The Modern Family in Comparison With Family in the 19th Century

Table of Content

The family has been an important organization within society since ancient times, existing as a timeless and widespread human institution throughout history.

The idea of family includes most people’s childhood experiences within a family and their later creation of their own family as adults. One common form is the nuclear family, in which a couple becomes parents and their children form the nuclear family. Consequently, there are various understandings of what defines a family.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

According to Giddens, a family is a tight-knit group where members share strong bonds, hold individual identities, and have mutual responsibility. This group is usually formed through marriage, biological ties, or adoption. However, some sociologists believe that Giddens’ definition oversimplifies the concept in contemporary society by neglecting aspects like same-sex marriage and communal living arrangements.

Murdock builds upon Giddens’ definitions and provides further details about the family as a social group. According to Murdock, a family is defined as a group of individuals who reside together, cooperate economically, and engage in reproduction. It comprises adults of both genders, with at least two maintaining a socially accepted sexual relationship. Additionally, the family includes one or more children who can be either biological or adopted by the sexually cohabiting adults. This analysis will discuss the changes that have occurred since the 19th century concerning functionalism, Marxism, and the wealth gap between different social classes. Furthermore, it will explore the growing importance of women in contemporary society.

Friedrich Engels, a Marxist, has shaped our understanding of the family. According to his beliefs, thousands of years ago, the means of production were collectively owned, and the concept of family did not exist. However, with the rise of private property owned by men, the nuclear family emerged, with the expectation for men to have legal descendants.

Eli Zaretsky suggests that men have historically sought to dominate women to guarantee the production of valid heirs, often male, who could uphold the family name. Zaretsky examines the family’s organization from a Marxist perspective and argues that it was closely tied to the economy before the industrial revolution. In this era, work predominantly occurred within households. Nevertheless, with the advent of the industrial revolution in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, work relocated from homes to factories.

With the rise of industrialization in Western nations, a significant number of rural inhabitants migrated to cities for factory jobs. This urban shift brought about changes in family dynamics as individuals had to leave home every day for work. In these settings, it was common for both mothers and children to also work to supplement the family’s income. As a result, families had little time left to spend together, leading to a decreased significance of the home in their lives.

In the past, children were often educated at home and social institutions like hospitals and schools performed different roles that families usually handled. Moreover, police and fire departments offered help in protecting lives and property. The industrial revolution largely consumed the family’s time with work, which undermined their overall existence. Since the 19th century, women’s role within the family has experienced notable changes.

Throughout history, women have typically had lesser rights and a lower societal standing in comparison to men. This discrepancy is evident in various aspects such as their lack of permission to initiate divorce or own property. The traditional role assigned to married women mainly involved being a homemaker, with their lives primarily revolving around their households. The emergence of women’s movements during the 1800s initially in the United States and Europe eventually expanded to other parts of the world.

The initial women’s movements were ignited by the emergence of urban and industrial society, leading to significant changes in the economy and politics. These transformations disrupted conventional gender roles, causing women to question their societal position. The primary objective of the first wave of women’s movements was to campaign for women’s right to vote. In present times, feminists have effectively highlighted issues such as domestic violence that persist within family life despite the advancements in women’s rights compared to previous eras.

Unlike in the past, men can now be prosecuted for mistreating women. Although there is a continuing discussion about whether incidents of domestic abuse are on the rise, it is evident that these cases are now more apparent and no longer hidden as before. Furthermore, women’s involvement in the workforce has considerably increased compared to previous times.

The employment of women in Britain has risen to 11.4 million, indicating a departure from traditional gender roles where men were the main breadwinners and women primarily assumed domestic duties as housewives. Presently, women are increasingly dependent on daycares and babysitters for childcare.

Children frequently have unattended periods at home after school until their parents return from work, resulting in diminished family values and inadequate child care. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in fathers’ involvement in childcare compared to previous years, although it remains uncommon for them to take on primary responsibility. Mary Boulton conducted a study in London that included 50 married mothers who were not employed full-time.

According to the data, 18% of husbands actively participated in childcare, 36% offered some help, and 46% provided minimal support. The rise in divorce rates since the 1970s is a significant factor contributing to the breakdown of families. Divorce, which refers to legally ending a marriage, was less common during the 19th century.

The number of divorce petitions in England and Wales was 859 in 1911. However, the introduction of new divorce laws in 1971 simplified the process. Consequently, by 1996, there were 351,514 marriages but an astonishing 157,588 divorces – surpassing more than half of the number of marriages. Moreover, second marriages after divorce have also increased.

Between 1961 and 1996, remarriages in the UK saw a substantial surge, increasing from 15% to 41%. Concurrently, there was a notable upswing in the number of single mothers. These trends can be ascribed to unwanted pregnancies and premarital sex, leading men to abandon pregnant women.

Gay marriages, once unimaginable in the 19th century, are now widely accepted and integrated into society. In contrast to the past when homosexuality was illegal until 1967, it is now openly acknowledged and embraced as a part of our lives.

Although some countries offer legal rights to long-term gay partnerships that resemble marriage, the UK does not provide such recognition. During the late 1980s, approximately 6 to 14 million children were raised by parents who identified as gay or lesbian. Research indicates that same-sex relationships are equally capable of raising children compared to heterosexual marriages. In general, notable transformations have taken place in family structures since the 19th century.

Many believe that most changes have had a positive effect, such as the advancements in women’s rights, including easier access to divorce. Furthermore, although same-sex marriages are still illegal, society is slowly becoming more inclusive and accepting of them. Moving forward, there is hope for more positive progress, like reducing high divorce rates that often lead to broken families.

Cite this page

The Modern Family in Comparison With Family in the 19th Century. (2018, Jun 10). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront