The Sex Map of Britain is a very interesting recent documentary series which ‘meets people for whom sex, sexuality and having children is far from straightforward.
The series covers the following topics:
The reality of being a ‘cheap prostitute’ – selling sex for as little as £4.
Why some people choose a career in porn.
Asexuality – why some people just don’t want sex.
Transgender escorts and parenting urges.
The journey of freezing eggs and ‘alternatives’ to IVF.
And a trip behind the scenes of a sexual health clinic.
Unfortunately the episode on polyamory has disappeared.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is a terrific series to get students to explore the wonderful diversity of relationships and sexuality in postmodern society, and taken together, this collection clearly illustrates the postmodern view of modern family life – that there’s no longer such a thing as a ‘normal’ family or relationship!
There are nine available episodes available on iplayer for the next 10 months, and, suitably for a documentary series which explores the diversity of family life in postmodern society, they are all nice and short, so perfect for postmodern students with postmodern attention spans (i.e. short ones).
Both Functionalist and Marxist Sociologists theorised that the nuclear family was central to most people’s experiences in modern industrial society. However, recent research has suggested that postmodern societies are characterised by a plurality, or diversity, of household and family types, and so the idea of a dominant or normal family type is now misleading.
The cereal packet image of the family
In the 1980s Feminist Sociologist Ann Oakley (1982) described the image of the typical or ‘conventional’ family. She said, ‘conventional families are nuclear families composed of legally married couples, voluntarily choosing the parenthood of one or more (but not too many) children. Leach (1967) called this the ‘cereal packet image of the family’ because this image is the prominent in advertising, especially with ‘family sized’ products such as boxes of cereal.
Deborah Chambers (2001) argues that in the 1950s, English speaking countries developed ideas about sexuality, intimate relationships, living arrangements, reproduction and socialisation of children that were all based on the white middle class nuclear family, the image of which was prominent in the media at that time, and a number of comedies derived their humour from showing families which did not fit this norm, such as the Adam’s Family.
Chambers argues that there have also been a number of media-induced moral panics concerning non-nuclear families – especially single parent families, and concludes that many people lived under the spell of the ideology of the nuclear family well beyond the 1950s, and many of us still live under it today, holding this up as the ‘ideal family type’.
However, a considerable body of Feminist inspired research has shown that the idealised image of the cereal packet family is something of a myth: firstly, once we factor in the extent of female dissatisfaction in traditional relationships, the rates of domestic abuse, and the number of empty shell marriages, the reality is not as ideal as it appears in the media, and secondly, even the 1950s there were a range of different family types in society, but these have been under-represented in the media.
As early as 1978 (the year before Margaret Thatcher was elected to power) Robert and Rhona Rapoport (1982) drew attention to the fact that that only 20% of families in Britain consisted of married couples with children in which there was a single breadwinner, and thus argued that the cereal packet family was a myth.
In 1989 the Rapoports argued that increasing family diversity was a global trend, a view supported by a study of family life in Europe which found that increasing divorce, decreasing marriage and an increase in household diversity were a Europe-wide phenomenon.
In 2015 it is even harder to maintain the idea that the nuclear family is ‘normal’, let alone ‘ideal’, because It is clear that we live in an increasingly diverse society, and families and households are more diverse today than in any other period of British History.
The table below shows how family diversity has increased in the UK between 1961 and 2010. Unfortunately this is the most recent time the Office for National Statistics displayed the long-term 50 year trend, more recent stats only show the 10 year trend:
Unfortunately, in A level Sociology it is simply not good enough to be able to identify the fact that the number of single person households and single parent families are increasing at the expense of ‘nuclear family’ households, you need to be much more analytical – In other words you need to be able to discuss diversification in much more depth.
The Rapoport’s Five Types of Family Diversity
The Rapoports (1982) identified five distinct elements of family diversity in the UK. Read the definitions of the different types of diversity and complete the table below.
Organisational diversity refers to variations in family structure, household type, and differences in the division of labour within the home. For example, there are differences between conventional families, one parent families and dual-worker families, in which both partners work. Also included within this type of diversity are reconstituted families, which are the result of divorce and re-partnering or remarriage and can take on a number of different organisational forms.
