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Outline and explain two social changes which may explain the decline of marriage in recent decades (10)

A model answer to a possible 10 mark ‘outline and explain’ question, written for the A-level sociology AQA A-level paper 7192/2: topics within sociology: families and households section).

Question

Outline and explain two social changes which may explain the decline of marriage in recent decades (10) 

outline explain decline marriage.png

Model Answer

The first social factor is in more depth than the second. 

Economic changes such as the increasing cost of housing and the increasing cost of weddings may explain the decline of marriage:

Young adults stay living with their parents longer to save up for a mortgage, often into their 30s. Men especially might feel embarrassed to marry if they still live with their parents, because it’s not very ‘masculine’. This also reflects the importance changing gender roles: now women are taking on the ‘breadwinner role’, there’s no obvious need to marry a man. This applies especially to low income earning, working class men.

Furthermore, it’s often a choice between ‘marriage’ or ‘house deposit’: most people just co-habit because they can’t afford to get married. People would rather by a house because ‘material security’ is more important than the ‘security of marriage’. People also fail to save for weddings because of the pressure to consume in postmodern society. However, this only applies to those who want a big ‘traditional’ wedding, which costs £15K.

The significance of economic factors criticise the postmodernist view that marriage declining is simply a matter of ‘free-choice’.

A Second reason for the decline of marriage is secularisation, or the decline of religion in society.

Christianity, for example emphasises that marriage is a sacred union for life before God, and that sex should only take place within marriage. With the decline of religion, social values have shifted so that it is now acceptable to have sex before marriage, and with more than one partner, meaning that dating, serial monogamy and cohabitation have all replaced marriage to a large extent.

The decline of religion also reflects the fact that marriage today is not about ‘pleasing society’, it is simply about pleasing the two individuals within the relationship, the ‘pure relationship’ is now the norm, and people no longer feel like they need God’s approval of their relationshp, so there is less social pressure to get married.

However, this trend does vary by ethnicity, and Muslims, Hindus and Jews within Britain are all much more likely to get married in a religious ceremony.

Visual Version for social change one:

AQA Sociology exam practice questions 10 marks

Other posts you may find useful:

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The Marxist Perspective on the Family: Revision Notes for A-level Sociology

The Marxist Perspective on the Family: Key points and criticisms for A-level sociology in four pictures:

1. The Marxist Perspective on Society (A Reminder!)

Marxist Perspective Society

2. Engel’s Theory of how The Nuclear Family Emerged with Capitalism (and Private Property)

Engels Family Capitalism Private Property

3. Three Ideological Functions of the Contemporary Nuclear Family

ideological functions family marxism

4. Three Criticisms of the Marxist View of the Family

Criticisms Marxism Family

The Marxist Perspective on the Family: More Detailed Sources

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Man Disconnected #3: Young men in yet more crisis!

Chapter 12: Sour Grapes: Entitlement Versus Reality 

Young men are brought up being told that they can be whatever they can be, without even trying, and one thing which perpetuates this illusion is the education system: grade inflation has taken place over the last decades with more people getting grade As and second class upper degrees than in the past, with less work being done.

At some point, however, young men have to realize the ‘great disappointment’: the moment they realize they are not as able as they think they are. But the problem today is that they haven’t been prepared for this realization through their childhood or adolescence.

Both the cause and effect of this is the online world: boys growing up in unreality, and then retreating further into it when they realize actual reality does not match up to their own perception of themselves.

Chapter 13: The Rise of Women?

The chapter starts with a review of women’s ‘progress’, pointing out that women are increasingly learning to live without men, but that men’s issues need to be taken into account if we are to have a truly equal society – especially where men’s parenting rights are concerned, given that equal numbers of men and women would ‘rather be at home raising a family’ than working, but maternity rights tend to favour women.

The rest of the chapter outlines some of the overlapping issues men and women face dealing with such things as sexuality – Zimbardo and Coulombe outline how women, as well as men, face problems expressing their true feelings, how girls are more obsessed with their online networks than boys, and also how women are negatively affected by unrealistic ideas about romantic relationships portrayed in movies (they expect too much, in short).

The chapter rounds off with an interesting discussion how both men and women are generally not sexually liberated – what has happened since the 1970s is that porn has become liberated, and as a result we are now suffering the ‘Beyonce Effect’: we have certain ideas about what it means to be ‘sexually liberated’ provided to us by the media, but these are actually quite narrow and shallow ideas about sexuality.

