However, conflict theorists argue that this view is quite rose tinted as it ignores the fact that not all children have benefited equally from the protections and services put in place.
We can point to at least the following significant inequalities among children...
Rich children on average benefit a LOT MORE from education than poor children.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK are more than three years behind their peers by age of 15, according a recent study.
About two thirds of this difference is apparent at age 10, suggesting that differences in educational achievement between rich and poor kids emerge at a young age.
The study says one of the main reason for the difference is to do with quality of teachers. The best Qualified Teachers in the UK simply aren’t interested in teaching in schools in the most deprived areas, where there are often discipline problems.
Looking at the very top of the social class ladder – Half of all A and A* grades at A level in the UK are secured by the 7 per cent of students who are privately educated, and 4.5 times as much is spent on teaching them as on the average state-educated student.
Girls suffer more problems in childhood than boys
One example of this is that girls have to negotiate the psychological pressures of ‘objectification’ much more than boys – Evidence below
A 2007 survey of Brownies aged 7-10 were asked to describe ‘planet sad’ – they spoke of it being inhabited by girls who were fat.
A 2009 survey found that a quarter of girls thought it was more important to be beautiful than clever. – Youngpoll.com
16% of 15 -17 year old girls have avoided going to school because they were worried about their appearance
One further consequence of objectification is that girls face sexual abuse from boys. (nspcc)
A second example comes in the number of Forced Marriages associated with Asian communities. In 2018 the British authorities dealt with 1500 cases of forced marriage, the vast majority of victims being Asian girls.
However, the actual numbers may be far greater…. Full fact reported that in 2011 the Forced Marriage Unit in the UK had taken up 400 live cases of forced marriage, but the site also reports that one expert in the field suggested that there might be up to 10 000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriage per year in the UK.
Child Protection services fail to protect many children from harm.
The most horrific example of this is from the town of Rotherham where gangs of Asian men groomed, abused and trafficked 1400 children while police were contemptuous of the victims and the council ignored what was going on, in spite of years of warnings and reports about what was happening.
A recent report commissioned by the council, covering 1997 to 2013, detailed cases where children as young as 11 had been raped by a number of different men, abducted, beaten and trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England to continue the abuse.
It said that three reports from 2002 to 2006 highlighted the extent of child exploitation and links to wider criminality but nothing was done, with the findings either suppressed or simply ignored. Police failed to act on the crimes and treated the victims with contempt and deemed that they were “undesirables” not worthy of protection.
Toxic Childhood – Toxic Childhood is where rapid technological and cultural changes cause psychological and physical damage to children
The concept of Toxic Childhood is one of the main criticisms of the March of Progress view of chilhood – it is especially critical of the idea that more education and products for children are necessarily good for them.
The Term Toxic Childhood was invented by Sue Palmer, a former primary school headteacher, in her 2006 book: ‘Toxic Childhood: How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What We Can Do About It.
In the book, Palmer argues that a toxic mix of technological and cultural changes are having a negative impact on the development of a growing number of children, and she outlines six main ways in which childhhood has become increasingly toxic over the years.
Six ways in which childhood is increasingly toxic
A few years ago Sue Palmer’s Web Site had a very clear summary of six social changes which were damaging children’s early development, listed below….
The decline of outdoor play – linked to increased childhood obesity
The commercialisation of childhood – linked to children being exploited by advertisers
The ‘schoolification’ of early childhood – which reduces independence
The decline of listening, language and communication skills – because of shortened attention spans
Screen saturation – reduces face to face interaction
Tests, targets and education – increases anxiety among children.
Palmer’s Web Site used to be well organised, and used to have a lot of links to recent research on Toxic Childhood..
Unfortunately the Web Site has now changed, and the free information (arguably like childhood) has disappeared, and it now just links to her books, which you have to pay for.
I guess times are hard for adults as well as children. I imagine 15 years on from all the initial excitement, and with the publications industry changing, there’s probably a lot less money in being an independent researcher/ author than there use to be, especially if you’re used to a Head Teacher’s salary!
In the absence of the free research links, it would be a useful activity for students to take one of the six aspects of toxic childhood above and conduct their own research, to evaluate the extent to which these social changes are damaging children’s development, or not!