The Rapoports also identified significant variations by ethnicity – In the case of South Asian families, both Hindu and Muslim, there was a tendency for the families to be more traditional and patriarchal, and extended families were also more likely. They also found that that African Caribbean households were much more likely to matrifocal (or centred around the mother rather than the father), a fact reflected in the much higher rates of single parent families amongst African Caribbean households.
The Rapoports also found differences between working class and middle class families in terms of how children were socialised (middle class families are much more pro-school for example) and in terms of support-networks – Working class families were more likely to be embedded within a modified extended family network (having aunts/ uncles/ grandparents living nearby, but not in the same house) whereas middle class families were much more likely to be isolated, reflecting the increased geographical mobility of wealthier families.
The above differences existed between working class and the middle class families in the 1950s, but if anything had lessened by the 1980s. However, by that time The New Right was arguing that the Welfare State had given rise to a new class – The Underclass, with more families being long term unemployed and higher numbers of lone parents on benefits.
Life course Diversity
There are also differences which result from the stage of the life cycle of the family. Newly married couples without children, for example, have a different family life to those whose children have achieved adult status. One point to try and keep in mind here is that individuals today go through more stages of the life-course than they would have done in the 1950s.
A cohort of individuals refers to those born in the same year (or band of years). Such individuals may well have a shared experience of historical events which could have influenced their family life. For example, couples entering into marriage in the 1950s would have had an expectation that marriage was for life and traditional gender roles were the norm, but by the 1980s, all of this had changed.
Trends in Family Diversity since the 1980s – Even Greater Diversification?
The two sets of thinkers below believe that the Rapaport’s system of classification doesn’t accurately describe the diversity of modern relationships and family life. Allan and Crow and Beck-Gernsheim argue that increasing individualisation (more individual choice) has led to even more diverse families since the 1980s
Allan and Crow (2001): Continuing Diversification
‘In an important sense there is no such thing as ‘the family’. There are many different families; many different family relationships; and consequently many different family forms. Each family develops and changes over time as its personnel develop and change’ (Allan and Crow 2001)
Graham Allan and Graham Crow (2001) commented on a continuing trend towards the diversification of family types. They argue there is now ”far greater diversity in people’s domestic arrangements’ so that there is no longer a clear ‘family cycle’ through which most people pass.” That is, most people no longer pass through a routine series of stages in family life whereby they leave home, get married, move in with their spouse and have children who in turn leave home themselves. Instead, each individual follows a more unpredictable family course, complicated by cohabitation, divorce, remarriage, periods of living alone and so on.
This diversity is based on increased choice. Allan and Crow say that individuals and families are now more able to exercise choice and personal volition over domestic and familial arrangements: their options are no longer constrained by convention or economic need.
Allan and Crow identify the following demographic changes as contributing to increased family diversity:
The divorce rate has risen. This has affected most countries in the Western world, not just Britain.
Lone parent households have increased in number. This is partly due to increased divorce, but also because pregnancy is no longer automatically seen as requiring legitimation through marriage.
Cohabitation outside marriage is increasingly common. In the early 1960s only 1/20 women lived with her husband before marriage, now 1/2 do.
Marriage rates have declined. This is partly because people are marrying later, but lifetime marriage rates also appear to have declined.
A big increase in the number of step families also appears to have increased family diversity.
Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim – Individualisation, Diversity and Lifestyle Choice
‘It is no longer possible to pronounce in some binding way what family, marriage, parenthood, sexuality, or love mean, what they should or could be; rather these vary in substance, norms and morality from individual to individual and from relationship to relationship.’ (Beck-Gernsheim 2002)
Beck-Gernsheim takes the idea of diversification even further than Allan and Crow. She argues that relationships and family life are so diverse that there are no longer any clear norms about what a modern relationship should consist of, let alone what a modern family should look like. Two pieces of evidence she cites for this are as follows:
In terms of relationships, Beck-Gernsheim points out that people today call their relationships different things – there are fewer ‘married’ couples and more ‘partners’ or just ‘couples’ – in the past we had an idea of what marriage meant, today it less clear what being part of a ‘couple’ or ‘living with a ‘partner’ actually means. She also points out being ‘coupled up’ doesn’t even necessarily involve living together, as the increasing amount of ‘Living Apart Together’ (LAT) relationships testifies to.
