AS Sociology – how to answer short answer ‘outline’ (6 mark) questions

Question 3 of the topics section of the AS sociology research methods and topics exam will ask you to outline three reasons/ ways/ or criticisms (for example, you may be asked to outline three consequences, possibly). =

Question 3 has a total of 6 marks, and you need to think of this as 3 lots of 1+1* – this is how they are marked – 1 mark for each ‘partial reason’ and then +1 for each of those reasons developed further – so say something, then explain how, develop it further, basically doing what the question is asking you to do!

Outline three criticisms of the Marxist perspective on the family (6)

below are the ‘identifiers’ , add in more explanation to each point to guarantee 1+1

  • Many families don’t just mindlessly consume products (the family is not automatically a unit of consumption)
  • Radical Feminists argue Patriarchy is more oppressive than Capitalism – Patriarchy preceded Capitalism
  • The nuclear family doesn’t ‘fit’ Capitalism as well as Marxists suggest
  • It is economically deterministic – nuclear families existed before Capitalism

Outline three ways in which family life has become more symmetrical (6)

below are the ‘identifiers’ , add in more explanation to each point to guarantee 1+1

  • More couples are live in dual-earner households
  • Men and women share child care and housework more equally
  • Men and women are more likely today to spend their leisure time together than separately

Outline three reasons why family life has become more child centred (6)

below are the ‘identifiers’ , add in more explanation to each point to guarantee 1+1

  • Women have fewer children
  • Parents are more dependent on their children because of increased uncertainty in every other aspect of social life.
  • Parents have more money to spend on children
  • There are more laws protecting children

*NB this IS NOT CLEAR from the ‘outline’ – I’ve heard some teenagers say they think this is because the AQA examiners have a burning hatred of teenagers, and I’ve heard some cynical colleagues suggest that the lack of clear instruction is just because the examiners don’t get out much and thus haven’t had much practice in receiving or giving clear instructions.

However, it’s also possible that this is deliberate and really just all about differentiation – exams are designed to create winners and losers, and not giving clear instructions about what you should actually be doing to get the marks simply makes it more likely that there are going to be clear losers. 

Don’t Fall in Love with a Foreigner, at least if you’re poor.

It’s official – the poorest 40% of UK citizens aren’t allowed to bring their foreign born spouses to the UK…

The Supreme Court recently upheld a decision that breaks up families in which a UK spouse earns less than £18.6K and is married to someone outside of the EU.

The government regards such poorer families as a “burden to the state” and so forces its own citizens who fall in love with non-EU citizens to shove off and set up their family life elsewhere.

According to research conducted by Oxford University, nearly 40% of the working UK population wouldn’t be eligible to live here with their non-EU partner – that breaks down to 27% of men and 55% of women. The majority of young people don’t earn enough either. And the statistics are worse if you have a child. So, if you’re a young women and you fall for a handsome stranger from a distant land, it is highly unlikely the Home Office will allow you to remain in this country if you want to live together.

This is a nice link to the families and households topic, showing how immigration and cross-cultural marriage is only for the rich. The poor, it seems, are doomed to marry locally. It’s also a nice tie-in with the social class and family sub-topic.

Toxic Childhood – Sociology In the News!

Sue Palmer’s (2006) book Toxic Childhood argued that children were being harmed by a combination of technological and social changes such as increasingly screen based lifestyles, a hyper-competitive education system, the decline of outdoor play and the commercialisation of childhood.

Palmer argued that changes to childhood resulted in harms such as higher obesity levels, reduced concentration spans, and increasing mental health problems.

This recent Guardian article (December 2016) demonstrates the continued relevance of this book and the concept of Toxic Childhood –

A group of 40 leading authors, educationalists and child-development experts is calling on the government to introduce national guidelines on the use of screens, amid concern about the impact on children’s physical and mental health. Among them are the author Philip Pullman, and the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Philip Pullman At London Zoo
Pullman – I guess he’d rather children read his books than watched the movie versions!

The letter calls for the development of kindergarten-style education for three- to seven-year-olds, with emphasis on social and emotional development and outdoor play; and says guidelines on screen-based technology for children up to 12 should be drawn up by recognised authorities on child health and development.

