Family sociology can be defined as a integrated framework which can help to see how a particular family functions socially day to do in a particular social environment. According to Morgan (1996), sociology of a family varies to from a particluar type of family to an another. There are bascially two types of famililes, one is nuclear family which have a father, mother and children. Another type is blended family, which is formed through a remarriage and which includes step siblings and their parents. An another type of family can be a combination of two or more than two nuclear or blended families which is also known as extended family in which realtions like cousins, aunts, uncles, grandfather, grandmothers can be seen in a vivid manner.
Functions of a family
In a family, the family members perform following functions for each other. These functions in some ways are important for the improvement into the working conditions, character and conduct for a family life (Morgan, 1990). Their lifestyle is marked by the changes which are accompanied and influenced by varying social standards within a family. A family is comprised of various important functions and requirements and some of them are discussed as follows:
The parents in a particular family provides economic assistance to its children usually for their education, medical, entertainment, travelling and other day to day expenses including their pocket money. The family members also provide financial assistance to one another at times of hardships. Besides that, the family members also assist each other in their job placements, if they have a job or in their business, if they have a business. At times, a family member also becomes a surety for another family member in case of any indemnity contract, to indemnify the other family member (Scott, Treas and Richards, 2007). Similarly, the family members also provide other day to day or occasional economic or financial assistance as well to one another.
According to (Bilton, 2002), one of the most crucial roles a family plays is that the family members provides the emotional support to each other, so that they always remain emotionally strong and stable. They share confidence, trust, happiness, sorrow, secrets, hope and advices and also their various feelings or emotions and due to this they believe in each other and consequently a strong emotional bonding is formed amongst them which gives them a hope to stand strong against the negative emotions which they face from the external environment.
Whenever a child is born in a family, his or her initial years, that is before he goes to a school and anywhere, if any, to get his religious education, is spent with his or her family member (Bilton, 2002). This means initially, the family members plays a key role the whole time to assist that child as to how to socialize with the outside world and then later on he learns it from the school, where he goes, his friends, the media and at that time too he continues to get the assistance from his family members as to how to socialize with the external environment and as he grows, by the time he is ready to live his life in the external environment accordingly.
Social and Cultural aspects of a family
If one considers the cultural aspect in the sociology of a family then he will determine that the culture of a particular family differs from another family’s because the way they live as a unit in the society will be different from how the other family lives in the same society and accordingly operates socially in the society. As stated by Hareven, (2000), a person in a family initially learns that particular family culture and accordingly thinks and acts when he meets with the outsiders. Here, the person has to determine that whether he is being ethnocentric or cultural relativist.
There is a tendency to judge that whether other person’s culture is right or wrong, while our culture being the benchmark on which to base the other person’s culture that is if the other person’s culture coincides with our culture then that person’s culture is right otherwise, it is wrong. Now here the person must be aware of this fact to avoid this tendency to effect negatively his communication with the outsiders (Hantrais, 2004).
According to Finch (2007), cultural relativism is a tendency to know about what is regarded as a fact, truth or anything relevant may not be seen as the same in the other culture. And the more the person is aware of this tendency, the more he will know about this fact and while interacting with the outsiders, he will have this in the back of his mind that what he sees as relevant may not be seen the same by the other person.
At one point of life, when a person marries with an another person, then the cultural aspect plays a vital role because the success of the marriage will then depend on how well they understand each other’s culture and accepts it accordingly. That is if they are being ethnocentric then they won’t be able to accept each other’s point of view unless they realize about this tendency sooner or later. And on the other hand if they are being cultural relativist then this will help him to understand each other’s perspectives.
The mixed image of families in the UK
It has been observed that families in the UK are somewhat smaller as compared to families, which existed a few decades back. Large families have segregated and prefer to stay alone. Along with the improved and luxurious standards of living and the desire for fulfillment of needs, there has been an introduction into family life a new dimension of living. Parents now are more concerned about lifestyle, education and the future of their children.
Although the married and family life in the UK is still stable to a certain extent but the intense and highly demanding character of the relationship between husband and wife do make the possibility of families to falter more obvious and consequences of such failure can be potentially discomforting and disrupting (Chambers, 2001).
Families in the UK have portrayed a contrasting image of misery and fortitude. Adversities such as drug abuse, violence, family breakup, dependency on welfare, awful urban environment, poverty, lack of family values, dysfunctional families etc have all hampered the family development in UK.
In 1995, Tony Blair had criticized the social measures of the UK by stating a term “the wreckage of our broken society” and constantly used the language of rights and responsibilities on a consistent basis and called tried to form a civic society within the UK where people can play a crucial role in the development. Since then, many forthcoming politicians such as Gordon Brown and David Cameron have tried to “repair UK’s broken society” and this theme has certainly become a dominant theme in the Conservative general election campaign of UK.