Where families are concerned, Beck argues that the increase in divorce and higher rates of breakdown amongst cohabitating families has resulted in the rise of the ‘patchwork family’ in which adults go through life with a series of different partners, which greatly adds to the complexity of family life (as in Judith Stacy’s Divorce Extended Family). In such family settings, one person may regard particular family members as forming part of their family, while other members living in the same household may define their family as consisting of different people. For example, children may or may not regard half-brothers and step-sisters as a part of their family, they may lose contact with one parent after divorce, and yet retain contact with all grandparents.
Interestingly, Beck-Gernsheim argues that modern reproductive technologies are changing our ideas about family life altogether – children of donor families effectively have three parents, for example, while women can choose to freeze their eggs in their 30s, allowing them to have children in their 40s or 50s once they are more financially secure – leading to more ‘single parents by choice’.
According to Beck-Gernsheim, increasing individualisation (increasing amounts of individual choice) has resulted in such an array of relationships and family-forms that it is impossible to define what the family is or should be any more, and this also makes a return to the norm of the traditional nuclear family very unlikely.
Haralambos and Holborne: Sociology Themes and Perspectives
Robb Webb: First Year A Level Sociology text book.
Functionalist sociologists tended to define the family as consisting of two parents in a committed relationship,living together with their children. Postmodern and other sociologists have much broader definitions.
Sociologists do not agree on one standard definition of ‘the family’.
Functionalist sociologists traditionally used narrow definitions of the family, in which the family unit had to consist of a man and a woman in a committed sexual relationship living together with their children.
More contemporary Postmodern sociologists prefer much broader definitions of the family which extend the concept to include anyone an individual thinks of as being ‘part of the family’, such as friends or even pets.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ definition of the family, but you do need to know how sociologists define the family to really understand their perspective on the family, and to be able to evaluate the different perspectives.
The rest of this introductory post explores how the concept of ‘the family’ has been used by different sociologists, and aims to get you thinking about what the family is.
Functionalist Sociologist George Peter Murdock used the following definition of the family as a starting point in his classic cross national study of families in more than 250 societies.
‘A social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults’ (Murdock, 1949).
Today, many Sociologists criticise the above definition of the family as being too narrow because (both today and historically) too many groups of people who regard themselves as a family would not be included in the above definition, such as reconstituted or step-families and same sex families.
For example, The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘the family’ as ‘a group consisting of one or two parents and their children’. (1)
The above definition includes step-families, single parent families and doesn’t even mention sex or sexual orientation of the parents, so includes same-sex families too.
One way around the problem of defining a family is to distinguish carefully between different ‘family arrangements’ when we discuss them. It is also generally good practice to define your concepts tightly when writing and essay or before conducting research.
There is nothing wrong with limiting your research or analysis to just one specific type of family below, you just need to make sure you are clear about limiting your discussion. (It’s often necessary to focus more tightly just for the sake of time!)
Different types of family
Some of the most common family types in modern Britain include.
The Nuclear Family – two parents with biological children living in one household.
The reconstituted family – two partners living in one household sharing parental duties for one or more children, but only one of them is the biological parent.
The single parent family – one adult with one or more children living in one household
The extended family – where relatives such as uncles/ aunts or grandparents reside permanently in the same household as those making up the nuclear family.
Postmodern definitions of the family
Because of the diversity within family life in contemporary Britain, post-modern thinkers suggest that it is better to use a broader definition of ‘thefamily’, which includes a range of family types – one suggested definition of the family is ‘a group of people who are related by either blood or marriage/ similar form of committed relationship’
Because of the problems of defining the family it is often easier to analyse families in terms of households (NB – The module you’re all studying is called families and households, we just tend to abbreviate it to the ‘families’ module)
A household is much easier to define than a family – A household is simply a group of people who share a residence in common and share such things as meals, bills, facilities or chores, or one person living alone. Of course, families can spread themselves across many households!
Case study: the Rainbow Family of Light
Have a look at the case study below, do you think this group of people is a ‘family’?
The Rainbow Family was created out of the Vortex gathering in Oregon from August 28 to September 3, 1970. Inspired in large part by the first Woodstock Festival.
Those who attend Rainbow Gatherings usually share an interest in intentional communities, ecology and new age spirituality. Attendees refer to one another as “brother”, “sister”, or the gender neutral term, “sibling.” Attendance is open to all interested parties and decisions are reached through group meetings leading to some form of group consensus.
The organization is a loose, international affiliation of individuals who have a stated goal of trying to achieve peace and love on earth. There are no official leaders or structure, no official spokespersons, and no formalized membership. Strictly speaking, the only goals are set by each individual, as no individual can claim to represent all Rainbows in word or deed.
