Contemporary Trends | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Contemporary Trends

(Relevant for Sociology optional for UPSC CSE)
Paper-1 ,Unit-9 : Contemporary Trends

Contemporary Trends

There is a diversity of family and marriage forms today in different societies across the world. In some areas, such as more remote regions in Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim, traditional family systems are little altered. In most developing countries, however, widespread changes are occurring. The origins of these changes are complex, but several factors can be picked out as especially important.

  1. One is the spread of Western culture. Western ideals of romantic love, for example, have spread to societies in which they were previously unknown.
  2. Another factor is the development of centralized government in area previously composed of autonomous smaller societies. People’s lives become influenced by their involvement in a national political system; moreover, government makes active attempts to alter traditional ways of behavior.
  3. Because the problem of rapidly expanding population growth, for example in China state frequently introduce programmes that advocate smaller families, the use of contraception, and so forth.
  4. A further influence is the large-scale migration from rural to urban areas. Often men go to work in towns or cities, leaving family members in the home village. Alternatively a nuclear family group will move as a unit to the In both case, traditional family forms and kinship systems may become weakened.
  5. Finally, and perhaps most important, employment opportunities away from the land and in such organization as government bureaucracies, mines, plantations and where they exist – industrial firms tend to have disruptive consequence for family systems previously centred on landed production in the local community.

In general, these changes are creating a worldwide movement towards the breaking down of the extended family systems and other types of kinship groups. This was first documented by William J. Goode in his book World Revolution in Family Patterns (1963) and has been borne out by subsequent research. The most important changes occurring worldwide are the following:

  • Clans and other kin groups are declining in their influence.
  • There is a general trend towards the free selection of a spouse.
  • The rights of women are becoming more widely recognized, in respect to both the initiation of marriage and decision – making within the family.
  • Arranged marriages are becoming less common.
  • Higher levels of sexual freedom, for men and women, are developing in societies that where very restrictive.
  • There is a general trend towards the extension of children’s rights.
  • There is an increased acceptance of same- sex partnerships.

It would be a mistake to exaggerate these trends, or to presume that they have occurred uniformly around the world many of them are still being fought for and are bitterly contested. Similarly it would be a mistake to suppose that the extended family is everywhere in decline. In most societies today, extended families are still the norm, and traditional family practices continue.

Moreover, there are differences in the speed at which change is occurring and there are reversals and countertrends :

