Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation

An Overview of Families and Households Topic Two – Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation, covering key sub-topics, key concepts and some exam style questions (short answer and essay questions).

You need to be able to identify key trends in marriage, divorce and cohabitation and outline the social factors which explain why the trends are happening (ideally using sociological perspectives), and analyse the importance of each factor. You also need to be able to outline different perspectives views on the consequences of the changing patterns of each of the above.

Sub topics

2.1: Explaining the trends in marriage

2.2: Explaining the trends in divorce

2.3: Perspectives on the consequences of declining marriage and increasing divorce

2.4: Examining how marriage, divorce and cohabitation vary by social class, ethnicity, sexuality and across generations

Key concepts, research studies and case studies you should be able to apply

  • Civil Partnerships
  • Divorce
  • Legal separation
  • Empty shell marriage
  • Secularisation
  • Cohabitation
  • The pure relationship (Anthony Giddens)
  • The negotiated family (Ulrich Beck)
  • Consumer culture
  • Postmodernisation
  • Gender roles (changing)
  • Genderquake
  • Individualisation
  • Monogamy
  • Serial Monogamy

Possible exam style short answer questions

Outline three reasons for the overall rise in the divorce rate since 1969 (6)

Using one example briefly explain one reason for the recent decrease in divorce rates (4)

Outline three social changes which explain why there has been a decline in the marriage rate (6)

Outline and explain two consequences of an increasing divorce rate (10) hint – use the perspectives.

Define the following terms – the matrifocal family, polygamy, polygyny and polyandry (4*2 marks for each term).

Possible Essay Questions – You should plan these!

Assess sociological explanations for the changes in the patterns of marriage and cohabitation over the last 40 years or so (20)

Assess sociological explanations for changes in the divorce rate since 1969 (20)

Assess different perspectives on declining marriage, increasing divorce and increasing co-habitation (20)

Sociological Perspectives on the Family

This is the first of seven* broad topics within the sociology of the family for A-level sociology (*as defined by most A-level text books!)

An overview of the sub-topics, key concepts, and exam questions (short answer and essay questions)

Being able to critically apply different perspectives is the most important skill you can demonstrate in Sociology. You can also apply the perspectives to many of the other topics within the family, most obviously Marriage and Divorce and Social Policies. There are six perspectives you need to be able to apply, which form the six topics within this topic.

Subtopics

  1. Functionalism
  2. Marxism
  3. Feminisms
  4. The New Right
  5. Postmodernism
  6. Late Modernism
  7. The Personal Life Perspective.

Key concepts, research studies and case studies you should be able to apply

Please click here for a post containing brief definitions of many of these key terms.

  • The Nuclear family
  • Stable Satisfaction of the sex drive
  • Primary Socialisation
  • Dual Burden
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities
  • Primitive communism
  • ideological functions
  • family as a unit of consumption
  • Socialisation
  • Parson’s functional fit theory
  • Traditional society
  • Extended family
  • Triple Shift
  • Negotiated Family
  • The Underclass
  • Moral Decline
  • The Pure Relationship
  • Risk Society
  • Consumer culture
  • Globalisation
  • Negotiated family
  • Individualisation
  • ‘The normal chaos of love’       

Possible exam style short answer questions

Please click here for my hub-post on exam advice with links to some of the questions below. 

Outline and briefly explain two positive functions that the nuclear family might perform (10)

Using one example, explain what is meant by the term ‘the stabilisation of adult personalities’ (4)

Using one example explain how the nuclear family’ fits’ industrial society? (4)

Outline and briefly explain two criticisms of the ‘The Functionalist Perspective’ on the family (10)

Outline three ways in which the family might perform ideological functions (6)

Using one example, explain what is meant the phrase ‘the family is a unit of consumption’ (4)

Define the term Patriarchy (2)

Outline and briefly explain the difference between the Liberal and Radical Feminist views of the family (10)

Using one example explain postmodern society has influenced family life in recent years (4)

Possible Essay Questions – You should plan these!

Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to our Understanding of Family Life (20)

Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere, assess the contribution of feminist sociologists to an understanding of family roles and relationships

Evaluate the New Right Perspective on the family (20)

Evaluate the postmodernist view of the family and relationships (20)

Assess the view that the main aim of the nuclear family is to meet the needs of Capitalism (20)

Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere, assess the view that, in today’s society, the family is losing its functions (20)

The final question is emboldened because it is more likely you’ll get a question like this rather than a straightforward ‘assess this perspective’ type question.

Evaluate Sociological Perspectives on Vocational Education (30)

Evaluations in italics!

VocationalSkills
Vocational Education refers to teaching people the specific knowledge and skills to prepare them for a particular career. Vocational Education can either be on the job training – such as with apprenticeships, or courses focused on a particular career in a college (typically 16-19).

The New Right introduced Vocational Educational in the 1980s. At the time they argued that Britain needed job-related training in order to combat high levels of unemployment at that time, and in order to prepare young people for a range of new jobs emerging with new technologies, and to make them more competitive in a globalising economy.

Two vocational policies the New Right introduced were National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). The former involved building a portfolio of evidence to prove you had the specific skills necessary for a job, and the later involved on the job training, in which trainees received a small wage, funded by the government.

At first glance, the expansion of Vocational Education in the 1980s seems to support the Functionalist view of education – as it seems be about getting people ready for work and performing the function of ‘role allocation’ more effectively, however, there were a number of criticisms of early Vocationalism

Two criticisms of these policies were that NVQs were seen by many as an inferior qualification to the more academic ‘A’ level subjects, and much on the job training was of a low quality because it wasn’t very well regulated – some trainees were basically just glorified tea boys (according to research by Marxist sociologist Dan Finn in the 1980s.)

New Labour expanded Vocational Education, seeing it as a way to provide individuals with the training needed to be competitive in a globalised Post-Fordist, high skilled/ high waged economy.

The main plank of Labour’s Vocational Policy was The New Deal for young people which Provided some kind of guaranteed training for any 18-24 year old who had been unemployed for more than 6 months. This was set up in 1998 and initially cost £3.5 billion. Employers were offered a government subsidy to take on people under 25 who had been unemployed for more than 6 months. By March 2003 almost 1 million people had started the New Deal, and 40% of them had moved on to full-time unsubsidised jobs.

A second central aspect of New Labour’s Vocational Policy was the introduction of The Modern Apprenticeships scheme in 2002.There are many different levels of Apprenticeships in a huge range of industries, and they typically involve on the job training in sectors ranging from tourism to engineering. Those undertaking them are paid a small wage, which varies with age, while undertaking training.

Some of the early modern apprenticships were criticised for being exploitative – some companies simply hired workers to a 6 week training course and then sacked them and rehired more trainees as a means of getting cheap labour. However, overall, apprenticeships have been a huge success and there are now hundreds of thousands of people who do them in any one year.

A third strand of New Labour’s Vocational Policy was The Introduction of Vocational A levels –Today, the most commonly recognised type of Vocational A level is the BTEC – Which Edexcel defines as being ‘designed as specialist work-related qualifications and are available in a range of sectors like business, engineering and ICT. A number of BTECs are recognised as Technical Certificates and form part of the Apprenticeship Framework.’

While the purpose of this was to try and eradicate the traditional vocational-academic divide it was mostly working class children went down the vocational route, while middle class children did A levels, which many middle class parents regard as the only ‘proper qualifications’, and from a broadly Marxist analysis Vocational Education simply reinforces the class divide.

In conclusion, the fact that Vocational Education has gradually been extended over the years suggests that successive governments see it as playing an important role in our society, especially in getting children ready for work and providing them with the type of skills our economy needs. It is also clear that a number of children simply are not suited to a purely academic education, so in an increasingly diverse society, it is likely to have a continued role to play. However, we also need to recognise that there are problems with it, such as with unscrupulous employers using on the job training as a means of getting cheap labour, so steps need to be taken to ensure it is effectively regulated.