Realsociology

A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

Archive for the 'Family' Category

For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until one of us decides that we should part

Posted by Realsociology on 23rd August 2014

After a year’s break I’ve now got the time to start blogging again…. here goes…

Lots of useful ideas in this 30 minute Thinking Allowed podcast on Love, which focusses on the idea of lifelong love and its relationship to marriage…

Just a few of the key points made throughout the programme (NB this is from memory)…

While the feeling of being ‘in love’ might be the same in all socieities, our ideas and expectations surrounding this emotion, and especially its relationship to marriage are shaped by the society in which we live, so yes, even elements of love are socially constructed! To my mind the key point of the podcast is that we now have higher expectations of marriage than ever before in history – The norm today is to see marriage as primarily about love and passion, as a sort of constant high of mutual emotional fulfilment and not primarily about duty.

To illustrate this all we need do is go back a hundred years or so and look at Britain and France – Marriage was much more of a practical arrangement – It wasn’t based on choice, your family had much more of a say in who you got married to, it wasn’t based on finding a person you have a special emotional connection with,  it was based on financial necessity (for women especially) and carrying on the family name. Historically, in this context, people had very low expectations of marriage in terms of love – marriage was about duty, not about ‘passion’.

Today (obviously) most of us expect to have a choice over who we get married to, and the norm is that marriage is about an emotional-connection (love) at least as much as duty. The downside of this is that we expect more than ever of our marriage partners. The person we commit to as a life-long love partner is expected to be a superb lover, devoted parent, attentive counsellor… and there is an expectation that the passion is to be kept alive throughout the relationship. There is an incredible pressure put on ‘that one special person’ to meet the emotional needs of the other (and the children) in today’s marriages.

Of course these high expectations of marriage do not live up to the mundane-reality of married life, which goes some way towards explaining the high divorce rate (as well as the number of extra-marital affairs).

According to Giddens this is all just part and parcel of living in a late-modern society characterised by reflexivity and greater gender equality – Today the normal relationship is what Giddens calls a pure-relationship – a relationship which is ‘internally referential and therefore ‘exists solely for whatever rewards that relationship as such can deliver’ (Giddens, 1991). Unlike in the past, the point of a relationship is not something which roots us in our community, or embeds us into society, or connects us to our god, the point of a relationship is to further our own lives for our own sakes. The result of this is that relationships simply last as long as they work for both partners – unlike in the past there is no other reason to keep the relationship going once it has stopped being fulfilling for both partners. 

According to Giddens there is nothing wrong with having high expectations of marriage and then moving on – this is simply the way modern ‘pure relationships’ are -  we pair up with someone, maybe get married, it lasts a decade or so, and then we move onto the next person, it is all just part of the ‘democratisation of daily-life’, and part of what he calls ‘confluent love’ – which, unlike ‘romantic love’ in modern society is based on finding that special relationship, rather than finding that special person, and to assist in this relationship we have (probably thousands, I haven’t counted) relationship and sex guides, and various marriage and divorce counsellors/ lawyers which have emerged to help us navigate through these occassional transitions in our personal lives.

From Giddens’ point of view it seems as if most people going into a marriage for the long-term are kidding themselves, and that the correct attitude to marriage in late-modern society should not be ‘until death do us part’ it should be ‘until one of us simply decides that we should part’.

On a practical and moral level I’ve no problem with this scenario – I think Giddens is simply describing the most appropriate type of relationship/ marriage (described variously as the pure relationship/ confluent love/ serial monogamy) which fits in with a late-modern society characterised by dual-careerism, near gender-equality and the eroding of traditional norms of masculinity and feminity – but I do see two potential problems with Giddens’ easy acceptance of this type of relationship – Firstly, this would be all well and good if people were honest about it – I don’t think people think of themselves as  being in ‘confluent love’ or in a ‘pure relationship’, and I’m sure people don’t talk about their own relationships in these terms (of course Giddens would probably just say this needs to evolve), and secondly (which is pointed out in the podcast – this type of serially monogomous relationship-lifestyle seems wonderfully applicable to kid-free cosmpolitans, but maybe it’s not so great when kids are involved, and long-term relationships do have this strong tendency to end up with kids being produced.

There was more to the podcast than this, but I’ll leave it there for now…..

Love  and  marriage

Related texts

  • The English in Love: The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution Claire Langhamer by Claire Langhamer.