  1. Family Size Has Decreased: It is no secret that the twelve-child families of the last century are rare today. The birthrate in the Western world began failing about a century ago. Today’s “smaller family”, however, does not mean that all families are proportionately smaller. The Women’s Liberation Movement has encouraged women to view childbearing as an option not as a duty. The proportion of couples who choose to remain childless has increased (Veevers 1980), and more women are delaying parenthood, with about one-third having their first child at 25 or older (Willkie 1981). Contraceptive devices have provided the means but not the motive. Contraceptives are not the cause of smaller families any more than ropes are the cause of the suicides. The motives for desiring smaller families carry us into many other aspects of the culture. The shift from an illiterate agricultural society to a literate, specialized, industrialized society has changed children from an economic asset into an expensive burden. Shifts in patterns of recreation, in aspirations for education and social mobility, and changing concepts of individual rights have all united to curb indiscriminate childbearing. At present, the traditional idea that raising a large family is a noble service to society is rapidly being replaced by the idea that bearing many children is an act of irresponsible self indulgence. Thus, changing technology changing economics and changing values are all involved in the change in family size.
  2. Single-Parent Families Have Increased: While the proportion of all households composed of a married couple with children present fell by one-fourth be. Those headed by females increased 65 percent, to one in nine families. Those families headed by a never-married female increased. Of all families with children, one-parent families increased. At a given moment, 20 percent of today’s children are living in a single-parent household, while today’s child has a 50-50 chance of living in a single-parent household at sometimes before the age of 18.
    • Whether the single-parent family is necessarily damaging to children can be debated. Blechman (1982) observes that if socioeconomic status, education, and other variables are controlled so that number of parent is the only variable being measured, then few differences in child development can be shown.
    • Most single-parent families are poor, and three-fourths of them are on welfare (Segalman and Basu). A major part of their low income and poor education is a result of their being single parents (or teen-aged parents). A longitudinal study of women who divorced and did not remarry found that they suffered an average income decline of 50 percent (Duncan and Morgan).
    • Single-parent mothers are the greatest consumers of mental-health services, while their children’s rate of sue of mental-health service is four times that of children from two-parent families (Guttentag, 1980). Some part of these difficulties can be attributed directly or indirectly to the single-parent status.
    • It is also clear that a single-parent family can be a healthy environment for children. A support network of helpful relatives of friends can make a great difference (McLanahan et al.). The character of the parent is clearly more important than the form of the family. One responsible, living parent may be better for children than two quarrelsome, abusive parents locked in endless conflict. But it is difficult to argue that two responsible, living parents are not better than one.
  3. Unmarried Parenthood Has Increased: Since 1950, the illegitimacy rate has multiplied more than four times. A generation ago nine out of ten illegitimate babies were placed for adoption; today more than nine in ten of them are kept by their mothers. This often condemns the mother to a life of economic deprivation and the baby to a life of emotional deprivation (Furstenberg & Fosberg). One wonders about that ultimate social consequences of having a significant part of the next generation raised by unmarried adolescents whom we do not consider mature enough to sign a contrast, drive a car, cast a vote, or buy a drink.
  4. Single-Person Household Have Increased: It was historically difficult for a person to live comfortably alone. Only by joining a family or by setting up a household complete with servant staff could one live in comfort. Today the physical accommodations are more favourable-furnished apartments and maid service, wash-and wear clothes, Laundromats, and catering services of many kinds make it easier for the singles.
    • Historically, women lived with parents or relatives until married. Any younger woman who wished to live alone was suspected of evil intentions. Today one’s apartment and set of wheels have become almost symbols of passage into adult status. Single-person households have increased from 4.7 percent of all households in 1950 to 23 percent.
    • A number of books have been written in praise of the single life-style (e.g., Adams, Single Blessedness). While opinions-on single “blessedness” may vary, the increase in single-person households is a highly significant change in family patterns (Stein, 1981). For example, the single person is more vulnerable to many of life’s hazards (such as illness or unemployment) and more susceptible to deviation than are people living in families (Davis and Strong).
  5. Non-marital Cohabitation Has Increased: There have always been some unmarried couples who lived together openly as ‘lovers” rather than as husband and wife. Except in sophisticated, “arty” circles, they were generally condemned as scandalous and immoral. Today, however, non marital cohabitation multiplied by many times.
