To find out if the nuclear family is universal the definition for nuclear and universal must be found. Nuclear is mainly defined by Murdock, who refers to a nuclear family as a stereotypical family, e.
g. a family consisting of two adults of the opposite sex who are married with one or more biological or adopted children. To make this a universal situation this must be true in all societies and it must be the only way in which a family is seen through everyone’s eyes.
When Murdock looked at families he looked at only what he considered to be a family.
He studied only a few societies and anything which he did not find to be a nuclear family he considered a broken nuclear family, e.g. a single parent family could be seen by Murdock as broken as the father was once present and is know, meaning the parents once had a sexual relationship and a child together, putting them in Murdock’s category as a nuclear family.
Kathleen Gough found faults to Murdock’s theory by studying other societies; she studied mainly a South Indian tribe, the Nayar.
The Nayar hade many customs and traditions which would not put them in the category of Murdock’s Nuclear family. They practice polygamy; this is seen as a normal occurrence as it means there is no risk in the population falling.Murdock’s theory would also not apply as he states that the mother and father of the child are to be known, but in the Nayar tribe fathers were not known and it is the brother who takes care of the children’s mother and provides her with financial support. However as this society has disappeared it could be argued that Murdock was right and that not only is the nuclear family universal it is the best family situation.
In Murdock’s view another society, which wouldn’t fit into the nuclear family situation, would be the new world black family, as these types of families from west India often don’t contain any adult male and are mainly revolved around the children and women. Polygyny was also widely spread in this society to ensure there were always children and no decrease in the population. Being mainly a matrifocal society the core unit of the family base is mother and child, it also includes a wide number of aunts, grandmothers and female friends who all help to raise the children, however once again this could be argued to be a broken nuclear family in Murdock’s opinion.This is because the fathers were known in some, not all, situations and the mothers and fathers were once in an relationship, and possibly married, but were separated for a number of reasons, a main one being slavery, the main case was that women and men were split up and the children stayed with there mothers as they were less trouble, and the mothers could still care for them.
The women left in west India were almost always very poor, as they had no man to provide for them, so they had to have a large support group, mainly consisting of female family and friends, creating a generation of ‘independent women’.Another researcher of this was Hannerz, who disagreed with Murdock and said that the nuclear family was no longer the ‘only family’ but the new types of family, such as the new world black family were now ‘accepted and expected’Many other groups would not fit into Murdock’s ‘Nuclear family’ which suggests that he might not be right, another group who would not be in that category is homosexual couples, for the facts that they are not two adults of opposite sex and it is unusual for them to have children of there own, however it is possible in some circumstances such as adoption, or if one of both of the couple has children from a previous relationship, but if one of the partners does have a child from a previous heterosexual relationship it could be seen that there was the basis for a nuclear family and that they could just be part of a broken nuclear family, however this is not the case in most homosexual relationships.There are many other people who see homosexual couples as a variation of the nuclear family, Sidney Callahan suggests that partners in a long-term homosexual relationship would be married if they were legally allowed to therefore making them a family, especially if there are children involved, weeks et al agrees with Callahan and suggests that homosexual relationships with children could be stronger as it is more chosen than a heterosexual relationship.There are also other variations of families which would not come under the ‘Nuclear family’ description, families such as foster families wouldn’t, as the children involvers are neither bio-logical or adopted, this is the same for reconstituted families, as the step parent has no legal relationship to the child/children.
Childless couples would also not fall into the nuclear family category as there are two adults of opposite sex but they do not have children, this is regarded as a bad thing by some sociologists such as Toffler, who talks about the sandwich generation, which is the generation of people in there 50’s and 60’s who have two other generations to take care of, the older generation which needs more medical care as people are living longer, and there children who need more financial support in going to university.Toffler argues that the basic family unit couple, which contradicts Murdock’s, Gough’s and Yanina Sheeran, who argued the basic family core, was the female, ideas.There are also large groups of people who wouldn’t fit into any of these category’s, such as the Kibbutz, where they live in a communities situation rather than a family situation, once again this can however be argued by Murdock’s theory as all of the children know who there parents are and join them regularly for meals. The Mormons are also another example of a alternative family as there is not one couple with many children, a man has many wives as polygamy was popular in some groups of Mormons, so there is no one couple, however all children know who there actually mothers are and the father is obviously known.
There is even many variations of the nuclear family with things such as divorce becoming more common and there is a increasing number of single parent families. Anne Oakley came up with the idea that there is a new variation of the nuclear family, and that Murdock wasn’t necessarily wrong but right for his time. She suggested that, nuclear families are composed of legally married couples choosing voluntarily parenthood, of one or more not too many children.In conclusion the evidence indicates that whether you class a nuclear as universal, it is all dependant on how you define family.
It appears that all societies have a variet of families, it could be argued that all of these come from the original form of a nuclear family, and that all society’s there was no nuclear family have died out. Diana Griffins argued that the relationship was the core to a family, “relationships are universalâ€¦but all forms that these can take are infinitely variable and can be changed and challenged as well as embraced”.
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