Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Karl Thompson
This page provides links to blog posts on the main topics of the AQA’s Families and Households module. If you like this sort of thing – you might like to check out my various revision resources for sale on Sellfy.
An Introduction to the Sociology of the Family
Families and Households: Key Concepts – definitions of key terms covering most of the major sociological concepts relevant to the AQA’s families and households module. Let’s face it, learning the language of sociology is half the battle!
Defining the Family – your perspective on the family will depend on how you define the family. Defining the family isn’t necessarily as easy as you might think! Is it acceptable to include friends, or pets as part of your definition of ‘the family’ for example? This post covers this important introductory topic.
Families in the UK – Seven Interesting Statistics – class notes on some basic statistics on family life in the UK, from 2017.
Surveys on family life in the UK – this post presents the results on four surveys on different aspects of family life in the UK. It includes some thoughts on the strengths and limitations of the data.
Families and Households Exam Advice (AQA A-level)
AQA A-level paper 2: topics in sociology exam advice – a general post explaining the 3 styles of questions in this section of paper 2. Only covers the families and households section (section A) of paper 2.
How I would have answered the 2017 A-level Sociology paper 2 exam (families and households section) – brief notes briefly outlining how I would have tackled this exam paper.
Perspectives on The Family
Sociological perspectives include Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism, post and late modernism and the personal life perspective. Generally the first three all focus on the nuclear family in relation to social structure. The final three focus on how families are becoming more diverse with social changes in recent years.
An Overview of what you need to know – a knowledge check list covering key concepts, research studies, sociologists. Includes suggested short answer and essay style exam questions for this aspect of the A-level sociology specification.
Structuralist perspectives on the family
The Functionalist perspective on the family – detailed class notes covering Murdock’s 4 functions of the family, Talcott Parson’s functional fit theory, and his ‘two irreducible functions of the nuclear family in industrial society’, as well as a reminder about Functionalist ideas on traditional gender roles.
The Marxist perspective on the family – detailed class notes covering Engel’s theory of the relationship between private property and the emergence of the nuclear family, as well as contemporary Marxist views on the family as a unit of consumption.
The Marxist perspective on the family – very brief revision notes. Four power point slides covering ‘the basics’. Use in conjunction with the more detailed class notes above.
Feminist perspectives on the family – detailed class notes covering liberal, Marxist and radical feminist perspectives on the role of the nuclear family in society. Liberal feminists have a march of progress view of family life’. The radical feminist view emphasises the ways in which the traditional nuclear family perpetuates patriarchy and the ‘dark side of family life’. Marxist Feminists emphasise how the traditional nuclear family performs functions for capitalism, at the expense of women.
The Liberal Feminist perspective on the family – detailed class notes and evaluations covering the liberal feminist view that there is nothing wrong with the nuclear family structure as such, and that gender equality in society more generally is more important.
The Marxist Feminist perspective on the family – class notes covering Engel’s view on the relationship between private property and the emergence of the nuclear family. Also more contemporary Marxist views on how the nuclear family encourages high levels of consumption.
The Radical Feminist perspective on the family – argue that the nuclear family is the fundamental institution which is the root of female oppression. The nuclear family should be resisted through political lesbianism, or women just staying single.
The New Right View of the family – the New Right have a traditional view of family life. They believe the stable, married, nuclear family is best for children and society.
Evaluating the New Right view of the family – criticisms of some of the views from the Right Wing Think Tank CIVITAS. CIVITAS argues lone parents cause problems for their children and wider society
Postmodern perspectives on the family
The postmodern view of the family – Postmodernists emphasise the fact that the nuclear family has long been in decline. They believe there is no ‘main type’ of family any more in postmodern society.
The Late Modern perspective on the family – this technically means Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck, who IMO are described as LATE MODERNISTS. However, if you’re an A-level student, most text books and the AQA lump them in with postmodernists.
The Personal Life Perspective on the family – Personal Life thinkers believe we need to understand the family from the perspective of the individuals within the family. If an individual believes dogs and dead relatives are part of the family then we should accept this. Sociologists should analyse the impact of the family from the point of view of the people they are researching.
Evaluate the view that the main aim of the family is to meet the needs of capitalism – a full essay with an essay plan using the PEEC essay planning method.
Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation
There has been a long term decline in marriage and corresponding increase in divorce, but a more recent decrease in divorce too. Cohabitation is also increasing. For this section of the course you need to be able to evaluate the main social factors which explain these trends and apply sociological perspectives to examine the consequences.
Overview of what you need to know – a knowledge check list covering key concepts, research studies, sociologists, and some suggested short answer and essay style exam questions
Trends in Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation – the number of marriages per year has been declining since the early 1970s, the number of divorces per year increased rapidly following the 1969 Divorce Act, remained roughly level until the year 2000 and are now declining in line with declining marriage. Cohabitation has also increased since the 1970s. This post explores these trends in more depth.