    1. Nonmarital cohabitation in Sweden which was fairly common but viewed as deviant until about 1965, is reported as fully institutionalized (Trost). A longitudinal study of 111 cohabiting Swedish couples found that after 3½ years, 22 were separated, 25 had married, and 51 were still cohabiting (Trost). Nonmarital cohabitation has become quite common in the United States, with varying degrees of acceptance by parents and others. Whether it will ever become institutionalized is an open question.
    2. For most cohabiting couples, nonmarital cohabitation seems just another stage of the courtship process, without any firm commitment to marry (Macklin). While most cohabiting couples have made no firm commitment to marry, most do marry or else they separate within a few years. Very few plan or will choose nonmarital cohabitation as a permanent life-style (Macklin).Thus, cohabitation has become a fairly common preliminary to marriage, a point easily confirmed by nothing the addresses of marriage license applicants as printed in the newspaper.
    3. One study of cohabiting persons’ scores on the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory found that cohabiting college students, as compared with other students, tended to be somewhat more irreligious nonconformist, immature, impulsive, manipulative, selfish, outgoing, friendly, fun-loving, and creative.
    4. Research studies quite consistently show that nonmarital cohabitation is remarkably like conventional marriage in its problems and adjustments and that nonmarital cohabitation has scarcely any measurable effects upon the marriages of those who marry (Blane, et al; Stafford; Macklin,). May conclude that nonmarital cohabitation has become a widely accepted preliminary to marriage but is having very little effect upon marriage and the family.
  6. The Quiet Revolution in Women’s Employment: Perhaps the greatest change of all has been the increase in “working wives”. Women workers today form over two-fifths of our labor force. About 61 percent of all married women (aged 20 to 45) living with their husbands are in the labor force, and over nine out of ten married women work for some part of their married lives.
    • Married women with children are now more likely to be employed than married women without children (explained, perhaps, by the fact the many of the “married women without children” are of retirement age).
    • Historically, a woman who worked was living evidence that she had no husband able and willing to support her. A survey of 140 married women workers in 1908 found that only 6 husbands held jobs above the grade of unskilled laborer. The working wife, once a lower-class phenomenon, is now common among the prosperous middle classes. There is no reason to believe that this trend will be reversed.
    • The quiet revolution has affected the household division of labor. The work time of housewives has not been reduced by laborsaving devices; today’s wives spend more time on housework than those of a half century ago (Hall and Schroeder; Vanek). The time once spend in hand-washing clothes and home-canning is now spent in putting in order a daily avalanche of toys, books, magazines, and hobby gear, chauffeuring children, attending the PTA, and doing other tasks which grandmother did not do.
    • Obviously, when the wife works, something has to give. Some of the housekeeping niceties commercialized, but the working wife still works longer than the housewife by an average of about ten hours a week. One study concludes that, as a compared with husbands of nonworking wives spend about four more hours a week on household chores (Bohen and Viveros-Long), while another study credits them with less than two hours per week of additional household chores (Pleck). Husbands of working wives do give considerable help with child care (Scanzoni,) and a recent survey of male college students reported three-fourths saying that they expected to spend as much time as their wives in bringing up children (Katz). It will be interesting to see whether their performance matches their promise. Most of the male readers of this book have discovered, or will discover, whether their masculinity will dissolve in dishwater.
  7. The Dual-Carrier Family Is Becoming Coming: For some years, many wives have worked, but few have had careers. Most working wives viewed their jobs as temporary, supplemental or supportive, and subordinate to their husband’s careers. Whether these working wives are happier than fulltime housewives is uncertain. Several studies conclude that working wives are more satisfied with their lives than housewives. Most of these women were socialized when sex-role expectations were more traditional. Where today’s young women will find their greater life satisfaction may be changing.
    • A growing number of young women today are asserting their equal right to a career, not just, a job. Unlike a job, a career implies a major, long-term commitment to a sequence of positions carrying increasing responsibility and expertise. Many women today expect that any necessary sacrifices of career goals to family life should be joint and equal, not unequally imposed upon the wife. A couple who try seriously to apply this formula will find that many adjustments must be made.
