Families and Households - Evolution of the Family


Evolution of The Family - Cohabitation and Marriag

Cohabitation = couples living together without any legal framework

Marriage = the legally recognised relationship between two people

Common law (cohabitation) and statutory marriages have the following characteristics in common: both parties must freely consent and must be of legal age to contract a marriage or have parental consent, neither party may be under a disability that prevents him or her from entering into a valid marriage - e.g, they must both be of sound mind, neither of them can be currently married, and some jurisdictions do not permit prisoners to marry

Common law marriage differs from statutory marriage as follows: there is no marriage license issued by a government and no marriage certificate filed with a government, there is no formal ceremony to solemnise the marriage before witnesses, the parties must hold themselves out to the world as husband and wise (this is not a requirement of statutory marriage), most jurisdiction require the parties to be cohabiting at the time the common law marriage is formed. Some require cohabitation to last a certain length of time for the marriage to be valid but cohabitation alone does not create a marriage. The parties must intend their relationship to be, and to be regarded as, a legally valid marriage

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Evolution of The Family - Cohabitation and Marriag

Cohabitation rights bill: “Provide certain protections for persons who live together as a couple or have lived together as a couple; to make provisions about the property of deceased persons who are survived by a cohabitant; and for connected purposes.” 

LATs - Living apart together is a term to describe couples who have intimate relationships but live at separate addresses. LAT couples account for around 10% of adults in Britain, a figure which equates to over a quarter of all those not married or cohabiting. 

Changes in Births: (as of 2001) The fertility rate in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1924. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics found that the number of live births fell by 2.8% from 621,872 in 1999 to 604,441 last year. The infant mortality rate continued to decline, the figure falling to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

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Evolution of The Family - Remarriage 1/4

Lone parent families - a parent on their own with one or more children.

Moral panic - a fear within society fuelled by the press.

Remarriage - a second, or subsequent marriage

The divorce rate has increased rapidly and is not slowing down: 1/3 of marriages now involve one or both partners previously married. This reflects the disillusionment and dissatisfaction of women on marriage.

Married/in long term relationships women tend to be less happy than single women, but men in long term relationships/married are happier than single men. The dissatisfaction increases the levels of divorce and separation which generates more lone parents - as a result, there is a trend towards serial monogamy. 

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Evolution of The Family - Remarriage 2/4

As individuals get involved in a series of marriages/cohabitations, this creates reconstituted families (sometimes known as step/blended families). Stepfathers are more common than stepmothers. ONS suggests that there are around half a million stepfamilies with dependent children in  England and Wales (11% of all families with dependent children, and around 1 in 10 dependent children live as a stepfamily) as of 2011. 

Allan et al (2011) identifies that life in a stepfamily is complex. Natural families have a shared history and commitment which isn’t necessary for stepfamilies. Children may fall in conflict as they feel more loyal to the natural parent they aren’t living with and divisions in the children in families occur as they feel protective over their natural family. The organisation of the family is more difficult, e.g different custody agreements. Discipline and acceptance can be a worry in a stepfamily, meaning there is the potential for conflict.

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Evolution of The Family - Remarriage 3/4

The family has become increasingly diversified, meaning there is no one dominant form, however, the myth of the cereal packet family exists, the ‘most desirable, best and most common form’ of family/household in ideology, e.g the New Right (Murray) see the cereal packet family as the best and most functional type of family.

The imagery and description of this family type are most often seen in adverts, giving the impression this is the best way to raise children -  in a natural family (Allan et al 2011).

The family is seen as a nurturing and caring institution - a refuge from a stressful world (cushioning effect - marxism). The ideal of this family is two children and a heterosexual couple in their first marriage. 

The cereal packet family is a misleading stereotype because it ignores the changes in family pattern in contemporary Britain. The growing diversity shows traditional families as being eroded, meaning new family forms and living arrangements emerge, changing the understanding of ‘family’ and ‘family life’ for many parents and children. 

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Evolution of The Family - Remarriage 4/4

The family has become increasingly diversified: In 2013, 25% of families were lone parent families with 9/10 being headed by a woman - 75% of cohabiting or married couples were families with dependent children. A number of these families involved cohabiting rather than marriage - 1/6 families consisted of dependent children with a cohabiting relationship rather than marriage. These arrangements do not conform to the cereal packet stereotype. (Same-sex couples with dependent children do not conform to this image at all.) 

2/5 marriages end in divorce, a third of marriages now involve remarriage - about 11% of all couple families with dependent children were stepfamilies in 2011 and the stepfamily is a steadily growing family type. Most families are dual-worker families - 90% of couples with dependent children were both either in or looking for paid employment in 2013 - large numbers of mothers work in paid employment, this increases as children get older. 4/5 women with children over the age of 11 were in paid employment.

The cereal packet happy family type stereotype, of a working father, married to a home-based mother caring for two small children now makes up only about 5% of all households. 

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Evolution of The Family - Extended Families 1/3

classic extended family: a family, generally consisting of multiple generations of family, all sharing one household.

Functionalists such as Parsons, Young & Wilmot and Fletcher suggest that the CEF has largely disappeared from contemporary Britain - the isolated privatised nuclear family has emerged to suit modern life.   

Lane, Spencer and McCready (2012) found that the classic extended family was still commonly found among small communities of Travellers, and is still found in two other communities; traditional working-class and South-Asian communities

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Evolution of The Family - Extended Families 2/3

Traditional Working-Class Communities: CEFs are long established within communities dominated by industry as well as in inner-city working-class areas. In such communities, there is little geographical or social mobility and children usually remain in the same area when they get married. People stay in the same community for several generations, and this creates a close-knit community life. There is a constant exchange of services between family members, e.g babysitting. However, CEFs have declined in the second half of the 20th century as traditional industries close down and people move to seek new employment

South Asian Communities:CEFs have been found to be common amongst those who came to Britain in the 60s/70s from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Berthoud (2001) found that South Asian families tend to be larger than other families in the UK, both in greater numbers of children remaining in the home and the multigenerational units that are contributing members to the family unit. CEFs usually are focused on the male side of the family and such families continue to be an important source of strength in these communities. 

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Evolution of The Family - Extended Families 3/3

Modern Extended Family: majority of family units are classified as nuclear families, however, living geographically apart does not mean all links/relationships to other family members are severed. Due to the upsurge of technology and transportation, it has become easier to maintain relationships and support individuals. Therefore, this is the most common family type in the UK.

Bean Pole Families: multigenerational extended family, long and thin, with few aunts and uncles and cousins, reflecting fewer people being born in each generation but living longer. 

As identified, there is a growing trend of generations living longer due to advancements in health care, technology, etc. In addition to this, couples are having fewer children as time goes on so there are fewer children in each generation but they are growing up alongside older generations.

Brannen (2003) calls this new shape of the extended family the beanpole family because the family tree is thinner, with fewer brothers/sisters in one generation leading to fewer cousins in the next. Also, it’s longer, with several generations of older relatives as people live for longer. This trends towards a new beanpole form of the extended family can only be expected to increase with the growing numbers of the elderly and fewer children being born. 

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