You might also like this video…
I think it shows one of the activities these people get up to during their gatherings, a good old sing song!
Question: is the family rainbow of light a family?
Think carefully about this – if you do then it means that practically any group of friends with close emotional ties should be called a family, but is this really what me mean when we use the term ‘family’? Or should sociologists limit themselves to studying families in the more traditional sense of the word?
Defining the family… why it matters…
You can only really get your head around perspectives on the family if you understand how different perspectives define the family differently!
Ultimately, how you define the family will determine how you conclude any essay within the families and households module!
This post summaries some of the changing trends (and continuities) in family and household structure in the UK, using data from the Office for National Statistics which collects a range of data annually on families and households in the UK
In 2015 there were 18.7 million families in the UK
The most common family type in 2015 was the married or civil partner couple family with or without dependent children at 12.5 million
The cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015, reaching 3.2 million cohabiting couple families
In 2015 around 40% of young adults aged 15 to 34 in the UK were living with their parents
There were 27.0 million households in the UK in 2015, 35% of all households were two person households
In 2015 there were 7.7 million people in UK households who were living alone
Changes to families and households 2005 – 2015
Changes to Family Households
There has been a significant increase in the number of cohabiting couples, both with and without children, and a slight increase in lone parent households. The number of married couple households both with and without children has remained stable, which means that the overall picture is one of a slight trend towards increasing family diversity and away from marriage.
2. Marriage and Cohabitation Trends
The chart below clearly shows the slight decline in married households compared to cohabiting and single parent households, but there are still almost three times as many married households compared to cohabiting households!
3. Family Size
Family size appears to have remained pretty stable over the past 15 years
4. Households Size in the UK
We have quite a small average households size in the UK – with two and one person households making up around two thirds of all households.
5.Multi Family Households
Given that they’re starting from a small base, there has been a significant ten year increase in multi family households – households with two or more families in, an increase of one third in twenty years.
6. The increase in People Living Alone
There has been a slow and steady increase in the overall numbers of people living alone, but this varies a lot by age – generally the number of older people living alone has increased, the number of younger people living alone has decreased.
Why are increasing numbers of people all over the world living alone? (Scroll down for a video summary)
According to a recent book by Eric Klinenberg: Explaining the Rise of Solo Living, this is a global phenomenon and mainly reflects the increasing degree of individual choice that comes with increasing wealth.
A review of the trends in Single Person Households
29% of UK Households are single person households.
Most people who live alone are 65+ and increasing numbers of those aged 45-60 are living alone. However, the numbers of younger people living alone are declining (so Wayne in the video above is actually wrong when he says solo living is on the increase among younger people!)
A Summary of Going Solo by Klinenberg
Klinenberg argues that the rise of solo living is an extremely important social trend which presents a fundamental challenge to the centrality of the family to modern society. In the USA, the average adult will now spend more of their life unmarried than married, and single person households are one of the most common types of household. We have entered a period in social history where, for the first time, single people make up a significant proportion of the population.
Eric Klinenberg spent seven years interviewing 300 single Americans who lived alone, and the general picture he got was that these people were exactly where they wanted to be – living on their own was not a transitory phase, it was a genuine life choice. On the whole, living alone is seen as a mark of social distinction, living as part of a couple is for losers.
While single by choice is very much on the up among younger people who have never settled down into a long term cohabiting relationships and have no intention of doing so, it is also the norm among older people who have come out of relationships. Where older people living alone are concerned, and these are mostly women, they are not all chasing the dwindling population of men in their age group (given the higher life expectancy for women). Most of them are in fact wary of getting involved in relationships because doing so will probably mean becoming someone’s carer (again), and similarly they are skeptical about moving back in with their children (and possibly their grandchildren too) because of fear that they will become an unpaid domestic and child-sitting slave.
NB, as a counter to the above, not all singles are happy about it, however. One such group consists of mainly men on low wages who are unmarriageable and live in ‘single room occupancy facilities’ often suffering from various addictions and who practice ‘defensive individualism’ in order to cope with their bleak situation.
So how do we account for this increasing in single person households?
Klinenberg suggests four reasons…
The wealth generated by economic growth and the social security provided by the modern welfare state – the basic thesis is that the rise of single living is basically just a reflection of increasing wealth. When we can afford to live alone, more of us choose to do so. We especially see this where Scandinavia is concerned, and nearly half of the adult population live alone.