    • Dual-career couples with children usually employ domestic help, leading critics to charge that this creates a class of women who must do house work and child care so that other women can have a more privileged life style (Hunt and Hunt). Some dual-career couples resolve the job-transfer dilemma by commuting, but this sort of part-time marriage is often a prelude to divorce (Gallese). Dual careers are clearly difficult to operate within nuclear family in specialized, mobile society.
  8. The Status Of Divorce Has Changed: Divorce is not necessarily a symptom of moral decay or social instability. To invoke again the concept of cultural relativism, whether divorce is a disruptive crisis or a useful adjustment depends upon the culture. The decline of a set of uniform sex-role expectations increase the likelihood that a husband and wife may disagree about their rights and duties.
    • For many centuries, marriage was regarded as virtually indissoluble. Divorces were granted only in very limited cases, such as non- consummation of marriage. Most countries have moved rapidly towards making divorce more easily available. The so-called adversarial system used to be characteristic of virtually all industrialized courtiers.
    • Divorce rate are obviously not a direct index of marital unhappiness. For one thing, rates of divorce do not include people who are separated but not legally divorced. Moreover, people who are unhappily married may choose to stay together- because they believe in the sanctity of marriage, or worry about the financial or emotional consequences of a break up, or wish to remain with one another to give their children a ‘family’ home.
    • Why is divorce becoming more common? Several factors are involved, to do with wider social changes. Except for very small proportion of wealthy people, marriage today no longer has much connection with the desire to perpetuate property and status from generation to generation. As women become more economically independent, marriage is less of a necessary economic partnership than it used to be. Greater overall prosperity means that it is easier to establish a separate household, if there is marital disaffection, than used to be the case. The fact that little stigma now attaches to divorce is in some part the result of these developments, but also adds momentum to them. A further important factor is the growing tendency to evaluate marriage in terms of the levels of personal satisfaction it offers. Rising rates of divorce do not seem to indicate a deep dissatisfaction with marriage as such, but an increased determination to make it a rewarding and satisfying relationship.
    • The increasing specialization, individuation, and mobility of modern life, together with our rapid rate of social change, make it less likely that a couple will share the same tastes and values for a lifetime. Women’s economic dependence upon men has decreased. Unhappy wives in earlier generations were virtually helpless, whereas today’s unhappy wife has some alternatives: work, if she is able; welfare, if she is not (Udry)
    • Divorce has become socially acceptable, with divorcees no longer branded as moral lepers or social outcasts. Divorce feeds upon itself as an increasing traction of people have parents, relatives, or friends, who are divorced. Research shows that one’s readiness to divorce is more highly correlated with one’s social contacts with divorced persons than with one’s level of marital unhappiness (Greenberg and Nay). Close contacts with divorced persons transform divorce from a remote nightmare into a rational alternative. No-fault divorce laws have made divorce less costly and less complicated. Marital unhappiness may or may not have increased, but readiness to use divorce has multiplied enormously.
    • A society can get a very low divorce rate in at least five ways. First it can deemphasize love. In many societies marriage is working partnership but not a romantic adventure as well. If less is expected of marriage, more marriages will “successful. Second, it can separate love from marriage. A number of societies have a series of men’s clubs for companionship, and allow men wide freedom to prowl in search of sex adventure. Here again, less is demanded of the marriage. Third, the society can socialize its members to be so much alike in personality and expectation that practically all marriages will work out successfully. The stable, well-integrated society generally succeeds in accomplishing this leveling. Fourth, familism may be so encompassing that divorce is intolerable. In other words, so many of one’s necessities, privileges, and satisfactions may be connected to the marital and family ties that to sever the marital tie is to cancel nearly all the claims and privileges which make life tolerable. Finally divorce can be legally forbidden, or made so difficult that most unhappily married couples are unable or unwilling to seek divorce as a solution.
  9. Domestic violence:
    • We may define domestic violence as physical abuse directed by one member of the family against another or others. Studies show that the prime targets of physical abuse are children, especially small children. Violence by men against their female partners is the second most common type of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the most common crime against women, who are at greater risk of violence from men in their own families or from close acquaintances than they are from strangers (Rawstorne 2002.).
    • There is nothing new about violence within the family, but only recently has it been “discovered” as a social problem (Pfohl). The first national survey of family violence was made in 1975 by Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz. Violence in self-defense is also more common among wives, and this helps explain the surprisingly high violence index among women (Gelles).