More Recent Books on Toxic Childhood
Sue Palmer has published two more books, focusing on boys, in 2007, and on girls, in 2014.
Criticisms of the view that childhood has become increasingly toxic
This could be an example of an adult ‘panicking’ about technological changes, maybe children are more adaptable than Palmer thinks?
Taking the longer term view, childhood may well be more commercialised today, but surely children are better off today as consumers rather than producers (child labourers).
This article by Catherine Bennett is worth a read – it reminds us that ‘in the good old days we just had to endure beatings’, although in fairness to Sue Palmer I don’t think she actually romanticizes the past, she’s really just pointing out the new and different problems children now face in a post-modern age.
Find out More
Visit Sue Palmer’s Web Site – Palmer has published several books on child development and education, her most recent publication argues for raising the school starting age to seven!
From 1900 to the Second World War the largest immigrant group to the UK were Irish, mainly for economic reasons, followed by Eastern and Central Europian Jews, who were often fleeing from persecution.
Before the 1950s very few immigrants were non-white.
By contrast, during the 1950s, black immigrants from the Caribbean begain to arrice in the UK, followed during the 1960s and 70s by South-Asian immigratnts from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Since 2001 the main sources of immigration to the UK have been as follows:
15% UK citizens returning home-ownership
30% from the European Uniion (mainly Polish)
30% from New Commonwealth countries such as india
To what extent is migration responsible for UK population growth?
In short, it’s not all about increased immigration, it’s more complex!
For most of the 20th century, the growth of the UK population was the result of natural increase (more births than deaths). Until the 1980s the numbers of people emigrating was greater than the number of people immigrating
More recently, however, and especially since the turn of the Millennium (around the year 2000), there has been an increase in net migration, reaching a peak in 2011 of just over 250, 000. However, this recent increase in net migration is mainly due to the decrease in emmigration, rather than an increase in immigration.
Finally, there has been a mini baby boom in the UK since the year 2000 which is responsible for about a third of the increase in recent population growth. However,
Explaining the reasons for immigration to the UK
In order to explain immigration, you have to look at both push and pull factors.
Push factors are things llike escaping poverty, unemployment or persecution.
Pull factors include things like better opportunities for jobs, study, a higher shtandard of living, more political and religious freedom and joining relatives.
The main pull factors to the UK in recent years have been:
To study at university (and also resulting in short term immigration only)
For employment – NB historically this is the major reason, and yes this does explain Polish immigration to a large extent but it’s also worth noting that many early migrants from the Caribbean and South-Asia were recruited by the British government to fill labour shortages in the UK – so quite literally pulled to the UK.
To be with family members.
The most significant push factor has been to seek asylum from Persecution. The most significant recent wave of this type was when 30 000 East African Asians escaped racist persecution by Iid Amin in Uganda in the 1970s. More recently Britain has accepted thousands of refugees fleeing persecution from several countries.
Another significant push factor is the high levels of unemployment in some southern and eastern European countries – Spain for example has youth unemployment of around 50%.
Explaining the reasons for emmigration from the UK
Historically the UK has been a net exporter of people. Two of the main reasons for emmigration include:
To take advantage of better employment opportunities
To have a higher standard of living – To benefit from the lower cost of living abroad in retirement.
If we go back into long term history, we could even add ‘colonial conquest’ to list – much early emigration was linked to the British Empire’s desire to control resources in other parts of the world.
The consequences of immigration for the United Kingdom
The Radical Feminist viewpoint is that relationships are the primary means through which men control women and maintain their power over them in society.
Probably the most shocking evidence which supports this view is the continued prevalence of domestic violence. According to the BCS (2007) this accounts for a sixth of all violent crime and nearly 1 in 4 women will experience DV at some point in their lifetime and women are much more likely to experience this than men.
The radical Feminist explanation for DV is that it is an inevitable feature of a patriarchal society and it is part of a wider system that helps maintain male power over women, they key division in society.
Just to demonstrate that this Radical Feminist views didn’t disappear in the 1980s – Here is a recent Radical Feminist view on domestic violence…
“Domestic violence against women by men is “caused” by the misuse of power and control within a context of male privilege. Male privilege operates on an individual and societal level to maintain a situation of male dominance, where men have power over women and children. Domestic violence by men against women can be seen as a consequence of the inequalities between men and women, rooted in patriarchal traditions that encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partners.”