It is 10 years since the group sent its first letter to the media (inspired by Palmer’s book), expressing concern about the way it believes children’s health and well-being. Since then, they say, obesity and mental health problems among young people approaching crisis levels.

Sue Palmer, the author of Toxic Childhood, is among the letter’s signatories, she argues that “Without concerted action, our children’s physical and mental health will continue to deteriorate, with long-term results for UK society that are frankly unthinkable.”

Palmer says there are just two essential ingredients if children are to survive and thrive whatever the future brings: love and play.

sue-palmer
Sue Palmer – Author of Toxic Childhood – ‘all children need is love and play’

However, not everyone subscribes to the doom-laden view of modern childhood and the “toxic” environment in which children are growing up. Recent studies have suggested that screen-based technology can encourage reading in boys from low-income families and that there may be a positive link between computer games and academic performance.

Then again, Whitney Houston reminds us that ‘children are the Future’, which pretty much proves Palmer right….

Related links

Toxic Childhood

Sue Palmer.co.uk – used to be a great site on Toxic Childhood, but it’s currently under reconstruction (Dec 2016) – hopefully it’ll be just as straightforward when it resurfaces!

Sociology in the News – The Ageing Population and The Crisis in Social Care

A couple of not very pleasant news-items which relate to the problems of the ‘ageing population’:

The U.K. is on the brink of a social care crisis according to The Independent (November 2016) – with local authorities saying they could face a £2.6 billion funding gap by 2020.

According to The Guardian (December 2016), this is because funding has been slashed by 10%; there has been a 25% reduction in the number of people receiving help, and a third of all care homes face bankruptcy after cuts in the fees paid by local authorities.

All of this of course means that elderly people receive a lower quality of care, either in care-homes, or through reduced numbers of home-visits, but Age UK (Sept 2015) further calculates that up to a million people who have difficulties with basic activities such as getting dressed get no help at all.

All of this suggests that the problems of the ageing population are very much real, and given the present government’s neoliberal ideology, seem likely to get worse.

 

 

 

AS and First Year A Level Sociology – Whole Course Overview

An overview of the entire course for AS and first year A level sociology covering the following ‘modules’:

The overview below is taken directly from the AQA’s scheme of work and broken down further into more sub-topics to make it more teachable/ learnable. Within each ‘module’ there are about 7 sub-topics, and any of which could (although not necessarily) form the basis of one essay question, so you need to be able to write on each sub-topic for a solid 30 minutes.

This will relevant to most teachers and students teaching the AQA syllabus, unless you do an alternative option to families and households (which I don’t cover!)

My advice is that students generally need at least one side of revision notes for each of the subtopics below, with three-five points/ explanations/ examples and with evaluations (e.g. one side for Functionalism, another for Marxism etc…)

Education

Education brief

  1. Perspectives on Education

    1. Functionalism

    2. Marxism

    3. Neoliberalism and The New Right

    4. New Labour (a response to the New Right)

    5. Postmodernism

  1. In school process and education

    1. Teacher Labelling and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy

    2. School organisation (banding and streaming)

    3. School Type, School Ethos and the Hidden Curriculum

    4. School Subcultures

    1. Pupil Identities and the Education System

  1. Education Policies

    1. The strengths and limitations of successive government education polices:

      1. 1944 – The Tripartite System – brief

      2. 1965 – Comprehensivisation – brief

      3. 1988 – The 1988 Education Reform Act

      4. 1997 – New Labour’s Education Policies

      5. 2010 – The Coalition and the New New Right’s Education Policies

    1. Evaluating Education Policies

      1. To what extent have policies raised standards in education?

      2. To what extent have policies improved equality of opportunity?

      3. Perspectives on selection as an educational policy

      4. Perspectives on the increased privatisation of education

      5. How is globalisation affecting educational and educational policy?

  1. Social Class and Education

    1. Material Deprivation

    2. Cultural Deprivation

    3. Cultural Capital Theory

    4. In-School Factors

    5. The strengths and limitations of policies designed to tackle working class underachievement

  2. Gender and Education

    1. Out of school factors which explain why girls do better than boys in education

    2. In-School factors which explain why girls do better than boys in education

    3. Explanations for gender and subject choice

    4. Feminist Perspectives on the role of education in society

    5. The strengths and limitations of policies designed to tackle gender differences in educational achievement

  3. Ethnicity and Education

    1. Cultural factors which might explain ethnic differences in educational achievement

    2. In-School Factors which might explain ethnic differences in educational achievement

    3. The strengths and limitations of policies designed to tackle ethnic differences in educational achievement

Methods in Context

Here you need to be able to assess the strengths and limitations of using any method to research any aspect of education.

