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Basic Question Types in A-Level Sociology (AQA focus)

There are three main types of ‘question’ in A-level sociology exams:

  • Outline and explain questions
  • Analyse questions
  • Evaluate questions

This (hopefully) raises the question (is that a pun?) about what you’re likely to be asked to outline and explain/ analyse or evaluate….

If you read to the AQA’s specification carefully, which I’ve done (I couldn’t sleep the other night, it did the trick nicely), then you’ll find that there are 7 ‘core themes’ in A level sociology that examiners are likely to wrap these three basic question types around.

 

Seven basic types of outline (and explain) questions 

Outline simply means give a reason and explain how….

  1. Outline and explain three ways in which a concept ‘manifests itself in society.
  2. Outline and explain the effects of various social policies/ social changes
  3. Outline and explain the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
  4. Outline and explain the reasons for various social changes
  5. Outline and explain all of the five perspectives on education/ families
  6. Outline and explain a positivist/ interpretetivst approach to social research
  7. Outline and explain the strengths and limitations of any research method

Seven basic types of analyse question

Analyse means picking something apart into its component parts…. basically it involves outlining and explaining and then ‘digging deeper’ to explain even further…

  1. Analyse how a concept relates to other concepts/ perspectives
  2. Analyse the reasons for social changes
  3. Analyse the impact of social policies/ social changes
  4. Analyse the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
  5. Analyse the functions which institutions perform in society, using any of the perspectives
  6. Analyse how globalisation has affected social life.
  7. Analyse any social problem quantitatively or qualitatively…

Seven basic types of evaluate question

Evaluate means to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of something….you typically do this by considering a claim from another perspective, or by using evidence to support or refute it. 

  1. Evaluate the usefuleness/ relevance of a concept in explaining social phenomena today.
  2. Evaluate how significant a certain factor is in explaining changes in society
  3. Evaluate the view that a particular social policy/ social change has had a negative or positive impact on society.
  4. Evaluate the view that a particular reason is the most significant reason for class/ gender or ethnic differences in society.
  5. Evaluate the usefulness of any perspective for helping us to understand the role of institutions in society.
  6. Evaluate the view that globalisation has had a positive/ negative effect on any aspect of social life.
  7. Evaluate the usefulness of quantitative/ qualitative approaches to social research (possibly applied to a particular topic)

Thoughts on using these question types to teach A-level sociology

It’s relatively easy to differentiate teaching according to whether you’re asking students to ‘outline’ (easy) or analyse/ evaluate (more difficult), but I also think teachers need to be VERY AWARE of the which of the seven types of question they are getting students to think about, as each has a different kind of ‘flavour’ which influences the way it should be approached. 

NB – the question types above are not meant as an exhaustive account of all the possible question types students might be asked about in the exam, but if you focus on getting students to think about these questions you’re covering most of the bases.

Two other types of basic sociology question…

There are other ‘action words’ for sociology questions, such as define and apply, which students also need to be able to answer, but I really wanted to keep the above focused on the three main types of exam style question…

Define questions

Define any sociological concepts (and give example to illustrate)

Apply questions 

  1. Apply a perspective in order to explain any social phenomena/ media event/ social trend.
  2. Apply a research method to a particular topic.
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4 and 6 Mark Outline Questions on Education for the A Level Sociology Paper 1 Exam

Possible questions for the A Level Sociology Education (71912) PAPER 1 exam – the two short answer questions in this paper will ask you to outline two reasons/ ways/ criticisms. You will have one 4 mark question and one 6 mark question in this format (outline 2 and 3 ways/ reasons/ criticisms respectively).

The five examples below are all taken from the Perspectives part of the education topic, but draw on other parts of the module, as you should do.

NB these are my (over qualified) educated guesses about why might come up, and the answers are my best guesses as what will qualify as full markers).

Also the questions may be more obscure, or much nastier – remember, there is a theory that the people who write these exam papers have a burning hatred of teenagers and haven’t seen daylight since 1984.

