Q01: Outline two problems of using questionnaires with closed questions in sociological research
Looks like a simple start although you will need to think a bit (it is an exam, after all!) to get beyond the ‘imposition problem’. You’ll also need to be careful to talk about just ‘closed’ questions.
I would have gone with:
Both will need expanding on, this is just a quick look!
The imposition problem – means respondents can’t express what they really feel.
Ethical issues with sensitive topics – closed questions may not allow people to express their feelings.
Q02 – Evaluate the disadvantages of using qualitative methods in sociological research
Intro – outline what they are: primary = unstructured interviews, the two types of participant observation. Secondary = LOT – public and private documents. Also mention the sacred Interpretivism vs Positivism.
Then I would do the following with linked evaluations comparing different qualitative methods:
Lack of reliability
Lack of representativeness
Overall evs – good validity
A whole host of practical problems.
Evs – some are better than others.
Generally good ethics.
Conclude – they’re a real hassle, and have terrible problems with R and R, but Intp argue it’s all worth it because of the better validity!
Possibly the easiest question in the history of AS Sociology! I won’t insult anyone by reproducing the answer here…. see this post on socialisation if you MUST double check the definition.
Q09: Using one example briefly explain how childhood might be a negative experience for some children in the UK today.
Also very easy – you could either pick up on something from toxic childhood or go via the increased control of girls/ poverty of the working classes, or just abuse?!?
Q06: Outline three reasons for the fall in the death rate in the United Kingdom since 1900
The AQA are being nice this year, aren’t they! Develop each of these points for an easy 6/6:
See this post on the decline in the death rates for how to develop each of the points. NB: you might want something more specific from within each general area!
Q11: Outline and explain two ways in which postmodernists argue that increased choice for individuals has affected patterns of family life (10)
OK so it’s about postmodernism, but it it’s quite general so you should be OK:
In terms of choice for individuals, there is more choice over:
whether or not we get married
when we leave home, IF we leave home (kidults)
whether or not we have children and when we have them
what the relationship looks like (pure relationship/ negotiated family)
sexuality and sexual identity
Any of the above, developed in terms of PATTERNS of family life – this might be family structures AND/ OR the life course…..
Actually well done the AQA, this is a good question, I likie!
Q12: Evaluate sociological views on the impact of government policies and laws on the role of the family.
The item refers to the functionalist perspective and how this suggests laws support the family, using welfare as an example.
Then it says the New Right believes policies such as the divorce act have undermined the traditional role of the family.
So…if you use the item, you’re basically being asked to focus on the extent to which welfare policies and the divorce act have undermined the ‘traditional role of the family’.
Personally I’d outline the Functionalist and New Right views, discuss the extent to which the policies mentioned in the item have undermined these functions, then focus on other social change factors and bring in postmodernism and feminism to evaluate.
I’d then generalise to other policies – civil partnerships/ maybe policies relating to childhood.
Hmm, you know what, in terms of a balanced and accessible exam paper…
Men are enjoying more leisure time than they did 15 years ago, while women have less. according to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics.
In 2015 Men spent 43 hours a week on leisure activities, up from 42.88 hours in 2000. In the same period, women’s leisure time fell to 38.35 hours, from 39.24 hours.
NB – it doesn’t matter what age group we’re taking about, men have more leisure time than women (unlike the pay gap, which ‘switches’ in the 20s and 30s.)
Over a 40 year period, this means that men have 9672 more hours of leisure time than women, or just over 600 days (calculated by diving the original time by 16 to reflect the number of waking hours in a day), or getting on for 2 years….
I want to blame this on the X box, but other surveys suggest that one reason for this is that women spend more time caring for adult relatives than men.
This is good evidence supporting the view that the gendered division of labour is still not equal, in fact it’s suggesting the trend towards equality is reversing!
Advice on examples of possible 10 mark (outline and explain or analyse applying the item) questions for the AQA’s A-level sociology.