The communications revolution – For those who want to live alone, the internet allows us to stay connected. An important part of his thesis is that just because we are increasingly living alone, this doesn’t mean that we are becoming a ‘society of loners’.
Mass urbanization – Klinenberg suggests that Subcultures thrive in cities, which tend to attract nonconformists who are able to find others like themselves in the dense variety of urban life. In short, it’s easier to connect with other singles where people live closer together.
Increased longevity – because people are living longer than ever and because women often outlive their spouses by decades rather than years — aging alone has become an increasingly common experience.
Video version of some the above.
In the video below, Wayne discusses his motivations for ‘going solo’ with his friend Archie, and together they explore some of the reasons for the increase in single person households.
To what extent do you think Kleinberg’s findings apply to the increase in Solo Living in the UK?
What other ‘deeper’ Sociological reasons might explain the increase in Solo Living?
Do you agree that the rise of Solo Living challenges the centrality of the family in modern society?
The personal life perspective on the family is essentially an Interactionist perspective and makes two basic criticisms of structural perspectives such as Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism’. Carol Smart is the main thinker associated with this perspective.
‘They tend to assume that the traditional nuclear family is the dominant type of family. This ignores the increased diversity of families today. Compared with 50 years ago, many more people now live in other families, such as lone-parent families and so on.
They are all structural theories. That is, they assume that families and their members are simply passive puppets manipulated by the structure of society to perform certain functions – for example, to provide the economy with a mobile labour force, or serve the needs of capitalism or of men.
The Sociology of Personal life is strongly influenced by Interactionist ideas and contrasts with structural theories. Sociologists from this perspective believe that in order to understand families, we must start from the point of view of the individuals concerned and the meanings they give to their relationships.’
Carol Smart: ‘Personal Life: New Directions in Sociological Thinking’
Carol Smart is the main person associated with this perspective. She has become frustrated by the fixation of many commentators with the supposed decline of the possibility of family life. She rejects many of the assumptions about the decline of family life found in theories of individualisation by authors such as Beck and Beck Gernsheim and Giddens.
Instead, her approach prioritises the bonds between people, the importance of memory and cultural heritage, the significance of emotions (both positive and negative), how family secrets work and change over time, and the underestimated importance of things such as shared possessions or homes in the maintenance and memory of relationships.
‘By focusing on people’s meanings, Carol Smart’s personal life perspective draws our attention to a range of other personal or intimate relationships that are important to people, even though they may not be conventionally defined as family. These include all kinds of relationships that individuals see as significant and give them a sense of identity, relatedness and belonging, such as:
Relationships with friends who might be like a sister or a brother to you.
Fictive kin: close friends who are treated as relatives, for example your mum’s best friend who you call your ‘auntie’
Gay and lesbian ‘chosen families’ made up of a supportive network of close friends, ex partners and others who are not related by marriage or blood
Relationships with dead relatives who live on in people’s memories and continue to shape their identities and affect their actions
Even relationships with pets. For example, Becky Tiper (2011) found in her study of children’s views of family relationships, that children frequently saw their pets as ‘part of the family’
In short – The Family is not in decline, it is just very very different and much more diverse and complex than ever before.
Evaluation of the Personal Life Perspective
‘It helps us to understand how people themselves construct and define their relationships as ‘family’ rather than imposing traditional sociological definitions of the family from the outside.
However, taking the personal life perspective can be accused to taking too broad a view. Critics argue that by including a wide range of personal relationships, we ignore what is special about relationships that are based on blood or marriage.
The personal life perspective rejects the top down view taken by other perspectives, such as functionalism but it does see intimate relationships as performing the important function of providing us with a sense of belonging and relatedness
However, unlike functionalism the personal life perspective recognises that relatedness is not always positive’
If you like this sort of thing then you might like this – over 50 pages of accessible, user friendly, exam-focused notes for only £0.99* – from iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2011, nearly 3.0 million adults aged between 20 and 34 were living with a parent or parents, an increase of almost half a million, or 20 per cent, since 1997. This is despite the number of people in the population aged 20 to 34 being largely the same in 1997 and 2011. This means that nearly 1/3 men and 1/7 women in the UK now live with their parents.