    • Husband/wife and parent/child violence is found at all class levels but is far more common in the lower classes (Pelton). The violent husband is most often poor, uneducated, either unemployed or stuck in a low-paid-low – status job, and is the son of a violent father (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz). The child-abusing parent most often shows the same characteristics. Most were abused children themselves, are young and immature, hold unrealistic expectations for their children’s behavior, and react violently when children disappoint them (Thorman). The most likely victims are unwanted children (Freeman); or children who are sickly, fretful, and difficult to handle.
    • The most recently “discovered” form of family violence is parent or elder abuse family violence. Aged parents are particularly vulnerable to violence from their children or grand-children, and preliminary studies suggest that it is far more common than is generally recognized (Peek). As research proceeds, it will be interesting to see whether family violence is three-generational, with abused children growing up to become abusive parents, and, still later, to become abused grandparents.
    • Family violence is unlikely to disappear. As long as many children are socialized in an atmosphere of family violence, and as adults must cope with poverty, unemployment, unwanted children, and a dead-end, hopeless existence, there will be a lot of family violence (Gelles).
    • The issue of domestic violence attracted popular and academic attention during the 1970s as a result of the work under taken by feminist groups with refuge centre for battered women. Before that time, domestic violence, like child abuse, was phenomenon which was tactfully ignored. Feminist studies of domestic violence drew attention to the prevalence and severity of violence against women in the home. Most violent episodes between spouses reported to the police involve violence by husbands against their wives. There are far fewer reported cases of women using physical force against their husbands. Feminists have pointed to such statistics to support their claims that domestic violence is a major form of male control over women.
    • In a backlash against feminist arguments, conservative commentator have claimed that violence in the family is not about patriarchal male power, as feminists contented, but about ‘dysfunctional families’. Violence against women is a reflection of the growing crisis of the family and the erosion of standards of morality. They question the finding that violence from wives towards husbands is rare, and suggest that men area less lively to report instances of violence against them from their wives than vice versa (Straus and Gelles).
    • Such assertions have been strongly criticized by feminists and by other scholars who argue that violence by females is in any case more restrained and episodic than that of men, and much less likely to cause enduring physical harm. They argue that it is not sufficient to look at the number of violent incidents within families. Instead it is essential to look at the meaning, context and effect of violence. Wife battering – the regular physical brutalizing of wives by husbands- has no real equivalent the other way round. Research found that violence by women against their male partners is often defensive rather than offensive, with women resorting to violence only after suffering repeated attacks over time (Rawstorne). Men, who physically abuse children, are also much more likely to do so in a consistent way, causing long – standing injuries, than are women.
    • Why is domestic violence relatively commonplace? Several sets of factors are involved. One is the combination of emotional intensity and personal intimacy characteristic of family life. Family ties are normally charged with strong emotion, often mixing love and hate. Quarrels which break out in the domestic setting can unleash antagonisms that would not be felt in the same way in other social contexts. What seems only a minor incident can precipitate full-scale hostilities between partners or between parents and children. A man tolerant towards eccentricities in the behaviour of other women may become furious if his wife talks too much at a dinner party or reveals intimacies he wishes to keep secret.
    • A second influence is the fact that a good deal of violence within the family is actually tolerated, and even approved of. Although socially sanctioned family violence is relatively confined in nature, it can easily spill over into more server forms of assault. Many children In Britain have at some time been slapped or hit, if only in a minor way, by one of their parents. Such actions quite often meet with general approval on the part of others, and they are probably not even thought of as violence although there is increasing pressure.
    • While no social class is immune to spousal abuse, several studies indicate that it is more common among lowincome couples (Cherlin 1999). More than three decades ago, William Goode (1971) suggested that lowincome men may be more prone to violence because they have few other means with which to control their wives, such as a higher income or level of education. In addition, the high levels of stress induced by poverty and unemployment may lead to more violence within families. In support of this assertion, Gelles and Cornell (1990) found that unemployed men are nearly twice as likely as employed men to assault their wives.

