In the 1980s New Right thinkers argued that government policy was undermining the family so policy changes were needed. Their thinking dominated policy development from 1979 to 1997.
Like Functionalists, the New Right hold the view that there is only one correct or normal family type. This is the traditional or conventional nuclear family. Again like Functionalists, The New Right sees this family as ‘natural’ and based on fundamental biological differences between men and women. In their view this family is the cornerstone of society; a place of contentment, refuge and harmony. Finally the New Right argue that the decline of the traditional family and the growth of family diversity are the cause of many social problems such as higher crime rates and declining moral standards generally
The New Right believe that it is important for children to have a stable home, with married mother and father, and that ideally the wife should be able to stay at home to look after the children.
They believe that the introduction of the welfare state led to a culture where people depend on hand-outs from the state and that these encourage single parenting, which in turn, they argue leads to deviancy and a decline in morality.
New Right thinking encouraged the conservative government to launch the Back to Basics campaign 1993 to encourage a return to traditional family values. This was criticised for being unsuccessful, and hypocritical due some Conservative MPs being found to be having affairs or being divorced.
Evidence for ‘non-nuclear families’ being a problem
- The rate of family breakdown is much lower amongst married couples (6% compared to 20%)
- Children from broken homes are almost five times more likely to develop emotional problems
- Young people whose mother and father split up are also three times as likely to become aggressive or badly behaved
- Lone-parent families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as two-parent families.
- Children from broken homes are nine times more likely to become young offenders.”
Criticisms of the New Right view of the family
- They exaggerate the decline of the Nuclear family. Most adults still marry and have children. Most children are reared by their two natural parents. Most marriages continue until death. Divorce has increased, but most divorcees remarry.
- Feminism – gender roles are socially determined rather than being fixed by biology. Traditional gender roles are oppressive to women.
- Feminism – divorce being easier is good because without it many women end up being trapped in unhappy or abusive relationships.
- Most single parents are not welfare scroungers – most want to work but find it difficult to find jobs that are flexible enough so they can balance work and child care.
- Chester (see later!) argues that the New Right exaggerate the extent of cohabiting and single parent families – most children still spend most of their lives in a nuclear family arrangement
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Related Posts (both of which criticise The New Right)
The Troubled Families Programme – A current social policy which the New Right agree with
The New Right Perspective on the family is a key part of the families and households module within A-level sociology.