(Women’s AID Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, 2009)
Criticisms of the Radical Feminist view on Domestic Violence
1. Wilkinson criticises Feminists by arguing that it is not so much Patriarchy, but poverty that causes stress which leads to DV, so this is much less common in more equal, middle class households.
2. Men are also victims of DV with some statistics suggesting that men are the victims in as many as 2/5 cases of DV.
3. There is a historical trends towards women having more freedom and control over their sexuality, especially compared to traditional tribal societies, a point elaborated on below.
Women have more sexual freedom today…
In many traditional tribal societies, there is little notion that women should gain any satisfaction out of sex. As one British witness to sexuality amongst the Himba of Namibia put it ‘when the husband wants sex, the woman just opens her legs, he gets on with it, and when he’s finished, he just roles over and goes to sleep, there’s no sense of pleasure in it for the woman’. Moreover, in some societies, especially in East Africa, women’s sexuality is tightly controlled, in extreme cases through Female Genital Mutilation, which removes much of the pleasure associated with sex, and sex remains very much about reproduction only.
The above example stands in stark contrast to modern notions of female sexuality. Since the heyday of Feminism and the sexual revolution in the 1960s, and helped by modern contraception, we now live in the age of what Anthony Giddens calls ‘plastic sexuality’ – where sex is primarily about pleasure for both sexes rather than just being about reproduction.
Today, women increasingly demand sexual satisfaction as an ordinary part of their relationships, and cultural products such as the recent best-selling novel – ‘50 Shades of grey’ and programmes such as ‘The Joy of Teen Sex’ certainly suggest that there is much more open and honest discussion about sex between partners in relationships.
Further evidence that suggests modern relationships are equal and that women are more empowered lies in the proliferation of advice and discussion sites about relationships – Advice magazines such as seventeen.com certainly suggest that women, and even girls, are more empowered in their relationships than they used to be. Such magazines even have quizzes so girls can assess whether their boyfriend’s up to scratch.
Also, blogs such as the good men project suggest that men are more prepared to discuss ‘what it means to be a man’ and ‘modern relationships’, further suggesting more equality between the sexes where intimate relations are concerned.
Evidence against the view that there is equality in sexual relations
Women experience less sexual satisfaction than men….
Indiana University’s comprehensive survey found that while 91% of men had an orgasm the last time they had sex, but only 64% of women did. These numbers roughly reflect the percentage of men and women who say they enjoyed sex “extremely” or “quite a bit”: 66% of women and 83% of men. Only 58% of women in their ’20s had an orgasm during their latest sexual encounter.
30-40% percent of women report difficulty climaxing and 33% of women under 35 often feel sad, anxious, restless or irritable after sex, while 10% frequently feel sad after intercourse.”
The mainstream media refuses to advertise vibrators
According to one Feminist blog…“Vibrators still are such a big taboo. The media and films (ie. American Pie) glamourize women’s sexuality, but then refuses to run ads for vibrators which are very useful tools for helping women understand their sexuality. Yet Viagra ads run on all of these platforms with no problem.
All of this serves to reinforce ‘heteronormativity’, or the idea that women need men to give them sexual satisfaction. The problem with this is that the evidence suggests that men are failing to provide this…. many women report a lack of satisfaction in the bedroom.” Thirdly, there is evidence that men and women are becoming more equal where decision making is concerned in relationships
Pahl and Volger (1993) found that ‘pooling’ of household income is on the increase – where both partners have equal access of income and joint responsibility for expenditure
50% of couples pooled their income compared to only 19% of their parents, showing a movement away from ‘allowance systems’ in household expenditure’
Feminist criticisms that decision making is becoming more equal
While some decisions concerning money are made jointly, these tend to be less important ones – such as what clothes to buy while, some recent research suggests that men still tend to have the final say in more important decisions such as changing jobs or moving house.
This post is designed to help you revise for the AS Sociology Families and Households Exam
Postmodernists argue that we no longer live in the modern world with predictable orderly structures, such as the nuclear family. Instead society has entered a new, chaotic postmodern stage. In postmodern society, family structures are incredibly varied and individuals have much more freedom of choice in aspects of their lives which would have been relatively constrained in the past i.e. lifestyles, personal relationships ad family arrangements.