Contemporary trend in family functions :

  1. The Economic Functions Have Greatly Declined : A century ago the American family was a unit of economic production, united by shared work on the farm. Except on the farm, the family is no longer a basic unit of economic production; this has shifted to the shop, the factory, the office. The family is no longer united by shared work, for its members work separately; instead, the family is a unit of economic consumption, united by companionship, affection, and recreation.
  2. The Sexual Regulation Functions Have Diminished : Although most sexual intercourse is still marital, the proportion has probably fallen claimed by Kinsey studies. A research study finds well over 90 percent of college students approving of sexual intercourse among persons who are engaged, in love, or with “strong affection,” while over two-thirds even approve of intercourse among those who are “not particularly affectionate” (Perlman). Many other studies (Schmidt and Sigursch; Hunt; Yankelovich; Zelnik and Kantner) point to the same conclusion; virgin marriage has become relatively uncommon and may virtually disappear in the near future. Whether this is a sexual revolution” as some scholars proclaim (Skolnik,) or whether it is only another of many historical swings between permissiveness and restrictiveness (Hindus; Shorter) is not yet apparent.
  3. The Reproductive Functions Has Declined In Importance: True, birthrates are much lower than century ago, but if one considers only the size of the surviving family, then the family reproductive function is not so greatly changed. A few centuries ago one-half to three-fourths of the children died in infancy or childhood; today over 96 percent reach adulthood. There is solid research evidence that the smaller families are less stressful, more comfortable, and “most satisfactory to spouses, parents, and children” (Nye et al.), and are happier and better adjusted (Hurley and Palonen; Schooler; Glenn and McLanahan). Even when other variables (such as income, education, and occupation) are controlled, children in smaller families are more healthy, creative, and intelligent (Lieberman). But if small families are good for children, having no children seems to be goods for adults.
  4. The Socialisation Function Grows More Important: The family remains the principal socializing agency, although the school and the peer groups unquestionably fill important socializing functions. Other social agencies are occasionally called in for guidance. The major change has been in our attention to the socialization function. An earlier generation knew little about “personality development today nearly every literate parent knows. We know something today of the role of emotional development in school progress, career success, physical well-being, and practically all other aspects of the good life. Our great-grandparents worried about smallpox and cholera; we worry about sibling jealousies and peer-group adjustment.
    • Does the child suffer when mother takes a job? There have been several dozen studies of this question (reviewed by Stoltz; Herzog; Nye and Hoffman; Schooler). The earlier studies failed to control for such class or family composition. As a result, the working-mother sample had a higher proportion of poor, uneducated slum dwellers, widows, and divorce than the nonworking-mother sample. Such poorly controlled studies seemed to show that children suffered when mother worked. Later studies compared children of working mothers with children of otherwise comparable non-working mothers. Although not entirely conclusive, these studies do not show any general tendency for children to suffer when the mother is employed. Although the evidence is somewhat mixed, it appears that whether the mother works is not very important, while the kind of mother she is and the kind of home she and the father provide are the more important variables (Hoffman)
    • At the very time that the socialization functions is growing more important, changing structure of the family– increasing divorce, illegitimacy, and single-parent and dual career families – would appear to make it more difficult for the family to perform its socialization function. Time will tell whether this fear is well-founded.
  5. The Affectional and Companionship Function Grew in Importance: The primary community, the small group of neighbors who knew one another well and had much in common has disappeared from the lives of most Americans. Urbanization and specialization have destroyed it. In an increasingly heedless, impersonal, and ruthless, world, the immediate family becomes the bulwark of emotional support. Only within the family can one hope to find enduring sympathy when troubled or an unjealous joy at one’s success. For both sexes and all races and at all races and at all ages, the single, the windowed, the divorced, and the separated show lower levels of happiness and higher death rates for all the leading causes of death. It is literally true that the lonely die sooner. The importance of the affectional and companionship functions is further magnified by the expansion of the post parental period. In earlier generations relatively few parents lived very long beyond the maturing of heir children.
  6. The Status Definition Function Continues: Many families continue to prepare children to retain the class status of the family; others seek to prepare their children for social mobility. They do this mainly by trying to give children the kind of ambitions, attitudes, and habits which prompt them to struggle for a higher class status and to fill it successfully. This is called anticipatory socialization, for it is an effort to socialize children class status which it is hoped they will some day achieve. At best, this effort is only partly successful. The child may acquire the ambitions and work habits which prompt it to struggle successfully for upward mobility, but no family can fully succeed in socializing a child for a way or life not practiced by that family.
  7. The Protective Functions Have Declined: The traditional family in Western society performed most of the functions of organized social work today-nursed the sick, gave haven to the handicapped, and shelter to the aged. Today, we have a medical technology which only specialists and hospitals can handle. Today’s urban household is an impractical place in which to care for some kinds of handicapped people. Family care of the aged was a practical arrangement when the aging couple stayed on the farm, joined by married child or mate. The parents could retire gradually, shifting to less strenuous tasks but remaining useful and appreciated. This pattern is available today to only a tiny minority, and many elderly couples feel- and are- useless and unappreciated in the homes of their children. Our rapid rate of social change and social mobility also means that many tensions may develop when three generations live under one roof. So for a variety of reasons – most of which have nothing to do with selfishness or personal responsibility – many of the protective functions of the traditional family have been shifted to other institutions.