There are two types of 10 mark question within the families and households section of the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 2: An outline and explain (no item) question and an ‘applying material from an item, analyse question. Both questions will ask students to Outline or explain/ analyse using the item TWO ways/ reasons, consequences/ criticisms (the action words may vary)
In its ‘guidance on 10 mark questions’ (see link above), the AQA intimates that there is a strong possibility that both of these types of 10 mark question will ask students to link two areas from within the broader topic area.
For families and households, there are 5 main topic areas, as outlined below, and it is likely that any 10 mark question will ask to you show how one of these areas is related to another.
So typical example questions might ask you link perspectives on the family to birth rates, or social policies to childhood.
HOWEVER, according to the notes and guidance on 10 mark questions provided by the AQA does not say that a 10 mark question will necessarily ask students to link two topic areas: the guidance on ’10 mark ‘outline and explain’ questions says linking two areas is one way students may be asked to show analyse, but it isn’t the only way; and for the 10 mark analyse from the item type questions, the guidance explicitly says you may be asked to link two elements from the same or different areas within the topic.
So, for these reasons I’ve also included the ‘core themes’ in the diagram above, because to my mind, linking any of the above topic areas to any of the core themes might be another way the AQA might get you to analyse in an outline and explain type question.
Finally, you also need to be prepared for a more in depth question, where the 10 mark applying from the item questions are concerned, one which only asks you to discuss material from within one bullet point above.
The guidance above should apply equally as well to 10 mark questions on paper 1 (Education with Theory and Methods) and paper 3 (Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods), as well as, of course, section B, the other option on the topics paper 2.
A 10 mark ‘analyse with item’ practice question and answer for the AQA’s A-level paper 2: families
Applying material from Item A, analyse two changes in the position of children in society over the last 100 years (10)
Parents today spend a great deal of time and money trying to make sure that their children enjoy a comfortable upbringing. They want their children to have opportunities that they themselves never had. ‘March of progress’ sociologists argue that these changes in family life have led to an improvement in the position of children in society.
How to answer this question?
It’s pretty obscure (IMO) but the item gives you TWO obvious ‘hooks’:
Time/ money/ comfortable upbringing which is pointing to ‘improving living standards’
Improved opportunities – education being the most obvious!
The above two should be your two points, analysed in both cases from the March of progress view (how have these improved the position of children), and to my mind this question is also screaming for you to evaluate each of these points (unlike the not item outline and explain 10 mark questions, you do get marks for evaluating in these ’10 mark with the item’ question.
You might like to review these two posts before attempting this question:
I advise developing each of the points below still further!
Point 1: As it says in item A, one change in children’s position in society is that parents spend more time and money on them, and so they have a more comfortable life… the average child now costs about £250K to raise, much more than 100 years ago.
Development – this is because of economic growth over the last 100 years, parents now earn more money and so are able to spend more on children’s toys and ‘educational experiences’ which can further child development; as well as more nutritional food, which means children are healthier.
Further development – parents are also more involved with the socialisation of their children; this is especially true of middle class parents who invest a lot time ‘injecting cultural capital’ into their children.
Further development – lying behind all of this is the fact that children are no longer seen as economic assets: they no longer have to work, but rather there has been a cultural shift in which children have rights and should be allowed a lengthy childhood in which they are cared for.
Evaluation – However there are critics of this ‘march of progress view’ – not all parents are able to afford products for their children (lone parents for example) which can create a sense of marginalisation; also there is a sense in which parents spend time with their kids because they are paranoid about their safety in a risk society – Frank Furedi for example argues that this might stifle child development by preventing them from becoming independent.
Point 2: The second social change which can be said to have improved the lives of children is improved opportunities for children – such as with the expansion of education.
Development – 100 years ago (early 19th century) schooling was only compulsory up until about the age of 14, and this was gradually extended through the decades until today children are expected to be in education or training until the age of 18.
Further Development – From a functionalist point of view, education is meritocratic today and so provides opportunities for all children to achieve qualifications and get jobs appropriate to their skills. Children also benefit from the secondary socialisation schools provide, which many uneducated parents may not be able to provide effectively. We now have National Curriculum which ensures all children learn maths English and a broad range of other subjects
Further development – The expansion of education has been combined with the expansion of child welfare more generally – so schools are about improving child well being and safety more generally, meaning children have more opportunities to escape abuse than in the past.