Postmodern society has two key characteristics
1. Diversity and fragmentation
Society is increasingly fragmented, with a broad diversity of subcultures rather than one shared culture. People create their identity from a wide range of choices, such as youth subcultures, sexual preferences and social movements such as environmentalism.
2. Rapid social change
New technology such as the internet, email and electronic communication have transformed our lives by dissolving barriers of time and space, transforming patterns of work and leisure and accelerated pace of change making life less predictable.
As a result of these social changes, family life has become very diverse and there is no longer one dominant family type (such as the nuclear family). This means that it is no longer possible to make generalisations about society in the same way that modernist theorists such as Parsons or Marx did in the past.
Examples of Two Post-Modernist Thinkers
Stacey (1998) “The Divorce-Extended Family”
Judith Stacey argues that women have more freedom than ever before to shape their family arrangement to meet their needs and free themselves from patriarchal oppression. Through case studies conducted in Silicon Valley, California she found that women rather than men are the driving force behind changes in the family. She discovered than many women rejected the traditional housewife role and had chosen extremely varied life paths (some choosing to return to education, becoming career women, divorcing and remarrying). Stacey identified a new type of family “the divorce-extended family” – members are connected by divorce rather than marriage, for example ex in laws, or former husband’s new partners.
Hareven (1978) “Life Course Analysis”
Tamara Hareven advocates the approach of life course analysis, that is that sociologists should be concerned with focus on individual family members and the choices that they make throughout life regarding family arrangements. This approach recognises that there is flexibility and variation in people’s lives, for example the choices and decisions they make and when they make them. For example, when they decide to raise children, choosing sexuality or moving into sheltered accommodation in old age.
Criticisms of Postmodernism
Late-Modernists such as Anthony Giddens suggest that even though people have more freedom, there is a still a structure which shapes people’s decisions
Contemporary Feminists disagree with Postmodernism, pointing out that in most cases traditional gender roles which disadvantage women remain the norm.
Functionlists focus on the positive functions performed by the nuclear family such as primary socialisation and the stabilisation of adult personalities. Also includes criticisms from other perspectives!
Functionalists focus on the positive functions of the nuclear family, such as secondary socialisation and the stabilisation of adult personalities.
This brief post is designed to help you revise the Functionalist Perspective on the Family, relevant to the AS Sociology Families and Households Module. It summarises the work of George Murdoch and Talcott Parsons and then offers some general criticisms .
The Functionalist View of Society
Functionalists regard society as a system made up of different parts which depend on each other. Different institutions each perform specific functions within a society to keep that society going, in the same way as the different organs of a human body perform different functions in order to maintain the whole.
Functionalists see the family as a particularly important institution as they see it as the ‘basic building block’ of society which performs the crucial functions of socialising the young and meeting the emotional needs of its members. Stable families underpin social order and economic stability.
Before you go any further you might like to read this more in depth post ‘Introduction to Functionalism‘ post which covers the key ideas of Functionalism.
George Peter Murdock – The four essential functions of the nuclear family
George Murdock was an American Anthropologist who looked at 200 different societies and argued that the nuclear family was a universal feature of all human societies. In other words, the nuclear family is in all societies!
Murdock suggested there were ‘four essential functions’ of the nuclear family:
1. Stable satisfaction of the sex drive – within monogamous relationships, which prevents sexual jealousy. 2. The biological reproduction of the next generation – without which society cannot continue. 3. Socialisation of the young – teaching basic norms and values 4. Meeting its members economic needs – producing food and shelter for example.
Criticisms of Murdock
Feminist Sociologists argue that arguing that the family is essential is ideological because traditional family structures typically disadvantage women.
It is feasible that other institutions could perform the functions above.
Anthropological research has shown that there are some cultures which don’t appear to have ‘families’ – the Nayar for example.
Talcott Parsons – Functional Fit Theory
Parsons has a historical perspective on the evolution of the nuclear family. His functional fit theory is that as society changes, the type of family that ‘fits’ that society, and the functions it performs change. Over the last 200 years, society has moved from pre-industrial to industrial – and the main family type has changed from the extended family to the nuclear family. The nuclear family fits the more complex industrial society better, but it performs a reduced number of functions.