If you look at just 30 somethings, however, then the numbers drop to just 5% of women and 10% of men living with their parents
However – Not all ‘Kippers*’ are the same! (*Kids living in their parents’ pockets)
It is important to keep in mind that not all ‘adult kids’ are the same; experiences of living at home with your parents into your 30s will vary.
For example, the experience of being a NEET and living at home with your parents may well be different to being one of the ‘Boomerang Kids’ – who move out to go to university but then move back in with their parents afterwards
Some adult kids would have lived at home continuously, but many would have moved out for a period with a partner, and then moved back in again.
Adult-Kids will also vary as to the extent to which they are forced into living with their parents due to financial reasons, or choose to do so for ‘lifestyle reasons’.
Experiences will also differ depending on parental attitudes to having their adult children living with them.
2. Why are increasing numbers of ‘adult children’ living with their parents?
Many commentators stress that young adults have no choice but to live with their parents, focusing on structural (mainly economic) reasons that force people to live with their parents.
The following structural changes mean it is harder for young people to transition to independent living.
The massive expansion in higher education has seen the number of undergraduate students triple since 1970, from 414,000 to 1.27 million – this means more young adults are not in work and economically dependent on their parents for longer.
The recent recession has been accompanied by a sharp increase in unemployment rates among young adults,” This means that recent graduates, especially men, are increasingly returning to live with their parents after graduating. Their numbers are being swelled by the increasing levels of student debt they have accumulated by the time they finish their studies.
Then there are changes in the housing market. Even those in work cannot afford to move out of the family home as first-time buyers now face house prices that are, on average, five times average incomes, compared with a multiple of three times 20 years ago.
However, there are also cultural changes which mean young adults are more likely to choose to live with their parents even when they could move out.
There is more uncertainty about what a ‘normal relationship’ is. Changing roles of men and women and changing expectations of relationships and family life result in young people being more reluctant to settle down in a classic long term relationship.
The meaning of ‘being 20 something is different today to what it was in the 1970s. Today, we simply want to ‘settle down’ later in life – 20s have become about ‘pulling and dating’, ‘30s about serious long term relationships, and late 30s about children. Of those 20 somethings who do flee the parental nest, they are increasingly likely to either live alone or share with friends. The number of young couple households has been decreasing in recent years.
The increasing number of ‘kippers’ might also be linked to the increasing instability of relationships. There are plenty of late 20s and 30 somethings who have previously moved in with a partner for a few years, suffered a relationship breakdown, ended up back with their parents and are now reluctant to recommit!
Item 1 – Middle class couples are more likely to get married than working class couples
The proportion of people in the highest social class who are married has increased to more than two-thirds in the past ten years. This marks a reverse of an earlier decline in marriage rates. But among those defined as working class fewer than 45 per cent are married.
Item 2 – According to the stats, poor teens are much more likely to get pregnant and have babies than rich teens
According to The Poverty Site, teenage motherhood is eight times as common amongst those from manual social background as for those from managerial and professional backgrounds.
Also, the underage conception rate is highest in the North East of England. Its rate of 11 per 1,000 girls aged 13 to 15 compares to 6 per 1,000 in the region with the lowest rate.
Item 3 – Middle class women have their first babies ten years later than working class women…. According to research from the Uni of Southampton, half of women born in 1958 who obtained no educational qualifications had a child by the age of 22, while for those with degrees the age was 32.
This means that the term ‘generation’ could actually mean different things to different classes.
I’ll repopulate what’s below with links when I get a chance!
Data from the latest (2011) census shows that 86% of the UK population are classified as ‘white’, 7.5% as ‘Asian’ or ‘Asian-British’, 3.3% as’ Black’, 2.2% as ‘Mixed’ and 1% as ‘other’.
(NB – This represents a signficant increase in ethnic minorities compared to the 2001 census. In 2011, 14% of the population were non-white, compared to 9% in 2001.)
This brief update explores the extent to which family life and attitudes to family-life vary across these different ethnic groups, looking at the following aspects of family life…
Item 1 – A brief history of South-Asian Family Life in the UK
Ballard (1982) noted that most South-Asian families had a much broader network of familial-relations than a typical white-British family and one individual household might be only one small part of a complex global network of kin-relations.
