Family and Social Change

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Families and Households : 

Families and Households The family and social change

The Family and Social Change: 

The Family and Social Change There are two main views of the impact of social change on the family structure. The traditional view is supported by sociologists such as Parsons and Goode The contemporary view is supported by sociologists such as Laslett and Anderson

The Traditional View: 

The Traditional View Pre-Industrial Society Agricultural society The extended family dominated Multi functional (health, welfare, education, production) Industrial Society Industrial Society The nuclear family developed Two functions maintained (primary socialisation and stabilisation of adult personalities.)

Traditional View : 

Traditional View Parsons argues that the extended family was more suited to pre-industrial society and agricultural production. Home and work were the same and many hands made light work. During this time there was not a clear cut division of labour between males and females, all got stuck in working on the land. Farms were passed down generations.


Industrialisation Began in the mid 18th century Goods produced in factories using machinery. Urbanisation – movement of the population to urban areas from rural areas.

Industrial Society: 

Industrial Society Nuclear family replaces the extended as dominant family type. Why? Geographic mobility – requirement for families to be small in structure so they can move around to find work. Older members left in agricultural areas as unfit to work in industry. Achieved status – In Industrial society roles and status are achieved – based on individual work/merit, therefore, no longer need to rely on the extended family for work. Structural differentiation – Functions that the extended family once performed now performed by other agencies e.g schools, factories, health service.

The Traditional View Summary: 

The Traditional View Summary The extended family dominated in pre-industrial society. Industrialisation in the mid 18th century led to the development of the nuclear family. The nuclear family is more suited to industrial society and performs two important functions.

The Contemporary View: 

The Contemporary View Further research has been carried out which has cast doubt on the ideas put forward in the traditional view.

The Contemporary view: 

The Contemporary view Laslett Studied parish records of the pre-industrial period. Only 10% of households consisted of extended families. Unlikely that the extended family dominated because people married late and life expectancy was low = unlikely to be three generations to be alive at the same time. However, Were the parish records truthful? Anderson Studied 1851 census data of Preston. Found evidence to cast doubt on the idea the extended family died out as a result of industrialisation. The extended family still existed and particularly important for the working classes. It was a means of financial and emotional support for the poorer members of society. However, only studied one area

The Contemporary View: 

The Contemporary View Further research by two sociologists Young and Willmott found that the extended family did not die out as a result of the industrialisation. Their research of Bethnal green found that it still existed, particularly amongst the working class community. The nuclear family developed much later than Parsons suggests according to Young and Willmott. Young and Willmott established stages of family life.

The Contemporary view: 

The Contemporary view More up to date research by the likes of Finch, Devine and Willmott shows that the extended family still exists today. Albeit in a modified form. The modified extended family exists today.

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