The extended family consisted of parents, children, grandparents and aunts and uncles living under one roof, or in a collection of houses very close to eachother. Such a large family unit ‘fitted’ pre-industrial society as the family was entirely responsible for the education of children, producing food and caring for the sick – basically it did everything for all its members.
In contrast to pre-industrial society, in industrial society (from the 1800s in the UK) the isolated “nuclear family” consisting of only parents and children becomees the norm. This type of family ‘fits’ industrial societies because it required a mobile workforce. The extended family was too difficult to move when families needed to move to find work to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing and growing economy. Furthermore, there was also less need for the extended family as more and more functions, such as health and education, gradually came to be carried out by the state.
I really like this brief explanation of Parson’s Functional Fit Theory:
Criticisms of Parson’s Theory of Functional Fit
It’s too ‘neat’ – social change doesn’t happen in such an orderly manner:
Laslett found that church records show only 10% of households contained extended kin before the industrial revolution. This suggests the family was already nuclear before industrialisation.
Young and Wilmott found that Extended Kin networks were still strong in East London as late as the 1970s.
Parsons – The two essential or irreducible functions of the family
According to Parsons, although the nuclear family performs reduced functions, it is still the only institution that can perform two core functions in society – Primary Socialisation and the Stabilisation of Adult Personalities.
1. Primary Socialisation – The nuclear family is still responsible for teaching children the norms and values of society known as Primary Socialisation.
An important part of socialisation according to Functionalists is ‘gender role socialisation. If primary socialisation is done correctly then boys learn to adopt the ‘instrumental role’ (also known as the ‘breadwinner role) – they go on to go out to work and earns money. Girls learn to adopt the ‘expressive role’ – doing all the ‘caring work’, housework and bringing up the children.
2. The stabilisation of adult personalities refers to the emotional security which is achieved within a marital relationship between two adults. According to Parsons working life in Industrial society is stressful and the family is a place where the working man can return and be ‘de-stressed’ by his wife, which reduces conflict in society. This is also known as the ‘warm bath theory’
The Positive Functions of the Family: A summary
Functionalists identify a number of positive functions of the nuclear family, below is a summary of some of these and a few more.
The reproduction of the next generation – Functionalists see the nuclear family as the ‘fundamental unit of society’ responsible for carrying that society on by biological reproduction
Related to the above point one of the main functions is primary socialisation – teaching children the basic norms and values of society.
This kind of overlaps with the above, but even during secondary socialisation, the family is expected to help educated children alongside the school.
The family provides psychological security and security, especially for men one might say (as with the ‘warm bath theory’.)
A further positive function is elderly care, with many families still taking on this responsibility.
Murdock argued that monogamous relationships provide for a stable satisfaction of the sex drive – most people today still see committed sexual relationships as best.
General criticisms of the Functionalist perspective on the family
It is really important to be able to criticise the perspectives. Evaluation is worth around half of the marks in the exam!
1. Downplaying Conflict
Both Murdock and Parsons paint a very rosy picture of family life, presenting it as a harmonious and integrated institution. However, they downplay conflict in the family, particularly the ‘darker side’ of family life, such as violence against women and child abuse.
2. Being out of Date
Parson’s view of the instrumental and expressive roles of men and women is very old-fashioned. It may have held some truth in the 1950s but today, with the majority of women in paid work, and the blurring of gender roles, it seems that both partners are more likely to take on both expressive and instrumental roles
3. Ignoring the exploitation of women
Functionalists tend to ignore the way women suffer from the sexual division of labour in the family. Even today, women still end up being the primary child carers in 90% of families, and suffer the burden of extra work that this responsibility carries compared to their male partners. Gender roles are socially constructed and usually involve the oppression of women. There are no biological reasons for the functionalist’s view of separation of roles into male breadwinner & female homemaker. These roles lead to the disadvantages being experienced by women.
4. Functionalism is too deterministic
This means it ignores the fact that children actively create their own personalities. An individual’s personality isn’t pre-determined at birth or something they have no control in. Functionalism incorrectly assumes an almost robotic adoption of society’s values via our parents; clearly there are many examples where this isn’t the case.
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
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.