Changing attitudes to family life:

There seem to be substantial class differences affecting reactions to the changing character of family life and the existence of high levels of divorce. In her book ‘Families on the Fault Line (1994)’, Lillian Rubin interviewed the members of thirty-two working class families in depth. She concluded that, compared to middle- class families, working class parents tend to be more traditional. The norms that many middle- class parents have accepted, such as the open expression of pre- marital sex, are more widely disapproved of by working- class people, even where they are not particularly religious. In working class households there tends therefore to be more of a conflict between the generations.

  1. The young people in Rubin’s study agree that their attitudes towards sexual behaviour, marriage and gender divisions are distinct from those of their parents but they insist that they are not just concerned with pleasure seeking. They simply hold to different values from those of the older generation.
  2. Rubin found the young women she interviewed to be much more ambivalent about marriage than were their parent’s generation. They were keenly aware of the imperfections of men and spoke of exploring the options available and of living life more fully and openly than was possible for their mothers. The generational shift in men’s attitudes was not as great.
  3. Rubin’s research was done in the United States, but her findings accord closely with those of researchers in Britain and other European countries. Helen Wilkinson and Geloff Mulgan carried out to large- scale studies of men and women aged between eighteen and thirty- four in the UK. They found major changes happening in the outlook of young women in particular; and that the values of this age group contrasted in a general way with those of the older generations in Britain.
  4. Among young women there is ‘a desire for autonomy and self- fulfillment’, through work as much as family and the valuing of risk, excitement and change. In these terms there is a growing convergence between the traditional values of men and the newer values of women. The value of the younger generation, Wilkinson and Mulgan suggest, have been shaped by their inheritance of freedoms largely unavailable to earlier generations freedom for women to work and control their own reproduction, freedom of mobility for both sexes and freedom to define one’s own style of life. Such freedoms lead to greater openness, generosity and tolerance; but they can also produce a narrow, selfish individualism and a lack of trust in other.
  5. Remarriage and Step Families: Remarriage can involve various circumstances. Some remarried couples are in their early twenties, neither of them bringing a child to the new relationship. A couple who remarry in their late twenties, their thirties or early forties might each take one or more children from the first marriage to live with them. Those who remarry at later ages might have adult children who never live in the new homes that the parents establish. There may also be children within the new marriage itself. Either partner of the new couple may previously have been single, divorced or widowed, adding up to eight possible combinations. Generalizations about remarriage therefore have to be made with considerable caution, although some general points are worth making.
  6. Odd though it might seem, the best way to maximize the chances of getting married, for both sexes, is to have been married before! People who have been married and divorced are more likely to marry again than single people in comparable age groups are to marry for the first time. At all age levels, divorced men are more likely to remarry than divorced women: three in every four divorced women, but five in very six divorced men, remarry. In statistical terms at least, remarriages are less successful than first marriages. Rates of divorce from second marriages are higher than those from first marriage.
  7. Step Families: The term step family refers to a family in which at least one of the adults has children from a previous marriage or relationship. Sociologists often refer to such groups as reconstituted families. There are clearly joys and benefits associated with reconstituted families and with the growth certain difficulties also tend to arise. In the first place, there is usually a biological parent living elsewhere whose influence over the child or children is likely to remain powerful. Second, cooperative relations between divorced individuals are often strained when one or both remarries. Take the case of a woman with two children who marries a man who also has two, and all live together. If the ‘outside’ parents insist that children visit them at the same times as before, the major tensions involved in meddling such a newly established family together will be exacerbated. For example, it may prove impossible ever to have the new family together at weekends. Thirds, reconstituted families merge children from different backgrounds, who may have varying expectations of appropriate behaviour within the family. Since most step children ‘belong’ to two houses holds, the likelihood of clashes in habits and outlook is considerable.
  8. Reconstituted families are developing types of kinship connection which are quite recent additions to modern Western societies; the difficulties created by remarriage after divorce is also new. Members of these families are developing their own ways of adjusting to the relatively uncharted circumstances in which they find themselves. Some authors today speak of binuclear families, meaning that the two households which form after a divorce still comprise one family system where there are children involved. In the face of such rich and confusing transformations, perhaps the most appropriate conclusion to be drawn is a simple one: while marriages are broken up by divorce, families on the whole are not especially where children are involved, many ties persist despite the reconstructed family connection brought into being through remarriage.

Alternatives to traditional forms of marriage and family:

