In this essay we will be discussing the sociological debates concerning the identity status roles and functions of the family from the pre industrial times to the present day. The urbanisation and industrialisation of britain played a massive role in the way that the family changed and how the family developed, from being an agrerian society to an industrial society. Pre- industrial families were multifunctional they lived and worked as a family unit, being self sufficient was the only way to ensure the means for physical survival.
The development of machinary and equiptment meant that jobs were less time consuming, the jobs became easier, and productivity levels rose. Industrialisation also meant the introduction of geographical mobility which led to a reduction of kinship networks and the apprearance of the nuclear family which was better fitted at that time, this is assumed to be a characteristic of the industrialised society, and industrial economies function better when there is movement between jobs, also the appearance of social mobility gave people better opportunities to get higher qualifications and created a division of labour, this also led to the increase of urbanisation.
This not only changed the structure of the family, but the relationships within the family. Women and children were stepped aside from work in order to perform the household chores and family functions whilst the men went out to work to become known as the breadwinners.
Over the last 2 – 300 years society has not only changed economically, but the family as well as its structure has altered. It has undergone adaptations in the way that it functions, moving from an agricultural based society into one of industrialisation. This is known as the “Fit Thesis”, the way that both society and the family have changed. Chrislivesey,www.socioligy.org.uk
Even though there is a general agreement that a relationship between the structure a family takes, and the society lives in, there is a disagreement over the precise form of the relationship. There are different types of family in present times, and even though the nuclear family ‘fits’ the various needs of that of an industrial society, was this to be the result or the enabler for the creation of industrialization.
Parsons functionalists views focuses on social stability and shared public values. Functionalism interprets how these parts of society contributes to this. When one part of this begins to fail or becomes dysfunctional it starts affecting other areas leading to ‘social change’. Anderson,M.L.and Taylor,H.F(2009) Sociology:The essentials.Belmont,CA,Thomson Wandsworth
In the pre – industrial society, extended family networks were functional, not only when it came to social relationships, but it also meant that there was an economic structure, this being because the family worked together as a unit, majority of the economic activity took place within the home, not only for the families consumption but for the sale and trade in the local markets.
There was a high fertility rate within this society, this meant that family production became guaranteed, but also due to the harsh living conditions of the pre industrialisaion, families suffered with poor hygiene along with influenza epidemics, dysentery another illnesses, this was to result in high mortality rates, especially among the younger family members. When it came to an industrialised society, Parsons argued that a different sort of family was needed, not just to be a more geographically mobile family but a smaller more ‘nuclear’ family.
This was no longer seen as a family production unit, but as a unit of consumption, younger members of the family were no longer seen as an asset to the family but as a liability, due to the fact that this new era of industrialistion encouraged a larger scale production i.e factories, mines. This is when it became clear that families would no longer be working together as family units, and ‘wage labour’ would become common and families used this to buy goods rather than to home produce as they did in pre-industrial times.
This time known as the industrial revolution, and is seen as a force that was to change times , not only was this to effect the families economically, but this was when the new “modern family” came into existence. Ruggles, S. (2001). Living Arrangements and the Well-being of Older Persons in the Past, Population Bulletin of the United Nations
Functionalism describes the family as having a role or a function within a society. Functionalists assume that if a social institution is evident it must have a role or function. The family is looked at in terms of its functions as to whether they are beneficial not only to society but towards an individual.
For example, When a child is born, it is usually down to the parents to raise the child, so this meaning that the function of the family is to look after the next generation, the first few years of a child’s life being the most important, this allowing the child to learn many new things, but not only supporting the child when it is young but through up into most of its adult life.
Within the nuclear family, roles are allocated between husbands and wives, the women taking on the responsibility of staying at home to raise the children and continue with domestic chores, and the men being more suited to go out and work.
However, there are several criticisms of the functionalist views of the theory of the family and even though Marxists agree that family life can be happy and fulfilling, they say that capitalism results in exploitation and alienation which are likely to create tensions within many families, this could also be a reason as to why domestic violence occurs ,as an indirect result of working within the capitalist system. In the Marxist view the family is a part of the superstructure of capitalist society which operates not in the interests of society and all of its members equally but in the interests of the capitalist system and of the capitalist class within that system.
Marxists argue that families produce the future generation who will become the future labour power for the capitalists, low cost to that system, also preparing the children to accept capitalist authority within the workplace, and to accept it without any question. Marxists say that women are classed as a part of a Reserve Army of Labour which can be hired when demand for goods and services is high and work is plentiful but dismissed relatively easily when economies fall into economic recession. The capitalist system is strengthened by this flexibility to hire and dismiss workers as economic circumstances change.
Sociology Unit 1: Families and Household.Holborn,M.and Steel,L.Collins publication,Hammersmith,London(2011). According to Marxists, Capitalism would cause internal tension leading to self destruction, and advocating proletarian revolution and freedom from the ruling classes. Macionis, J. J. (2011). Society. Sociology (7th ed., pp. 88-89). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.