Evaluation – However, from a Marxist point of view, not everyone has the same opportunities in school, and from a Feminist perspective gendered socialisation and stereotyping in school means that girls do not have equality of opportunity with boys.
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
A 10 mark ‘analyse with item’ practice question and answer for the AQA’s A-level paper 2: families and households section
Applying material from item C analyse two ways in which the nuclear family might perform ideological functions (10)
Marxist sociologists have long argued that the traditional nuclear family performs ideological functions for capitalism, through for example, socializing children into thinking that hierarchy normal and inevitable.
However, radical Feminist sociologists argue that the main function of the nuclear family lies in maintaining inequalities between men and women through promoting patriarchal ideology.
A brief model plan…
Point 1: One ideological function = socialising children into thinking inequality is normal, this is done through ‘age patriarchy’ – children are expected to be obedient to parents.
Development – much like the correspondence principle in education this gets children ready to be obedient to their bosses in work and also to accept inequalities in broader society, class inequalities which exist between bourgeois and proletariat for example.
Further development – According to Marxist Feminists, traditional gender roles further encourage obedience to the rules at work – if man thinks he is ‘the provider’ and women are dependent at home, the male worker is less likely to go on strike because it undermines his provider role.
Further development – According to Marxists the family might also passify children by acting as a unit of consumption – they are taught to ‘find their identity’ in the products they consume, not in thinking and questioning, thus this might contribute to ideological control.
Evaluation – a problem with this specifically performing functions for capitalism is that ‘age patriarchy’ within families typically occurs in pre-capitalist societies.
Point 2: Radical Feminists argue the traditional nuclear family normalises gender inequality
Development – women stay at home look after the kids, men go to work, women are thus financially dependent on men in this situation
Further Development – This can also be reinforced by the way dads tend to police daughters more than sons (differential gender socialisation)
Further development – the privatised nuclear family also allows male violence against women to go unnoticed
Evaluation – HOWEVER, liberal fems and postmodernists would point out that gender norms are changing and the above is all much more likely in the age of the negotiated family and the pure relationship.
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
My attempt at a model 10/10 answer for this A-level sociology exam question (families and households topic)
This is the 10 mark question in the crime and deviance section of the AQA’s 2016 Specimen A-level sociology paper 2: Topics in Sociology, section A: Families and Households option.
In this post I consider a ‘lower middle mark band’ student response (4/10 marks) to this question and the examiner commentary (both are provided by the AQA here) before considering what a ‘top band’ answer might look like.
The Question (with the item!)
The Mark Scheme:
Examiner Commentary: (4/10 marks)
This is taken straight from the AQA’s own specimen (2016) material. NB I think the commentary actually misses out the most significant thing the candidate does not do, see below for my commentary on the commentary…
What the candidate does well
Two reasonable suggestions are offered
There is no problem that they are “opposites” in that both situations may occur in different families.
The response provides a competent explanation of each change, explaining how and why older people may impact on female members of the generation beneath them (unfortunately, this is not what the question has asked for).
What the candidate does not do well
The response fails to fully answer the question because it does not explicitly connect the change in the position of women to family structures – implicit links to roles are as far as the response gets.
This answer does not have a strong knowledge base and concepts are limited
The second paragraph could do more to explain how/why the ageing population will lead to more grandparents who are able to provide the suggested role.
Both knowledge and application to family structures could be much stronger in this response however there is enough material of partial relevance to access the middle band.
This answer is a little too brief, given that around 15 minutes of an examination should be allocated to a 10 mark question.
How you might improve on this response to move up to the top band….
This is my input:
NB -THE POINTS MADE DO NOT SEEM TO COME EXPLICITLY FROM THE ITEM…. IF THE CANDIDATE WAS USING THE ITEM, THEY WOULD HAVE ONE POINT ABOUT ‘INCREASING LIFE EXPECTANCY’ AND ONE POINT ABOUT ‘DECLINING BIRTH RATES’ AND THEN LINK THESE TO CHANGING FAMILY STRUCTURES.