Chapter 14: Patriarchy Myths

This chapter starts by suggesting that men are actually disadvantaged by patriarchy: men are effectively socialised into being more responsible than women: and the reason more men do STEM subjects and have higher paying careers is because they are brought up thinking it is their role to provide.

We may have equal rights, but men are expected to do more – at least according to male socialisation.

Evidence that men suffer more than women in society:

In the final sections of this chapter Zimbardo outlines how men have worse lives than women in the following respects:

  • Men die earlier than women
  • Men suffer from bottling up emotions
  • The amount of sexual violence experienced by men from men and women is under-reported, and not treated seriously. And, as role reversal takes place, this is likely to increase.
  • Men have higher incarceration rates than women
  • The pay gap is justified because men do riskier jobs than women.
  • Gender equal relationships are lower quality for both men and women.

NB – He doesn’t actually deny that women have issues to, so this isn’t exactly anti-feminist!

Chapter 15 – Economic Downturn

Basically the cost of living has increased, and young men, especially those with little education see no prospects of every being able to be the breadwinner, so now they don’t bother with relationships!

 

 

 

 

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Hijabs in Schools: Fostering Division?

In 2017, St Stephen’s School in Newham banned the wearing of the Hijab for girls under 8. The Head Teacher, Neena Lall, did so because she hoped the ban would help pupils better integrate into society.

However, following a backlash from parents and Muslim community leaders,she reversed the decision last week. She apparently received a ‘barrage of abuse’ and was accused by some of being Islamophobic.

Writing in The Guardian, Iman Amrani says that she use to hate being made to wear the headscarf by her parents at weekends when she studied at Saturday Madrasa, and would tear it off as soon as she left because she didn’t want any kids from her regular school seeing her in it and asking questions, however she also says she understood that her parents made her wear it to instill in her a sense of her identity, and can understand why Muslim parents would feel affronted by a headscarf ban.

Possibly the strongest arguments against the Muslim critics of Neena Lall is that Islam doesn’t require women to wear the hijab until they reach puberty, and there are plenty of Muslims themselves who campaign against girls being ‘forced’ to wear the headscarf, so why avoid creating unnecessary divisions at a young age and just girls be free from this dress code until then?

 

It may be (following labelling theory to an extent here) that what the backlash against Neena Lall was really about was against OFSTED’s divisive words recently when Amanda Spielman gave a speech defending Lall’s decision in which she warned of people using schools to ‘narrow young people’s horizons… and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.’

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Women of the World Festival

The Women of the World Festival (WOW), or to give it its full title – The Women of the World Festival for Women Who Can Afford a £20 Day Ticket, makes for a nice little day-trip for A-level sociology students, assuming they can afford the >£20 ticket for the day.

The Festival allows students to listen to talks and engage in discussions on all sorts of topics relevant to the A-level sociology syllabus, and this year’s agenda (focusing on the Friday) is especially relevant: with focus groups on both education and crime and deviance, not to mention a ‘gamalan’ workshop.

I would say see you there, but I let the two women I work with organise this trip, so you’ll see there if you fancy it! I’ve heard it’s a great day out.

It runs Weds 7th to Sunday 11th March, in 2018..

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Man Disconnected #2: Why are young men in crisis?

Man Disconnected by Zimbardo and Coulombe is about the challenges young men face in our technological age. This post summarizes chapters 8-10. 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might also like…

  1. Man Disconnected summary part 1: which deals with the evidence of the problems faced by young men today.
  2. Man Disconnected summary part 3: why are young men in crisis #2 (chapter 11) – technology enchantment and arousal addiction
  3. Man Disconnected summary part 4: why are young men in crisis? #3 (chapters 12-15)
  4. Man Disconnected summary part 5: solutions to the crisis of masculinity (chapters 16-21)

Chapter 8: Rudderless Families, Absent Dads

Today, children are brought up with much less contact with adults: they used to be surrounded by extended families, but today the average household size is just below 3 in the US and 2.4 in the UK, and on top of this, the typically teacher pupil ratio at school is 1:20.

It’s not just quantity of contacts, but quality: something like 50% of households feel the ‘time pinch’ to the extent that they cannot find time to sit down to meals together on most days of the week.

