent families was because of the death of a partner. The majority of lone-parent families are female headed and this is because either the woman is single by choice, or they may not wish to cohabit or marry. Jean Renvoize (1985) found that professional women were able to support their child without the father’s involvement. Feminist ideas and greater opportunities for women may also have encouraged an increase in the number of never-married lone mothers. Reconstituted families (Stepfamilies) account for over 10% of all families with dependent children in Britain.
Stepfamilies are families where either one or both partners are married with having had a previous marriage or relationship before. In the 1970’s this would have been very uncommon as there was stigma about divorcing then getting remarried, however it has increased within recent years with 3% of stepfamilies having children from their previous marriage. However, stepparents are at a greater risk of poverty as they are taking on their partners children as well as their own and also some tensions faced by this type of family may be because of a lack of clear social norms about how individuals act in such families which concludes that although the parents have gotten out of unhappy relationships, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easier due to these issues. Extended families occur when there are three generations living within the same household. It has particularly being stereotyped as being within the Asian community. Roger Ballard (1982) found that extended family ties provided an important source of support among asian migrants during the 1950’s and 1960’s. In the early stages of migration to Britain, houses were often shared by extended families, however in modern times most Asian households contain nuclear families but have relatives that live nearby. The benefits of extended families were that the grandparents could look after the children whilst the parents went about their daily tasks and would also help to teach them the importance of close family bonds as they could all rely on each other. This creates bean pole families, which is where there are strong relationships between children and their grandparents and these forms of families provide both practical and
emotional support for those involved when they are called upon.
Cite this Sociology – Part Of Childbearing Essay
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