The different methods you need to be able to consider include –

1. Secondary Documents

2. Official statistics

3. Field Experiments

4. Lab experiments

5. Questionnaires

6. Unstructured Interviews

7. Overt Participant Observation

8. Covert Participant Observation

9. Non Participant Observation

The different aspects of education you might consider are

Researching how the values, attitudes, and aspirations of parents contribute to the achievement of certain groups of children

• Why boys are more likely to be excluded than girls

• Why white working class boys underachieve

• Exploring whether teachers have ‘ideal pupils’ – whether they label certain groups of pupils favourably!

• Assessing the relative importance of cultural deprivation versus material deprivation in explaining underachievement

• Assessing the success of policies aimed to improve achievement such as ‘employing more black teachers’

Families and Households

AS Sociology Families and Households

  1. Perspectives on Families

1.1 Functionalism

1.2 Marxism

1.3 Feminisms

1.4 The New Right

1.5 Postmodernism and Late Modernism

1.6 The Personal Life Perspective

  1. Marriage and Divorce

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.

3. Family Diversity

3.1 – The underlying causes of the long term increase In Reconstituted families, Single parent families, Multi-generational households, Single person households and ‘Kidult’ households.

3.2 Perspectives on the social significance of the increase of all of the above (covered in 3.1).

3.3 – The extent to which family life varies by ethnicity, social class and sexuality.

4. Gender Roles, Domestic Labour and Power Relationships

4.1. To what extent are gender roles characterised by equality?

4.2. To what extent is the Domestic Division of Labour characterised by equality?

4.3. Issues of Power and Control in Relationships

4.4. To what extent has women going into paid work resulted in greater equality within relationships?

5. Childhood

5.1 – To what extent is ‘childhood socially constructed’

5.2 – The March of Progress view of childhood (and parenting) – The Child Centred Family and Society?

5.3 – Toxic Childhood and Paranoid Parenting – Criticisms of ‘The March of Progress View’

5.4 – Is Childhood Disappearing?

5.5 – Reasons for changes to childhood and parenting practices

Topic 6 – Social Policy

6.1 You need to be able to assess the effects of a range of policies using at least three key perspectives

• The New Right

• New Labour

• Feminism (Liberal and Radical)

6.2 You need notes on how the following policies affect men and women and children within the family

• Changes to the Divorce law

• Tax breaks for married couples

• Maternity and paternity pay

• Civil Partnerships

• Sure Start – early years child care

Topic 7: Demography

7.1: Reasons for changes to the Birth Rate

7.2: Reasons for changes to the Death Rate

7.3: The consequences of an Ageing Population

7.4: The reasons for and consequences of changes to patterns of Migration

Research Methods

Factors effecting choice of research method copy

  1. The Factors Affecting Choice of Research Method – Theoretical, Ethical and Practical Factors.Introduction to Research Methods – Basic types of method and key terms

  1. Secondary Quantitative Data – Official Statistics

  1. Secondary Qualitative Data – Public and Private Documents

  1. Experiments – Field and Laboratory

  1. Interviews – Structured, Unstructured and Semi-Structured

  1. Observational Methods – Cover and Overt Participant and Non-Participant Observation

  1. Other methods – e.g. Longitudinal Studies

  1. Stages of the Research Process

Crucial to the above is your mastery of the TPEN structure

  1. Theoretical factors – Positivism, Interpretivism, Validity, Reliability, Representativeness

  1. Practical factors –Time, Money, funding, opportunities for research including ease of access to respondents, and the personal skills and characteristics of the researcher.

  1. Ethical factors – Thinking about how the research impacts on those involved with the research process: Informed consent, ensure confidentiality, be legal and ensure that respondents and those related to them are not subjected to harm. All this needs to be weighed up with the benefits of the research.