Zimbardo also cites the tired evidence on the increasing number of children being brought up in cohabiting households, which have twice the break up rate of married households, and the fact that today about 1/3rd of US children and ¼ of UK children are brought up in single parent (mainly mother) households.

Declining trust

In the US trust in the general public has declined so much that we no longer even trust the nannies we employ to look after our kids – as evidenced by the increasing sales of ‘nanny cams’.

The percentage of people reporting that most people can be trusted has fallen from 55% in 1960 to  32% in 2009.

Zimbardo now seems to link declining trust to divorce, citing evidence that divorced people have lower immune systems than married people (yes, there are measurable physiological effects!)

He focuses first on the effects of divorce on separated mums and their children: arguing that only around 25% of single mums report that they are happy, half the number of married women. He also argues that girls brought up in single parent households are given mixed messages – that they should put their kids first, and get a career, but there are hardly any examples of people who successfully do both!

He then turns the effects on the separated dads: who have a suicide rate 10 times higher than divorced women, suggesting that the typical experience is for them to spend time working for someone else, who is now distanced from them, and basically having to ‘suck this up’ because they are conditioned to not seek help from anyone.

High divorce rates makes children who experience them think differently about relationships – he cites Vaillant’s famous Longitudinal Harvard Study as an example of the negative effects….suggesting that such children are suspicious of relationships (they are less likely to trust adults!) yet they are still caught up thinking that stable monogamous relationships are for everyone (thanks to Disney).  

Zimbardo finishes off with the usual trawl through the ‘problems’ which the decline of the nuclear family create for society – arguing that countries with more stable families (basically a prosperous society is based on the nuclear family seems to be his argument) are correlated with higher employment rates, more wealth generation, better qualifications and lower obesity levels. Although he cites Charles Murray as part of his evidence.

Boys are affected relatively more than girls by family break up

The USA leads the way in fatherlessness, and for those who do have fathers, the  average school boy spends just 30 minutes a week in conversation with his father, compared to around 44 hours in front of screens.

Zimbardo basically goes on to make the argument that boys need father figures – but that way too many of the current generation are missing out on this – boys are growing up thinking that ‘being male’ effectively means avoiding parenting (this is something mothers do); he cites further evidence that men are basically afraid of hanging out with teenage boys.

Boys need men to offer reassurance and guidance, but they are less likely to get it now than in the past.

This is further compounded by the fact that girls have been taught how to evolve into both traditionally male and female roles, but boys have no role models to teach them how to evolve into both roles either: and when they fail at the traditional male role, as they increasingly go, they are left in the shit.

This problem is further compounded by the lack of positive male role models in the media, and especially porn, which offers teenage boys instant gratification with no need to learn how to communicate.

Chapter 9: Failing schools

Education systems are failing our boys.

The general gist here is that schools focus on ‘academics’ which require children to sit still and focus for longer periods of time, and they require this from a younger and younger age. This disadvantages boys because boys mature later than girls, and they are thus turned of learning, which explains why boys end up with worse GCSE results than girls and for the dramatic increase in female graduates compared to males since the 1960s.

Then there’s the fact that school play times have been cut and that hardly any teachers are male, all of which has resulted in a gynocentric education system which is increasingly shaped in the interests females, and works against male achievement.

Zimbardo offers up Montessori style education as an alternative.

Finally, Zimbardo suggests that we need to start educating our children about sex properly from the ages of 10-11, rather than leaving it to the porn industry!

Environmental Changes

In this chapter Zimbardo makes the argument that toxic chemicals in a whole range of day to day products (such as tins) are causing endocrinal (hormonal) disruption, resulting in increasing health problems for men: such as higher rates of testicular cancer and a lower sperm counts.

In order to back up his claims, Zimbardo cites a range of evidence from studies on animals who have been exposed to toxic chemicals over the long term, and admits the effects of chemicals on human biology remain inconclusive.

He rounds off the chapter by suggesting that many harmful chemicals are built up in body fat tissues, and we don’t really know what the effects of the release of these when (if?) fat cells get broken down will be.

All in all this is something of a speculative chapter.

 

 

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Grid Girls go Off-Grid for Good

Formula one is getting rid of its grid-girls: the scantily clad, typically young attractive women who hold up a card telling  drivers where to start.