There are much more serious problems in UK and although things haven’t got better within the UK, they look to worsen upon with the passage of time. Also, perceptions of few problems are a bit wide of the mark. To many people the term “broken society” may sound intriguing and useful for a change. However, it does indicate some serious problems, which have been haunting the British society for sometimes, and they do raise the point towards a coherent and cohesive agenda for an improved action.
UK Family Facts
According to a recent research, UK has a very high rate of family breakups within the west and merely 2/3rd of the children with the UK live with their parents. Interestingly, UK comes behind only behind Latvia, Belgium and Estonia in the list of countries where children and their parents live within the same household. According to a recent survey by OECD, only 68.9% of children live with their parents within the UK which is well below the average of 84%. The proportion of children who are living with a single mother in UK is almost 28% and those living with their father are only 2.5%. These stats are quite appalling and simultaneously quite alarming for a country like UK (Chambers, 2012).
Causes of Instability in UK families
Implication of a highly liberal and permissive cultural society does create a mode of instability in family responsibilities. What many young men and women in the UK demand is romance without any fidelity. In this manner, they can fulfill their physical desires without any need for creating a family. According to Allan and Crow (2001), relevant standards of a prosperous society do encourage the desire for material desires and luxuries and it is essential for possession of things, which can be literally enjoyed, rather than merely for joys and sacrifices of other intimate human relationships. So in this regard some married couples do not prefer to have children.
Such preferences impair and disallow family completion. It is a common concept that children not only attract the direct attention of their parents but also need unparalleled love, which could often be spoilt in some ways (Cawson, Wattam and Kelly, 2000). On the contrary, such adults may become pioneers of creating a generation of youngsters who are not only selfish and self-centered but who are also aware of their responsibilities, rights and what should they demand from society but they are neglecting some of their very important duties, and one of them is parenthood.
Plan for rectification
Although UK may portray as a society which is well developed but it does show some sign of a society, which is broken from within (Bernardes, 1997). According to many experts, state of any society could be defined as abysmal if it in pointing towards moral decline and shows a potential collapse in community spirit. On the contrary, various academic experts have expressed the term as merely a way of diverting their attention away from bigger social problems which include poverty and inequality. Whatever the reason is, British researchers and academicians have constantly used the term “a broken society” to improve the current social state of the UK and to portray the failure of the British policy. Still causes of problems within the UK are unclear and the evidence will influence behaviors of the individuals to a huge extent.
Referring to a “broken society” would not be of any help if such referral is merely drawing up an ineffective and inefficient agenda for tackling a diversified problem. The main thing should be for tackle this new issue in an effective manner and this must be effective where other methods may fail. We are certainly living in a world which comprises of ever-changing norms and values and have little respect for each other and claim that each and every person must be free and liberal in this regard (Chambers, 2012). The young generation of UK must be concerned about their responsibilities with relevant understanding and sincerity and should be aware of the consequences of such negligence.
It is certainly a point of real concern that UK, which has been exceptional in economical and financial terms, has been constantly struggling to make amends in social matters. It will be wrong to allow ourselves in becoming depressed by such regrettable and avoidable tendencies. On the contrary, there is a huge cause for encouragement. Though there are a number of divorces and separations between husbands and wives within the UK and there has been a relatively high increase in this regard over the past few years. This may mean the family life in the UK may not be as stable as initially perceived. The very important and personal relationship between husband and wife and parents and their children will certainly make the possibility of failure blatant and the effects of such failure will surely be disruptive and even fatal. For this reason, the future of the family within the UK is not only controversial but it does raise a point of concern.
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Bernardes, J. 1997. Family Studies: An Introduction London: Routledge.
Bilton, T. et al 2002 Introductory Sociology 4th edition Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cawson, P. Wattam, C. Brooker, S. and Kelly, G. 2000. Child Maltreatment in the United Kingdom: A Study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect London: NSPCC.
Chambers, D. 2001 Representing the Family, London: Polity.
Chambers, D. 2012 “Sociology of Family Life: Change and Diversity in Intimate Relations”. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Finch, J. 2007 ‘Displaying Families’ in Sociology, Volume 41(1) pp. 65- 81
Hantrais, L. 2004. Family Policy matters: responding to family change in Europe. Bristol: Policy Press.
Hareven, T. 2000. Families, History and Social Change: Life-Course and Cross- Cultural Perspectives. Boulder, Colorado: West-view Press.
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