Last Updated on January 16, 2019 by Karl Thompson
This question cam up as part of the families and households option in A level sociology paper 2 (topics in sociology), June 2017.
In the 1950s, most immigrants into the United Kingdom came from Commonwealth countries such as India and Jamaica. More recently, many immigrants have come from European countries such as Poland. May immigrants are young adults seeking work.
These migration patterns have affected household structures.
Applying material from Item C, analyse two ways in which migration patterns have affected household structures in the United Kingdom.
Answer (hints and tips)
Point one – has to be about the variation in Caribbean and Indian household structures… quite easy I think… Of course you could talk about both separately.
Point two – asks that that you talk about more recent structures, drawing on Polish immigration.
What kind of household structures could you discuss?
- Number of people in the household – so single person, or multiple occupancy.
- The relationships between the people in the household – married or not? Friends or families? Ages?
- Gender roles in those households – domestic division of labour
- Numbers of adults and children (e.g. single person households)
- Matrifocal/ Patrifocal household
- The relationships between people in one household and other households (maybe a useful way to demonstrated analysis)
- Generational variations…
So a potential answer might look like this:
Point one – focusing on Caribbean and Indian migration
- Caribbean households – 60% single parent families
- Link to male unemployment/ racism in society
- matrifocal households
- Contrast to Indian households
- Higher rate marriage/ lower rate divorce
- But later generations – divorce more likely
- Discuss Mixed race couples
Point two – focusing on European migration
Almost certainly less you can say about this! But as long as you’ve made the most of the previous point, you could easily get into the top mark band…
- Younger age structure
- More likely to have children and be married
- Higher proportion of married families with children
- Probably more shared-households – younger people without children sharing.
This is a pretty straightforward question on a sub-topic within demography on how migration has affected family life in the U.K. so absolutely fair enough to ask it as a question.
However, it does concern me that the AQA’s online specification explicitly directs teachers to really dated material, and most of the text books focus on this, while this exam question expects students to know about recent events relating to migration and the family which are neither on their online specification or in any of the major A level text books.
I think the AQA needs to relax it’s focus on that really dated material (the classic question on ‘Functionalism and the Family’ in the same paper is a good example of how students are expected to know in-depth this stuff from the 1950s) if it’s going to demand a more contemporary focus.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a contemporary focus, just all that dated material that was such a waste of time students learning (like Pahl and Volger FFS), just in case it came up. This is a real problem because it makes sociology lose credibility, undermining the discipline.
Critics might say this problem emerges from the fact that whoever sets the agenda for the AQA families and households syllabus is something of a timeserver who can’t be bothered to update the specification appropriately by cutting down all the dated material. They might cite as evidence for this the fact that the specification hasn’t really changed significantly in 30 years.
Full answer from the AQA
Below is an example of an abbreviated (by me) marked response to this question, which achieved a top band-mark, 10/10 in fact!
The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website).
The Question with Item
The Mark Scheme (top band only)
Item C points out that most immigrants come to Britain from commonwealth countries such as Jamaica. Bertod did a study of Caribbean families which found a type of individualism: the norm that people had to right to be free within marriage even if they had a child with the other person. This meant many Caribbean fathers chose not to stay with the mother of their children, leading to an increase in lone parent families.
Thus it follows that the increase in Caribbean immigration has lead to an increase in single parent families which is up from 10% in the 1970s to 23% today.
Item C also says that immigrants come from India. A study by Ballard found that South East Asians have collective, traditional values and tight knit extended families which support traditional family values – women having many children and being in the expressive role, and men in the breadwinner role, with close ties to grandparents.
This should mean an increase in traditional extended families in the UK due to Indian immigration, however the statistics do not confirm this as the divorce rate has increased dramatically since the 1970s. This does not support the idea of increased traditional families as these value marriages.
However, functionalists argue that divorce can be healthy as it there is better quality relationships in surviving marriages and remarriages.
- This is overkill, easily 10/10!
- Apparently 4 students died instantly of boredom on seeing the question because of reference to yet more sociology from before their parents were born.
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/2 Topics in Sociology
Published: Autumn 2017
NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them.