If you like this sort of thing, why not buy my ‘short answer practice questions and answers for A Level sociology‘ – it’s as much fun as it sounds, actually more because I’ve colour coded the skills. It includes examples of 4,6 and 10 mark questions in the education bit of the A level paper 1 exam.

Anyway, enough wittering – some exemplar questions and answers:

Outline two ways in which education might prepare students for work (4)

 Two developed examples, should get 4/4

  • Teaching specific skills for specific jobs – a complex economy requires lots of people doing different jobs, requiring different skills – school starts off with some people specialising in sciences, other in humanities – later, education splits into more vocational courses and degree courses to offer more specialisation.
  • Motivation by external rewards – at school, pupils learn to put up with boring lessons in order to reap the rewards of exam results at the end, this prepares them to put up with dull work in reward for pay at the end of the month in later life.

Possible additional identifiers (1 mark for each, you’ll need to add in the plus 1s)

  • Teaching soft skills such as team work
  • Role allocation (if developed appropriately)
  • Teaching to accept hierarchy/ authority as normal
  • Exams being competitive

Outline two ways in which the education system might perform ideological functions (4)

Two developed examples, should get 4/4

  • Passive subservience of authority/ hierarchy – in school students learn they should accept the authority of teachers, later at work they have to accept the authority of managers – this makes them passive and obedient, thus easily controlled, according to Marxists
  • Teachers ignoring sexual abuse of female students – according to Radical Feminist analysis this reinforces patriarchal control as it means girls are more likely to grow up learning to say nothing about male violence against women in later life.

 Possible additional identifiers (1 Mark each, add in the plus 1s)

  • Motivation by external rewards
  • Fragmentation of subjects
  • Reinforcing of gender domains in subject choice

Outline two reasons why schools today might fail to create value consensus among pupils (4)

 Possible identifiers (you’ll need to add in the plus 1s)

  • The ethnocentric curriculum
  • The growth of home schooling
  • The existence of private schools
  • Marketisation

Outline two criticisms of the Marxist view of education (4)

 Possible identifiers (you’ll need to add in the plus 1s)

  • There are many critical subjects taught at university that criticise elites
  • It is deterministic – not every child passively accepts authority
  • Some students from poor backgrounds do ‘beat the odds’ and go on to achieve highly

 

Marking Practice…

Outline two positive functions which the education system may perform (4)

Mark the 2 examples below (1 mark per point +1 for development of that point). Feel free to comment below, and I’ll respond with my marks/ comments if enough people do. If you can’t wait, you’ll find the marks and comments here

Candidate X

The first positive function is, according to Emile Durkheim, schools might create value consensus among pupils.

The second positive function is that schools teach pupils the same subjects through the national curriculum, thus making them think the same.

Candidate Y

Role Allocation – where pupils are sorted into appropriate jobs based on their qualifications. The idea here is that different pupils have different levels of ability, and the more able/ harder working get higher qualifications, proving they are more suited to the more demanding, professional jobs.

Social solidarity – making people feel as if they are working together towards a shared goal.

 

 

 

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Marxist Theories of Crime – A Summary

Revision notes for A-level sociology, written with AQA sociology A level paper 2: crime and deviance with theory and methods (7192/3) in mind.

If you need to read over this in more depth then check out this long form version of the Marxist Theory of Crime here

Introduction/ The basics

  • Traditional Marxist theories explain crime in relation to power inequalities created by the capitalist system

  • The inequalities and injustices within Capitalism generate crime.

  • Class based analysis – both classes commit crime, the crimes of the elite are more harmful

  • The Bourgeoisie h- have economic power and because of this control the criminal justice system – they defined their own harmful acts as legal and are less likely to be prosecuted for the crimes they commit.