Explaining the changing patterns of marriage – class notes exploring the main reasons for the long term decline in marriage (among other trends) – such as increasing gender equality/ female liberation, the increasing cost of marriage, and the increase in individualism with the shift to a postmodern society.
Explaining the long term increase in divorce – there has been a long term increase in divorce, but a recent decrease since the mid 200os. Sociologists have pointed to factors such as rise of Feminism and women’s liberation, the 1969 divorce act and postmodernisation to explain long term increase.
Why is the number of divorces decreasing? Factors such as declining marriage and migration patters can explain the more recent decrease in the divorce rate.
The consequences of declining marriage and increasing divorce – generally speaking the New Right see declining marriage and increasing divorce as potentially damaging to individuals and society, while Feminists are more positive. Post and Late Modernists see these trends as inevitable consequences of postmodernisation.
Evaluate sociological explanations for the long term increase in divorce rates – A 20 mark essay demonstrating how you would apply the above knowledge under exam conditions.
Outline and explain two reasons for the decline in marriage (10) – exemplar of a 10 mark ‘outline and explain (no item) question which could come up in AQA’s paper 2 (7192/1)
Trends in Family Structure – Family Diversity/ The Decline of the Nuclear Family?
This is an enormous sub-topic in the sociology of the family and includes exploring the causes and consequences of increasing ‘structural diversity’ such as the traditional nuclear family declining and being ‘replaced’ with more single parent families and so on; it also includes an examination of how families vary by ethnicity, social class and sexuality.
Trends in family and household diversity – a brief summary of the trends in different household types, such as ‘nuclear family’ households, lone parent households, single person households and kidult households. This is really just a simplified overview of the trends.
Official Statistics on family and household diversity – trends 2016 update. You might also like this 2018 update. This post is a more in-depth look at trends in family diversity and focuses more on the strengths and limitations of different types of official statistics.
How have families become more diverse? – very brief visual revision notes – one summary PPT slide.
Conceptualizing family diversity – detailed class notes covering the ‘myth of the cereal pack family’, the Rapoport’s five types of family diversity, and post-modern conceptions of ‘radical diversity’. The idea is that there is no longer any such thing as a ‘normal’ family or ‘life-course.
Explaining the increase in family diversity part 1/3 – detailed class notes covering changing patterns of marriage and divorce, postmodernisation and economic factors.
Explaining the increase in family diversity part 2/3 – detailed class notes covering Feminism, social policies and late modernism
Evaluating the view that the nuclear family is in decline part 3/3 – It is important to remember that even though the nuclear family is in decline, it is still the main type of family. Historically the nuclear family may not have been as ‘constant’ as you think!
Why do so many young adults live with their parents? – detailed class notes looking at the increasing trend of 20-30 somethings living with their parents. This post explores the significance of economic factors in explaining this trend, and looks at different ‘types’ of live at home adults.
Sociological Perspective on Single Person Households – the increase in people living alone is a global trend. Increased wealth, improved communications, urbanisation and increased longevity are all correlated with this trend.
Family diversity by social class – how do marriage, divorce and birth rates vary by social class background?
Examining how family life varies by ethnicity in the UK – class notes exploring how family structures, size and attitudes to marriage and divorce vary – comparing Asian, African-Caribbean and White households.
Outline and explain two ways in which changes to gender roles may have affected the diversity of family structures (10) – a brief flow chart suggesting how you might answer this 10 mark (without item) question.
Evaluate the view that changing gender roles are the most significant factor in explaining the increase in family diversity (20) – a very brief essay plan
Power and Equality within Domestic Roles
This section of the families and households module looks at how equal men and women are in relationships.
Conceptualising gender equality in relationships – a summary of some of the different concepts sociologists have developed in order to explain different relationship types, with different levels of equality. This post looks at concepts such as the traditional nuclear family, the symmetrical family and the negotiated family.
How should we measure equality in relationships? – (forthcoming) class notes examining the strengths and limitations of different indicators of equality, or lack of it, including stats on housework, childcare, and domestic violence.
To what extent is the domestic division of labour equal? – class notes summarizing some of the statistics on how much housework men and women do in domestic relationships. While there is a trend towards men doing more housework, it remains the case that women still do about twice as much as men.
Who looks after the children in relationships? – equality between couples may be improving, but when couples have children and become ‘family households’ the statistics suggest it’s still overwhelmingly women who do the majority of childcare.
Good sources for researching domestic abuse – an overview of some of the more credible sources of information you could use to research this difficult topic.
