Essay about A report investigating family diversity

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Sociology and the Family

A report investigating family diversity

November 2013

What is the family?
A family is a care-giving unit that can be made up of several variations of people from married couples, parents and children and adopted families. Not all families have to be related by blood and can be a family just by marriage or adoption. A household can still be a family but this can also be an individual, or a group of unrelated people that share income to cover all household bills.
The family can be very diverse and there are many formats to what people believe constitutes a family. The family unit has changed throughout the years and different types of family are emerging and are starting to be seen as 'normal' but would have never have been considered many years ago, and social attitudes will have had an impact on this, this will be discussed further.. This report will look at the types of family and households and the changes in laws that have come about to change the ideas behind what a family is. There are a variety of different types of family including Nuclear, Single parent, Gay/Lesbian, Extended, Reconstituted and Co-Habiting.
‘Discuss the variety of family and household types’
The idea of the 'conventional family' or a traditional nuclear family, which is made up of married parents and dependent children is slowly declining. In 2012 ONS married families with dependent children only made up 38% of all families in the UK compared to 39% of families having cohabiting parents, 26% being single parent families and just under 1% of same sex families.
Murdock (1949) believed that the family served four main functions Sexual, Reproductive, Economic and education, and that this was best suited to the nuclear family. However, Talcott Parsons (1959) believed that the family was there to form two main functions they are the primary socialisation of children and stabilisation of adult personalities in society. Along with the decline in the typical nuclear family there has been a need for new family types to be considered, these being the Reconstituted family and the Co-Habiting family. The reconstituted family is made up of at least one member having children from a previous relationship, this can also be called a 'Step Parent Family. With 42% of marriages ending in divorce and remarriages showing as over 56000 according to the ONS 2011, this type of family is on the increase.
There has also been an increase in the number of Co-Habiting families, this being a family that is unmarried. The figures currently show that there are 2.9 millions families who cohabit and 1.9 million of these have dependent children. (ONS 2013)
Extended families are a family that has at least 3 generations that either live in the same house or have very close connection with the household. These can be seen simply as extensions of the nuclear family. This type of family is very common in traditional Spanish, Greek and Indian families but to name a few. A belief with extended families is that women who live within larger families are likely to get married earlier and have more children, with the result being an obstacle to economic and social development Castillo et al (1968). It is believed that modern day extended families are important in assisting immigrants to incorporate themselves within society Glick (2000). The existence of the welfare states has placed less importance on the need for the extended family along with being seen as one of the reasons in the increase in the single parent family.
The increase in single parent families has also been noted and believed to be partly due to the increase in help from the welfare state, especially with the introduction of Child Tax Credits in April 2003 (, this increase in money available for parents and a higher allowance again being awarded to lone parents was to ensure they did not fall into the