A Level Sociology: 10 mark questions

There are two types of 10 mark question across the 3 A-level sociology exam papers: ‘outline and explain questions’ (no item) and ‘applying material from the item’ questions.

Below is a nice wall-chart explaining the difference between them, adapted from the AQA’s ‘notes and guidance document. (source)

Sociology A-level 10 mark questions.png

*the action word here might be different. Instead of ‘reasons’ it may be ‘criticisms’, ‘consequences’, ‘ways’ or something else!

**Obviously there will be an item! Not included here because it wouldn’t fit. YOU MUST REFER TO THE ITEM!

For specific examples of the two different types of 10 mark question, please click here: A-level sociology: exams and revision advice. For even more practice questions, see below!

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Outline and explain two ways in which the family might be losing its functions (10)

A possible 10 mark (no item) question which could come up on the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 2: families and households, section A.

This is essentially asking you to criticise the functionalist view of the family.

family losing functionsOne 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.

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Analyse two reasons for gender differences in subject choice (10)

The trick here is to pick two broad (rather than very specific) reasons, which will give you the most scope to develop

 The first reason is gendered differences in early socialisation

Fiona Norman (1988) found that most parents socialise boys and girls in different ways – they tend to be more gentle with girls, protect them more, and encourage them in more passive activities, such as reading with them, whereas ‘typical boys’ are encouraged to run around and ‘let of steam’ more.

Later on in school, this might explain why more boys do active subjects such as P.E. and why more girls do reflective, academic subjects such as English and sociology.

A further gender difference in socialisation is the toys boys and girls play with – dolls for girls and cars and tool sets for boys, which could explain differences in vocational subjects – health and social care subjects (working with children) are very female dominated, engineering (making and fixing) are very much male dominated.

However, Postmodernists would say that these stereotypes are breaking down, and that gender stereotypes in socialisation are much less common than in the past, hence why we are seeing more gender diversity in subject choice today.

Peer group pressure might also encourage boys to do ‘typically boys subjects’ and girls to do typically girls subjects.

This linked to hegemonic (dominant ideas about) masculinity – stereotypically, ‘real men’ are good at sport, and so boys are under pressure play sport to fit into their male peer group, this doesn’t apply to girls and could explain why more boys do PE later in their school careers.

Similarly hegemonic femininity also requires that girls ‘look good’ (as Louise Archer found) which could explain why it is mostly girls who do hair and beauty courses.

Verbal abuse is one way these peer groups reinforce dominant gender identities. Boys choosing girls’ subjects can be accused of being ‘gay’, and vice versa for girls, and this may steer them away from subjects which don’t fit in with their gender domains.

To analyse this even further all of this is especially true of working class girls and boys, and for younger children, less so for middle class and older children (doing A level for example).