The Radical Feminist Perspective on power and control in relationships– radical feminists argue that domestic violence remains one of the techniques men use to control women in relationships. This post evaluates how relevant this perspective is today.
How do Motherhood and Fatherhood affect Paid Work, Housework and Parenting? Mothers are far more likely to shift to working part-time than fathers. Mothers also do more housework and childcare than fathers. So much for Liberal Feminism!
To what extent is childhood socially constructed? – While children are clearly biologically different to adults, childhood is also socially constructed – that is social norms influence the boundaries and differences between adults and children.
The March of Progress View of Childhood – the ‘common sense’ view is that childhood in Europe has generally improved in the last two centuries, this post explores this view focusing on changes in education, employment and welfare relating to children.
Toxic Childhood – Class notes summarising Sue Palmer’s now very famous concept, outlining some of the ways in which modern life and technology harm children.
Paranoid Parenting – a summary of Frank Furedi’s 2001 book in which he argues parents today project their own fears, insecurities and uncertainties onto their children and as a result restrict their freedom so much that it may harm children by preventing them opportunities to develop as independent individuals.
Are children too controlled? An examination of some of the ways parents and other adults control children today: by controlling their times, space and toys, for example.
Is childhood disappearing? – Neil Postman argues that modern communications technologies have blurred the boundaries between adulthood and childhood, to the extent that childhood is disappearing. This post explores this perspective and evaluates it.
Assess the view that the family has become more child centred – a brief essay plan suggesting an intro, four points with linked evaluations and a conclusion for this essay, using the PEEC planning technique.
Social Policy and the Family
Social policies are acts which the government puts in place in order to change some aspect of social life. Some social policies are aimed to directly influence family life, such as the 1969 Divorce Act, but many more general social policies will impact family life even though they have not been designed to affect family life, as was the case with Equal Pay Act of 1972.
Social policy and the family – An overview of social policies, most of which have been put in place to influence family life directly. The policies covered include the 1969 Divorce Act, the 2005 Civil Partnership Act, the 2013 Paternity Act, as well as a discussion of how welfare benefits have impacted family life.
Sociological Perspectives on Social Policy and The Family – the two main perspectives you need to know about are the New Right, which generally supports the Traditional Nuclear Family and the contrasting Feminist Perspectives, especially Liberal and Radical Feminism.
How do social policies affect family life? – (external link, video) You need be able to explain the impact of social policies on the types of family (especially on the nuclear family), on how they may have affected men and women differently, on equality within relationships, on marriage and divorce rates and on children.
Social Policy and Family Life Summary Grid– a brief grid summarising some of the ways in which policies may have impacted different aspects of family life.
Explaining changes to the birth rate – there has been a long term decline in the birth rate, world wide, largely attributed to rising living standards, improved rights for women, and the decline in the infant mortality rate.
Explaining the long term decline of the death rate – life expectancy has been increasing, hence the death rate has been declining.
The consequences of an ageing population – summary of a Thinking Allowed Podcast from 2015 which focuses on the challenges of a future in which increasing numbers of people will be aged over 70.
The consequences of an ageing population – mind map covering factors such the increasing dependency ratio and the increasing ‘strain’ on public services. NB it’s important to note that an ageing population isn’t necessarily going to be a huge problem, it depends on how we can adapt to it as a society.
Migration and its consequences for family life – very detailed class notes focusing on mainly the long term and short term patterns in migration to Britain and the consequences of this for social and family life.
Globalisation and family life – an in depth post exploring how economic and cultural globalisation have affected family life in the UK.
How does globalisation affect family life – a very brief overview covering how globalisation has led to increased family diversity, and more spread-out family relationships among other things.
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle which contains the following:
- 50 pages of revision notes covering all of the sub-topics within families and households
- mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering perspectives on the family
- short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers – 3 examples of the 10 mark, ‘outline and explain’ question.
- 9 essays/ essay plans spanning all the topics within the families and households topic.
The AQA’s families and households specification
The AQA’s specification criteria for this families and households topic are quite clumsy – in bold below… I’ve mapped out in italics how my own structure above covers the specification criteria below…
- the relationship of the family to the social structure and social change, with particular reference to the economy and to state policies – The perspectives and social policies.
- changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce, childbearing and the life course, including the sociology of personal life, and the diversity of contemporary family and household structures – The perspectives, marriage and divorce and changing family structures/ diversity.
- gender roles, domestic labour and power relationships within the family in contemporary society – power and equality in relationships ~(maps directly).
- the nature of childhood, and changes in the status of children in the family and society – childhood (maps directly).
- demographic trends in the United Kingdom since 1900: birth rates, death rates, family size, life expectancy, ageing population, and migration and globalisation – demography and globalisation.
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