  • Historical Period (for Marxist Criminology) The 1970s

Crimogenic Capitalism

  • Crime is a consequence of the economic structure of capitalism
  • Capitalism is harsh, exploitative and breeds inequality, materialism and selfishness, which combined make crime in Capitalist societies inevitable.
  • See David Gordon’s work on the ‘Dog eat Dog’ society

The Elite Make the Law in Their Own Interests

  • William Chambliss: At the heart of the capitalist system lies the protection of private property
  • Laureen Snider – Many nation states are reluctant to pass laws which restrict the freedom of Transnational Corporations to make profit
  • There is unequal access to the law – the more money you have, the better lawyer you can get
  • Harmful and exploitative acts in capitalist systems are not formally labelled criminal if these harmful activities make a profit – e.g. Colonialism/ Numerous Wars/ Pollution.

All Classes Commit Crime and the Crimes of the Powerful are of particular interest to Marxist Criminologists

  • White Collar Crime = Individual middle class/ elite crime within a company , Corporate = Institutional crime

  • Typical e.g’s include various types of fraud and negligence regarded health and safety at work.

  • The economic costs of Corporate Crime are greater than street crime (Laureen Snider/ Corporate Watch.

  • High profile Corporate Crimes = Bernie Madhoff, the Enron $100bn fraud and the 20 000 dead people as a result of Union Carbide’s corporate negligence in Bhopal, India.

  • Despite being more costly to society, the crimes of the elite tend to go unpunished – As research by Tombs and Whyte suggests

The ideological functions of selective law enforcement

According to Gordon ‘selective law enforcement’ benefits the Capitalist system in three major ways:

  • we ignore the failings of the system that lead to the conditions of inequality which generate crime.

  • The imprisonment of selected members of the lower classes neutralises opposition to the system.

  • sweeps out of sight the ‘worst jetsam of Capitalist society’ such that we cannot see it.

Overall Evaluations of Marxist Theories of Crime

Postitive 

  • Dog eat Dog explains both WC and Elite crime
  • TTIP is good supporting evidence for point 2not lone individuals
  • Lots of case studies and stats support the view that Corporate Crimes are harmful – Bhopal!
  • Tombs and Whyte’s research – strongly supports point 3

Negative (criticisms) 

  • X – Crime has been decreasing in the UK in the last 20 years, yet we’re increasingly ‘neoliberal’
  • X – Crime existed before Capitalism and in Communist societies
  • X – Consensus theories argue most people today have private property, so most people are protected by the law
  • X – It’s unfair to compare corporate crime such as Fraud to street crime, the later has a more emotional toll.
  • X – Some Corporate Crminals are punished (e.g. Madhoff)
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Methods in Context Mark Scheme

My pared down mark scheme for the methods in context question in the previous post, which is adapted from the AQA’s own mark scheme, just put into easier language:

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using covert participant observation to investigate pupils with behavioural difficulties (20)

Marks Level Descriptors
17-20

 

If work your guts off you could get here!

 

Knowledge of the strengths and limitations of covert participant observation will be accurate and conceptually detailed.

Application will be very focussed on the specific topic. Students will consider at least two of the following in relation to the specific issue (pupils with behavioural difficulties)

1.    Who you might be researching (e.g. pupils, peer groups, parents, teachers, support staff).

2.    Where you might be doing the research (e.g. classrooms, staffrooms, pupils’ homes).

3.    The sensitivity of researching pupils with behavioural difficulties (e.g. vulnerability, stigmatisation, parental consent, school reputation).

Evaluation of the usefulness of covert participant observation will be explicit and relevant. Analysis will show clear explanation and may draw appropriate conclusions.

Students will typically apply 4/5 of the following strengths and limitations of covert Participant Observation to the above issue:

1.    Practical issues in the research process: Access (getting in, staying in, getting out), data recording, time/ cost

2.    Ethical issues – e.g. sensitivity, informed consent

3.    Issues of validity: qualitative data/ verstehen/insight, flexibility

4.    Interpretation and analysis problems

5.    Small sample size/ unrepresentativeness

 

Marks Level Descriptors
13-16

You should aim to be here!

 

1.    Knowledge of the strengths and limitations of covert participant observation will be accurate, broad and deep, but incomplete.