Ballard argued that in order to understand South-Asian family life in the UK in the 1980s, you had to look at the ideal model of family life in Asia which is Patriarchal, being based on tight control of women, collectivist (the group is more important than the individual) and obsessed with mainting family honour (primarily through not getting divorced/ committing adultury or having children outside of wedlock) because maintaining honour was crucial to your being able to do business in the wider community.
Ballard also stressed the importance of Honour and its Patriarchal nature….. The complexity of the question of the asymmetry of the sexes is nowhere better illustrated than in the concepts of honour, izzat and shame, sharm. In its narrower sense izzat is a matter of male pride. Honourable men are expected to present an image of fearlessness and independence to the outside world, and at the same time to keep close control over the female members of their families. For a woman to challenge her husband’s or her father’s authority in public shamefully punctures his honour. To sustain male izzat wives, sisters and daughters must be seen to behave with seemly modesty, secluding themselves from the world of men.
Item 2 – Arranged marriages are still extremely popular today amongst British Asians
Traditional values are still very important to Asian family life…. ‘The Asian family is not a nuclear unit of parents and 2.4 children. It is an extended social unit that includes grandparents, in-laws, aunts and uncles and a long list of relatives, each with a specific title in relation to everyone else in the family. And Asian family values are focused on keeping the unit together – in one physical place if possible – and providing mutual support. Item 3 – Marriage is still seen as a key milestone in Brit-Asian life
A UK National Statistics report says the highest proportions of married couples under pension age, with or without children, are in Asian households. Over half of Bangladeshi (54%), Indian (53%) and Pakistani (51%) households contained a married couple, compared with 37% of those headed by a White British person. Demonstrating the importance of marriage for the Brit-Asian communities. Item 4 – Divorce today is now much more common among Asian couples
Divorce has traditionally been seen as something shameful in Asian culture, with children under pressure to stay in loveless marriages in order to uphold the family’s honour and prevent shame falling on the family.
However, for today’s third and fourth generation Asians, things are much different.. According to this article (http://www.desiblitz.com/content/soaring-rate-of-british-asian-divorce) there is a soaring British Asian divorce rate now that young Asian men and especially women are better educated and increasingly going into professional careers. Item 5 – Forced Marriages are more common amongst Asian Families
There is also a dark-side to Asian family life, and that comes in the number of Forced Marriages associated with Asian communities.
On report from 2008 suggests that there are up to 3000 third and fourth generation Asian women who are subjected to forced marriages.
Item 6 – Single Parent Families are much more common amongst African-Caribbean Families…
In 2007 Almost half the black children in Britain were being raised by single parents. Forty-eight per cent of black Caribbean families had one parent, as did 36 per cent of black African households.
Single-parent families were less common among Indians (ten per cent), Bangladeshis (12 per cent), Pakistanis (13 per cent), Chinese (15 per cent) and whites (22 per cent).
African Caribbean fathers are twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from their children. However by the time their children are 5 years old more than 40 per cent are still living with them despite the categorising of many of their partners as ‘lone parent’ at the time of their baby’s birth
Rates of teenage motherhood are significantly higher among young black women and despite constituting only 3 per cent of the population aged 15 – 17, they accounted for 9 per cent of all abortions given to women under the age of 18 Item 7 – There has been a rapid increase in the number of babies born to non-UK born mothers.
Biths to non-UK born mothers accounted for 25.9% of all live births in 2012. This is the highest proportion of births to mothers born outside the UK since the collection of parents’ country of birth was introduced at birth registration in 1969. This proportion has increased every year since 1990, when it was 11.6%.
During these years the number of non-UK born women of childbearing age who are living in England and Wales has increased, causing the increase in the number of births to these women.
Item 8 – Birth rates are significantly higher amongst Muslim parents
9.1% of under-fives in England and Wales were recorded by their parents as Muslim (which probably means they have Muslim parents) which is twice as high as the number of Muslims in the general populattion.
Item 9 – There has been a growth in the number of interracial relationships
The fact that interracial relationships are increasing might make it more difficult to make generalisations beetween ethnic groups in the future…..
Overall almost one in 10 people living in Britain is married to or living with someone from outside their own ethnic group, the analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows.
But the overall figure conceals wide variations. Only one in 25 white people have settled down with someone from outside their own racial background.
By contrast 85 per cent of people from mixed-race families have themselves set up home with someone from another group.
Age is the crucial factor with those in their 20s and 30s more than twice as likely to be living with someone from another background as those over 65, reflecting a less rigid approach to identity over time.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.