Different Family Types and Social Change

Different Family Types and Social Change

Patriarchy on the decrease: It was once generally accepted that the father was the head of the family. He was the authority figure who controlled the household. In recent decades there has been a shift towards a more democratic family environment in which decision making is more equally distributed among the family members.

Child-centred families: The children may take more of a role in deciding where the family go on holiday, for example, or what the family watch on television. Families are smaller so children receive more individual attention, even if parents are spending more time at work. Campaigns by organizations like the NSPCC have helped to increase the rights of children.

Financial dependence: Whereas historically children would start work at an early age and therefore contribute towards the family income, now they are staying in education later and later. At the moment children must remain in education until they are 16. This will increase to 18 from 2015. This means children are financially dependent on their parents for longer.

The Wider family: Some sociologists suggest that geographical mobility has weakened ties between family members and that the wider family has become less important. On the other hand Charles et al (2008) found that family members still maintain regular contact, either face-to-face or via the telephone. They also found that grandmothers would often babysit their grandchildren and parents would give financial assistance to their grown up children.


What is a family?

In sociological terms, a family falls into one of the following groups.

1.) Nuclear families are made up of married or cohabiting couples who live with their off-spring.

2.) Gay or lesbian families consist of homosexual couples who live with their child or children. They may be civil partners or cohabiting.

3.) Extended families are a household or close network of relatives, usually stretching across three generations.

4.) Lone-parent families are made up of one parent and their child or children.

5.) Reconstituted families consist of households in which one or both partners have become the step parent to a child or children from a previous relationship.

Sociologists recognise that families take on diverse forms in the 21st century and define a family as a single parent living with their child or children, or a couple – who are civil partners, married or living together – with children.


We hope this proves useful in your GCSE Sociology revision and it helps whilst you study!
The Getting In guide for those who are revising GCSE Sociology.