2.    Application of knowledge to the topic (students with behavioural difficulties) will be more generalised or more restricted way, for example:

 

•      applying the method to the study of education in general, not to the specifics of studying pupils with behavioural difficulties, or

 

•      specific but undeveloped application to pupils with behavioural difficulties, or

 

•      a focus on the research characteristics of pupils with behavioural difficulties, or groups/contexts etc. involved in it.

 

3.    Evaluation and analysis are likely to be explicit but limited

 

9-12

It’s reasonable but not desirable to be here

1.    Knowledge of the strengths and/or limitations of covert participant observation will be accurate but with limited breadth and depth

 

2.    Application of the method will be limited to education in general, rather than the specific topic

 

3.    Evaluation and Analysis will be limited, with answers tending towards the descriptive.

 

5-8

No one should be here!

1.    Knowledge of covert participant observation will be limited and undeveloped – e.g. two to three insubstantial points about some features of covert participant observation.

 

2.    Application to the topic will be very limited and at a tangent to the demands of the question, e.g. perhaps drifting into an unfocused comparison of different methods.

 

3.    Minimal/no evaluation.

 

1-4

You defo shouldn’t be here!

Answers in this band will show very limited knowledge, eg one to two very insubstantial points about methods in general. Very little/no understanding of the question and of the presented material.

Significant errors, omissions, and/or incoherence in application of material.

Some material ineffectually recycled from the Item, or some knowledge applied solely to the substantive issue of pupils with behavioural difficulties, with very little or no reference to covert participant observation.

 

 

 

 

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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)

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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.

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The reasons for and consequences of changing patterns of migration

Trends in migration

  • 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

To follow!

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Issues of Power and Control in relationships

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.

Other issues relating to power, control and sexuality in relationships

  • In general, women have more freedom and control over their sexuality than in traditional societes.

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.

  • However, there is 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

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Explaining the increase in family diversity (part 1/3 )

This is part 1 of 3 posts outlining the underlying factors which explain the increase in household diversity

Explaining the long term increase in family diversity

1. Changing patterns of marriage, divorce and cohabitation

The increase long term decline or marriage and increase in cohabitation and divorce can explain many of the above trends:

The fact that people are getting married later explains why there are more Kidult and single person households (for those who can afford it).

Any divorce which involves children is very likely to create one single parent household and one single person household for a period of time, and then many of these people will go on to form reconstituted families.

Relationship breakdown is more common amongst cohabiting rather than married families, and the cohabiting family household is the fastest growing family type in the UK.

Higher rates of divorce might also explain the increase in multigenerational households – as single mothers move back in with their parents, thus forming a multigenerational household.

2. Postmodernism and Postmodernisation

Postmodernists argue that the increase in the diversity of family household structures reflects the fact that we live in a diverse, tolerant society in which people are free to choose any type of family.

More people choose to stay single and hence there is an increase in Single Person Households Kidult households and because people are more tolerant it is easier than it was to be a single parent today because there is less stigma associated with being a single parent.

Another related factor here is that people are freer to choose non-nuclear families because of the decline of tradition and religion – there is much less social pressure to get married, have kids and stay married, so all other options become more viable.

Evaluation: Other perspectives argue that people do not simply choose to go into ‘alternative family structures’ – For example, Burghes and Browne’s 1995 research with 31 single parents found that not one of them had planned to become single parents, and all of them arributed their single parent status to the fact that their male partners had been either violent or too immature for parenthood

3. Economic Factors

The long term increase in wealth and overall rising standards of living explains the long-term increase in single person households. Generally wealthier countries have a higher proportion of single person households, and it is only wealthy countries where significant numbers of people can afford to live alone because it is expensive compared to two adults sharing the cost of a mortgage, bills, and food. It seems that when people can afford to do so, they are more likely to choose to live alone.

However, not everyone has benefitted from increasing wealth in the UK because at the same time as increasing wealth, the cost of living, and especially the cost of housing has increased. This explains the recent increase in multigenerational households and Kidult Households: at the lower end of the social class scale there are millions of people who cannot afford to buy or even rent their own houses, and so they stay living with their parents.

Explaining the increase in family diversity part 2 of 3