Social policy refers to the plans and actions of government agencies such as the health and social services, the welfare benefits system, schools and other public bodies. Some sociologists argue that social policies have caused more diversity in families. In the 1930’s, the Nazi government kept women out of work and at home so they could take care of housework and childcare as well as sterilizing 375,000 disabled people to prevent them from having babies. In China, a one-child policy was introduced to try and control their population, and if parents had more than one child they would have penalties to face. Sociologists are interested to see if the introduction of social policies has made families become more diverse.
A social policy that has an effect on family life is divorce. Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. It has recently been easier for people to access divorce and therefore divorce rates have increased and become more popular. This has had a major effect on family life as it is generally women who are granted custody of the child or children when divorce occurs. This means that the child will not have a father or male figure always present in their life as they grow up which could affect the way in which they behave. It also means that the mother has to play the role of both parents by doing housework, looking after the children as well as bringing money into the family by going to work. Sociologists have contrasting views on divorce. For example, functionalists and the New Right see divorce as a negative thing as they believe that once two people are married it should be permanent. They argue that both the husband and wife have roles in which they are responsible for within the family, such as the husband playing the instrumental bread winning role and bringing the income into the family, and the wife plays the expressive homemaker role as they perform house work and child care. Single parent families therefore contradict their view on the ideal family type as the child will be missing one of the parent figures. However, feminists see divorce as a positive thing as it shows that women are becoming free and moving away from the traditional patriarchal