Most Feminist leaning commentators, such as Janet Street Porter, see this as progress for gender equality and women’s rights: employing women just as ‘eye candy for men’ or ‘set dressing’ is just another example of sexism in which women are ‘valued’ merely for their looks, and is thus just another example of the objectification of women. Also being given the boot is the leering and bum-pinching from male mechanics which goes along with the job, according to Beverly Turner who covered the sport between 2001 to 2003.

However, writing in the Sunday Times, Camilla Long criticizes middle class Feminists for effectively ‘slut shaming’ the grid-girls, and effectively dismissing their working-class sister’s right to choose.

Meanwhile, some of the grid-girls themselves aren’t particularly happy about their chosen careers being given the axe either: Rebecca Cooper, for example, argues that it’s their choice to do what they do, most of them are fans of the sport, and the whole cat-calling thing: you get that everywhere in life anyway.

Finally, it’s worth reflecting on where we stand on women using their sexuality to make money more generally: if we are in the camp which thinks sex-work and pornography are ‘empowering for women’, we are going to have to be pretty nuanced in our critique of Grid-Girls!

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Who are the alt-right?

The Unite the Right Ralley in Charlotsville back in August 2017 was attended by various right wing groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Skin heads, Neo-Nazis and various Militias, but the most newly formed in attendance, the so-called ‘alt right’, a disparate group of clean cut, smartly dressed, young white men, the latest ‘wave’ of white U.S. white nationalists who are unafraid to express their racist views.

The alt-right is an eclectic, decentralized movement of extreme-conservative, who want a white-only ethno-state: they mainly operate online, via forums such as Reddit and 4chan, sharing memes which support Donald Trump and Hitler, as well as those disparaging Barrack Obama.

But who are these young men, and how do they develop their racist views?

This article in the Washington Post is based on interviews with six young men, tracing their trajectories as members of the alt-right. The following themes stand out:

  1. Many self-radicalised on the internet, finding others with similar views, and they went through stages of meeting others at local and regional meetings and gradually learnt not be ashamed of their racist views.
  2. Thought most members don’t blame impersonal economic factors, many feel that there are no jobs for white people any more – they go to Walmart and McDonalds and see mainly ethnic minorities working in such places.
  3. There are also deeper ‘structural reasons’ – the decline of factor jobs, and the feeling of being left behind, having had the ladder kicked away, and feelings of loneliness and alienation.

NB – these are just the stand-out factors, there are also middle-class people in the movement.

The Charlotsville Rally represented a culmination of a movement that’s been brewing for years online, many drove hundreds, some thousands of miles to get there, possibly emboldened by Donald Trump, they came armed for violence, and of course were met by it.

Whatever you think of the alt-right, the underlying causes which have given rise to it, and the communications networks which maintain it aren’t going anywhere, so I think we can expect this to be a potent force in US politics for years to come.

NB – It reminds me of the kind of white nationalism expressed by the BNP, but just a step-up!

 

 

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A-level sociology numbers on the rise

More people took A-level sociology in 2017 than in any of the previous 15 years.

According to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), a total of 34.007 took A-level sociology in 2017, compared to a total of 22, 720 candidates who took the qualification back in 2002, which represents a 53% rise in the discipline over 15 years.

In terms of gender, 77% of candidates were female compared to 23% male, which has remained stable over the years. The proportion of students receiving an A grade has fluctuated somewhat between 4.1% and 5.6%.

HOWEVER, sociology has not grown as quickly as its two major ‘sister disciplines’:

Political Studies has seen a 100% rise from 8770 to 17, 523 between 2002 to 2017, while Psychology numbers have grown by 69% from 34, 611 to 58, 663, over the same period.

Sources

BSA Network, issue 137

 

 

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Is Capitalism on the Wane?

John Mcdonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor today announced Labour’s plans to renationalise the railways and many other public utilities at no cost to the public.

Does this mean that Jeremy Corbyn’s rejection of contemporary capitalism is now the new mainstream, and/ or does this represent the end of Capitalism as we know it?

It does seem that Capitalism has become something of a dirty word ever since the financial crash of 2008, and in a recent poll, most British people regard capitalism as ‘greedy, selfish, and corrupt’; and many are more sympathetic towards socialism, and favor the renationalisation of the railways and utilities.

 

However, the ideological scare-mongers are out, claiming that re-nationalisation will be far from free, and it will be interesting to see how much genuine public appetite there is for bringing back services into public ownership!