  1. Cohabitation – Where a couple live together in a sexual relationship without being married- has become increasingly widespread in most Western societies. If previously marriage was the defiling basis of a union between two people, it can no longer be regarded as such. Today it may be more appropriate to speak of coupling and uncoupling as we do when discussing the experience of divorce above. A growing number of couples in committed long term relationships choose not to marry, but reside together and raise children together.
    • In a Study carried out by researchers at the University of Nottingham in 1999, sociologists interviewed a sample of married and cohabiting couples with children aged eleven or under, as well as a sample of their parents who were still married. They were interested in the differences in commitment between older married persons and couples in the younger generation. The researchers found that the younger married and cohabiting couples had more in common with each other than with their parents. While the older generation saw marriage in terms of obligations and duties, the younger generation emphasized freely given commitments. The main difference between the younger respondents was that some of them preferred to have their commitment recognized publicly through marriage.
  2. Gay and lesbian partnerships: Many homosexual men and women now live in stable relationship as couples. But because most countries still do not sanction marriage between homosexuals, relationship between gay men and between lesbians are grounded in personal commitment and mutual trust rather than in law. The term families of choice have some times been applied to gay partnership to reflect the positive and creative forms of everyday life. That homosexual couples are increasingly able to pursue together. Many traditional features of heterosexual partnerships such as mutual support, care and responsibility in illness, the joining of finances, and so forth- are becoming integrated into gay and lesbian families in ways that were not possible earlier.
    • Since the 1980s there has been a growing academic interest in gay and lesbian partnerships. Sociologists have seen homosexual relationships as displaying forms of intimacy and equality quite different from those common in heterosexual couples.
    • Weeks (1999) point to three significant patterns within gay and lesbian partnership. First there is more opportunity for equality between partners because they are not guided by the cultural and social assumptions that underping heterosexual relationships. Gay and lesbian couples may choose to shape their relationships deliberately so that they avoid the types of inequalities and power imbalances that are characteristic of many heterosexual couples. Second, homosexual partners negotiate the parameters and inner working of their relationships. If heterosexual couples are influenced by socially embedded gender roles, same- sex couples face fewer expectations about who should do what within the relationship. For example if women tend to do more of the house work and child care in heterosexual marriages, there are no such expectations within homosexual partnerships. Every thing becomes a matter for negotiation; this may result in a more equal sharing of responsibilities. Third, gay and lesbian partnerships demonstrate a particular form of commitment that lacks an institutional backing. Mutual trust, the willingness to work at difficulties and a shared responsibility for emotional labour seem to be the hallmarks of homosexual partnerships.
    • Relaxation of previously intolerant attitudes toward homosexuality has been accompanied by a growing willingness by the courts to allocate custody of children to mother living in lesbian relationship. Techniques of artificial insemination mean that lesbian may have children and become gay- parent families without any heterosexual contacts.
    • A number of recent legal victories for homosexual couples indicate that their rights are gradually becoming enshrined in law. In Britain, a landmark 1999 ruling declared that a homosexual couple in a stable relationship could be defined as a family. This classification of homosexual partners as members of the family will affect legal categories such as immigration, social security, taxation, inheritance and child support. In 1999 a US court upheld the paternal rights of a gay male couple to be named jointly on the birth certificate of their children born to a surrogate mother.
  3. Staying single : Recent trends in household composition raise the question: are we becoming a nation of singles? Several factors have combined to increase the number of people living along in modern western societies. One is a trend towards later marriages.
    1. Being single means different things at different periods of the life-course. A larger proportion of people in their twenties are unmarried than used to be that case. By their mid- thirties, however, only a small minority of men and women have never been married. The majority of single people aged thirty to fifty are divorced and in between marriages. Most single people over fifty are widowed.
    2. More than ever before, young people are leaving home simply to start an independent life rather than to get married (which had been on of the most common paths out of the home in the past). Hence it seems that the trend of ‘staying single’ or living on one’s own may be part of the societal trend towards valuing independence at the expense of family life. Still, while independence or ‘staying single’ may be an increasingly common path out of the parental home, most people do eventually marry.

The future of the family:

  1. If one looks at the divorce rate and dwells on the gloomy strictures of the marriage critics, it is easy to wonder whether the family has a future. But there is firm evidence that marriage and the family are not dying. The onedivorce-to-two-marriages ratio is mis-leading, since it implies that half the people get divorced, which is untrue. At current marriage and divorce rates, demographers estimate that fewer than two persons in five who marry will become divorced, some of them to be divorced several times, while more than three-fifths of first marriages will last until death (Glick and Norton)
  2. While a few sociologists doubt that the family has a future (Keller), most sociologists disagree. It is noteworthy that in the Israeli Kibbutz, after more than a generation of successful communal living, including a deliberate effort to abolish the family as a functional unit, the recent trend has been toward increasing the functional significance of the family (Shepher; Talmon; Mednick; Garson). All evidence thus indicates that the family, however often its death may be listed in the obituaries is nonetheless here to stay (Bane). It is even suggested by some scholars that the family is assuming greater importance in modern society. The inadequacy of work as a source of major life satisfactions for working class people and the loss of the primary community as a source of roots and identity leave the family as the greatest source of emotional satisfaction (Kornblum).
  3. The really important question is not “Will the family endure?” but, “How will it change?” Some believe that the computer revolution will transform the family, with a greatly increased fraction of all work, shopping, play, and everything else going on at home before the computer terminal (Frederick). “Productivity climbs when computers allow employees to work at home,” reports the Wall Street journal, but workers miss their primary group contacts with coworkers. It is too early to predict the effects of the computer revolution upon the home.
  4. One family historian believes that the nuclear family is crumbling and will be replaced by the “Freefloating” couple, less tied to children, close friends, or neighbors than in the past (Shorter). In contrast to this, two major family theorists have predicted that the next few decades may see a return to a more highly structured, traditional, and less permissive family than that of today (Vincent; Zimmerman). A prominent sociologist (Etzioni) claims that the nuclear family will survive because “no complex society has ever survived without a nuclear family. “There is little doubt that the family will survive, the direction of family change cannot confidently be predicted.

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