TO MY MIND THE RESPONSE ABOVE IS BASICALLY ‘THE MIDDLE BITS’ – WHAT’S MISSING IS CLEAR REFERENCE TO THE ITEM (THE BEGINNING BITS OF BOTH POINTS) AND ESPECIALLY THE END BITS, ON FAMILY STRUCTURE!
Anyway, if you’d like to submit an improved answer in the comments which takes on board the above feedback, I might even mark it!
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
One way is that other institutions, such as the work place and schools are taking over previous functions which the family used to perform.
According to Parson’s Functional Fit Theory, families in pre-industrial society used to be ‘units of production’: they produced more of their own food, and the extended-family form worked well for this purpose: several members of one household lived and worked together in order to produce food and basic goods. At this time, the extended family also provided adequate education, limited to teaching children how to ‘work effectively’ as part of the family business.
However, with the onset of industrialisation, the factory became the main place of work and so the family lost this ‘economic function’. This also laid the basis for the family losing another function: that of education – children cannot learn the skills needed to work in factories at home, they need to do so ‘at work’.
Furthermore, following many more years of industrial development and economic growth, the number of jobs requiring specialist skills grew, meaning the development of primary and secondary education, which left the family only being responsible for ‘primary socialisation’ and formal education largely taken over secondary socialisation.
Parsons further argued that one other ‘function’ left to the smaller nuclear family was the stabilisation of adult personalities: that is men and women care for each other in relationships and the family provides ’emotional security’ (although this is criticised by radical feminists for ignoring the fact that women bare more of the emotional burden).
Although the nuclear family performs fewer functions, these functions are still important according to Functionalists,
A second reason is that the increase in divorce means that families are losing their ability to socialise children effectively as there are more ‘broken families.
This view is most closely associated with the New Right who argue that the increase in single parent families means less effective socialisation for children as they have fewer positive role models, evidenced by the higher levels of deviance displayed by children from ‘broken homes’.
However, radical feminists interpret this differently – they argue that the increase in divorce is a sign of the family losing it’s ‘patriarchal control’ function – women feel as if they are more able to leave abusive relationships, which is at least partly because changing gender roles means now that most women work, they are able to support themselves.
Moreover, IF single parents families are less effective at socialising children, this is because of the governments unwillingness to support single parents in work through appropriate social policies such as providing free child care for working single parents.
Finally, it’s also worth pointing out that it is not just single parents who struggle to socialise their children within the family: technological changes such as the growth of social media mean that all parents increasingly struggle to socialise their children effectively.
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
I actually did two surveys this week with the students this week, both on Socrative.
For the first survey, I simply asked students via Socrative, who did most of the domestic work when they were a child (mostly mother or mostly father – full range of possible responses are in the results below), with ‘domestic work’ broken down into tasks such as cleaning, laundry, DIY etc…
For the second Survey, I got students to write down possible survey questions on post it notes, then I selected 7 of them to make a brief questionnaire which they then used as a basis for interviewing three couples about who did the housework.
Selected results from the initial student survey on parents’ housework
These results were based on students’ memory!
Selected results from the second survey
based on student interviews with couples
Discussion of the validity of the results…..
These two surveys on the domestic division of labour (and other things) provided a useful way into a discussion of the strengths and limitations of social surveys more generally….we touched on the following, among other things:
memory may limit validity in survey one
lack of possible options limits validity in survey two, also serves as an illustration of the imposition problem.
asking couples should act as a check on validity, because men can’t exaggerate if they are with their partner.
there are a few ethical problems with the ‘him’ and ‘her’ categories, which could be improved upon.
Postcript – on using student surveys to teach A-level sociology
All in all this is a great activity to do with students. It brings the research up to date, it gets them thinking about questionnaire design and, if you time it right, it even gets them out of the class room for half an hour, so you can just put yer feet up and chillax!
If you want to use the same surveys the links, which will allow you to modify as you see fit, are here:
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.
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