  1. The Nature of the Topic studied. Some topics lend themselves to certain methods and preclude others!

 

The Sociology of Childhood – Topic Overview

Subtopics

5.1 – To what extent is ‘childhood socially constructed’

5.2 – The March of Progress view of childhood (and parenting) – The Child Centred Family and Society?

5.3 – Toxic Childhood and Paranoid Parenting – Criticisms of ‘The March of Progress View’

5.4 – Is Childhood Disappearing?

5.5 – Reasons for changes to childhood and parenting practices

Key Concepts

The social construction of childhood

The golden age of childhood

Child centred society

The cult of childhood

The March of progress view

Conflict perspective

Child liberationism

Age patriarchy

Acting up

Acting down

The disappearance of childhood

Toxic childhood

Selected Short answer questions

Suggest three ways in which children are viewed in modern western societies

Identify two ways in which children’s live are marked out as being separate from adults

Suggest two ways in which notions of childhood are different in different cultures

Explain two ways in which childhood differed in the middle ages compared with today

Suggest three reasons why the position of children has changed over time

Explain one way in which industrialisation lead to the position of children in society changing

Suggest two ways in which children’s positions have improved in recent years

Briefly outline two ways in which gender inequalities exist between different types of children

Suggest two examples of ethnic inequalities between children

Suggest two examples.. nationality/ class/ ethnicity/ gender

Suggest three ways in which adults control children in modern society

Suggest two ways in which children resist the status of ‘child’

Suggest two pieces of evidence that childhood is disappearing

Suggest two reasons why childhood may me disappearing

Suggest two pieces of evidence that suggest the boundaries between adults and children are stronger than ever

Possible Essays

Assess the view that childhood is disappearing (24)

Examine Sociological Perspectives on changes to childbearing and parenting (24)

Gender Roles, Domestic Labour and Power Relationships – Topic Overview

Families and Households Topic 4 – Changes within the family

Gender Roles, Domestic Labour and Power Relationships

Overview of the topic and sub-topics

In this topic we look at the extent to which relationships between men and women have become more equal, focussing on the following three areas:

4.1. To what extent are gender roles characterised by equality?

4.2. To what extent is the Domestic Division of Labour characterised by equality?

4.3. Issues of Power and Control in Relationships

4.4. To what extent has women going into paid work resulted in greater equality within relationships?

Key Concepts

  • Conjugal roles

  • Segregated conjugal roles

  • Joint conjugal roles

  • Instrumental roles

  • Expressive roles

  • The symmetrical family

  • The ‘march of progress view’

  • The Domestic Division of Labour

  • The ‘New Man’

  • Dual burden

  • Domestic Violence

  • Intenstive Mothering

  • Superdads

  • Gender norms

  • Liberal Feminism

  • The commercialization of housework

  • Emotion work

  • Gender scripts

  • Triple shift

Selected Short Answer Questions

  • Suggest three ways in which families are becoming more ‘symmetrical’

  • Suggest three reasons why families may be becoming ‘more symmetrical’

  • Outline three pieces of evidence that criticize the view that the family is becoming more symmetrical

  • Suggest two reasons why a gendered division of labour still exists between some couples

  • Suggest three ways in women going into paid work has influenced domestic relationships

  • Suggest three ways in which men may still have more power than women in domestic relationships

  • Suggest three reasons why official statistics on domestic violence may be inaccurate

  • Suggest three reasons why domestic violence occurs

Possible Essay Questions

  • Examine the factors affecting power relations between couples (24)

  • Assess the view that modern relationships are becoming more symmetrical (24)

Families and Households in the UK – Social Trends

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

The Office for National Statistics Families and Households Hub Page is an obviou starting point for exploring this issue . Some of the headline stats include the following:

  • 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

  1. 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.

changes to household structure UK 2005 to 2015

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!

marriage and cohabitation trends UK

3. Family Size 

Family size appears to have remained pretty stable over the past 15 years

family size UK

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.

household size UK

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.

 

Multi family households UK

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.

People LIving Alone UK

Sociological Perspectives on Romance, Love and Modern Relationships

If a couple were to discuss honestly how a modern ‘pure relationship’ is likely to pan out then the conversation might go something like this….

Covers concepts such as reflexivity, the pure relationship and confluent love.