Family structure changes

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The term ‘family’ changed over the course of social growth according to the overwhelming needs and values of society, and its concepts and meanings. No single description for “family” is yet available. For instance, it is defined as “a group comprising of two parents and their children as one unit” and, at the same time, the dictionary defines a group of people who live under a single roof, typically under one head, as the family. Oxford’s Living Dictionary
The forms or shapes of the family differ in equal measure with the description. Now, there is no practical or meaningful type of family. Stephanie Coontz’s (2005) research on the history of marriage reveals that the family forms we see today in the United States are actually the result of an evolution of the family that began with an important shift in the culture of marriage in the mid-18th Century. Those changes took place due to “the notion of free choice and marriage as a cultural idea” and the way of becoming an optional institution.

Classical form of family was considered to look like this: 3 generations living under the same roof 1st generation – the elderly, 2nd – young and 3rd – children. While living with the elderly (grandparents) young parents transferred the main part of educating and caring for the children to the elderly. In the meantime, the young were to take care of all the household duties.

This type of family changed dramatically with the industrialization, as new workplaces were produced, the husbandry took the second place and the young, who used to live with their own parents took chances and the opportunities to move around and settle closer to working places than to their parental homes.

Such demographic and social activities lead to the decrease in the value of blood ties and the core principal of family changed. Educational role was delegated to universities and schools more than to the elderly. Basic principals of life changed from “watch me and learn” to “this is the right thing to do” principles.

Different views on family

Comparison of most spread views

Functionalists regard society as a system made up of different parts which depend on each other. In functionalist thought, the family is a particularly important institution as this it 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/

According to Talcott Parson, one of the functionalists greatest thinkers, the family performs reduced functions, if to compare with the agricultural times, but it still is the only institution that can perform two core functions in society. Primary Socialisation(family is still responsible for teaching children the norms and values of society known as Primary Socialisation) and the Stabilisation of Adult Personalities (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’)

Marxists argue that the nuclear family performs ideological functions for Capitalism – the family acts as a unit of consumption and teaches passive acceptance of hierarchy. It is also the institution through which the wealthy pass down their private property to their children, thus reproducing class inequality.

In short, Feminists advocate for the abolition of the traditional, patriarchal (as they see it) nuclear family and the establishment of alternative family structures and sexual relations. The various alternatives suggested by Radical Feminists include separatism – women only communes, and Matrifocal households. Some also practice political Lesbianism and political celibacy as they view heterosexual relationships as “sleeping with the enemy.”

Changes in family roles

In the literature addressing reconciliation of work and family life, “blurring boundaries” is a frequently applied concept (Gottschall & Voß, 2003). It is closely linked to de-traditionalizing gender relations, that is, the changing meaning of paid work and its spilling over to private life. This in turn challenges traditional distributions of power and money in Family relationships

Feminist views results

Feminists were struggling for equality in marriage and got it, in most cases. Both husband and wife have the same amount of opportunities to study, develop and make decisions. They consider it inappropriate for a woman to depend on her husband. And by winning the right to vote they got the opportunity to work and earn money by themselves. The increased number of employed and working women created the gender division in childcare as even the most vicious feminist is a mother.

Marxists views results

Marxist vies resulted in the division among the household income and work duties. The higher the post he or she has, the higher his/her part of the family budget the higher and the more powerful his/her place in family is. The genera idea of “consuming” unit remains unchanged. The more you earn the more you spend, the more your family can afford. Society still puts high standards for the children’s education and fulfillment of needs demands. Gender or role does not play as much as the amount of money you bring into family.

Functionalists views results

Functionalists views on family are too ideal. They do not pay attention to what also happens behind closed doors. Family still breads children, still gives them education. Siblings help each other as the spouses do. But the conflicts due to “you are to do” or “it is your duty” still remain if a person does not want to recognize the structural changes in family due to his/her basic knowledge and view on family.

Changes in family patterns


While it was a clear thing to marry when you wanted to in previous times, now it is inappropriate if you are not wealthy and protected enough to support your family. This statement shows us both men’s and women’s thoughts and views. The age pattern which shows people getting married for the first time is increasing. Most people now get 1st marriage at 25 at least. The idea of marriage being synonymous to family has faded


Divorce is no longer the question of church or religious beliefs in most of its cases. People easily get married or divorced. Only 40% of couples married at the age of 25-27 live more than 3 years before the get their divorce. The only thing that can stop from cancelling marriage is a child, but it also does not work very well as a leverage.


Separation is a well spread practice of solving family problems. They say, “while away from each other you get to know how much you miss your spouse”. Separation is also used by the couples, who did not get or did not want to get divorced and they have a child. They remain family in front of the government, but they do not exist as a socially meant family.

Child rearing

Child rearing is the only core function remained unchanged in the family structure and goals. The ways of educating and teaching changed. Parents are on work 24/7 to get their child everything it needs, but for their presence and love. Agricultural times type of family covered this problem by using other bloodline family members, living together with a child to teach them on a close example of a social personality.

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