  • Love: An Unromantic Discussion by Mary Evans

  • The Transformation of Intimacy – Anthony Giddens

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All I want before Christmas is hours of low grade revision fun with Wordle

Posted by Realsociology on 11th December 2012

I just discovered Wordle – And created this ‘Worlde’ of some of the concepts relevant to the perspectives topic within the SCLY1 module on The Family.

A handy ‘revision’ idea might be  to get students to type in concepts to for particular topics to Wordle and then print/ publish them.

This won’t, in itself, test any of those higher oder skills necessary in Sociology, but it’s quite a cool means to get students to copy things out without thinking. And leet’s face it, this late on in the term, are any of us really capabable of anything else.

Obviously there’s a lot you could do to build on this…. but I’ll let you ponder that for yourselfs.

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Ralph Lauren and the commericalisation of childhood

Posted by Realsociology on 14th May 2011

The most appalling example of a firm commercialising childhood to date – Ralph Lauren’s storybook featuring children dressed in its expensive clothing. Another reason why I’m glad I’m not and willl never be a parent.

The text below is taken from ‘The Week’

As if the commercialisation of childhood wasn’t bad enough – here comes a new horror – the first ever shoppable children’s storybook. Produced by Ralph Lauren, The RL Gang: A Magically Magnificent School Adventure is a 32-page volume aimed at pre-school children. It follows the adventures of eight ‘impossibly cute’ classmates with namesl like Wilow, Hudson and River, all dressed in the retailer’s Polo range. In the online video version you can take time out to look in ‘Oliver’s closet’ and buy his Fair Isle cashmere sweater ($75) or Nantucket red chino shorts ($29.95). It’s billed as an innovative way for parents and children to explore style, literature and digital technology together. The truth, of course, is that it’s just an attempt to use children’s natural love of stories to make profit for RL. Lets hope conusmers reject this aweful attempt by RL to colonise their lifeworlds – that would truley be a happy ending.

 

Incidentally, the online version is narrated by Uma Thurman – the fact that she claims to be a Buddhist and yet makes cash out of something that encourages parents and children to consume shit they don’t need together just goes to show how totally out of touch with reality celebrities are.

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The best revision techniques – AS Sociology

Posted by Realsociology on 12th January 2011

Just a few last minute reminders for AS Sociology students – for the exam this Friday I recommend the following two most excellent revision techniques

Firstly, you should make sure you can answer a 24 mark question on each of the following topic areas – you should be able to use concepts (sociology words), research studies and statistics where appropriate, and be analytical and evaluative.

  1. - Couples (equality in relationships)
  2. - Childhood – the way its constructed, whether things are getting bad/ worse. whether it’s disappearing
  3. - The perspectives on the family – (focussing on the nuclear family) – Functionalism/ Marxism/ Feminism/ The New Right/ Postmodernism and also Giddens/ Beck
  4. - Demography – the causes and consequences of falling birth and death rates and
  5. - Changing family patterns – reasons for and consequences of changes in divorce, marriage, cohabitation and childbirth.
  6. - Family diversity – how family life is becoming more diverse and perspectives on increasing family diversity.
  7. - Social Policy and the Family – examples of how the government can influence family life and perspectives on this.

Secondly, and related to the first thing, you should focus on learning the ‘model essay plans’ I’ve given you for each of the above areas – you can tweak the plan to fit the actual essay in the exam - test yourself constantly over the next 36 hours – make sure you know the content of each topic area as well as the general structure of the essay you are likely to get.

You may get a ‘hybrid’ essay question that asks you to voer two topic areas in one question – in which case keep an eye on the clock and adapt.

The time for gimmicky learning is over, you must now force yourself to learn the information for the exam in the format of the exam- you must be able to write for one solid hour – don’t think too hard when in the exam either - quickly plan out what knowledge is relevant to the question and then regurgitate all the cocepts/ theories and research studies you know and relate them to the specific question, and evaluate constantly (which mainly means criticising)

I’m not going to wish you good luck – luck only benefits students who are ill prepared – when, for example, the two out seven topics they have happened to revise come up – in fact I hope students playing that sort of game are positively unlucky and fail so I don’t have to deal with them next year. This way justice is done and it makes my life easier – and who doesn’t love the two birds one stone thing.

If you are prepared – then luck is irrelevant.

Oh and you only answer the section on the family – five questions in total – three short answer questions and the two essays worth 24 marks each

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Social Policy and the family revision

Posted by Realsociology on 10th January 2011

A quick revision video

Three things to note..

1. It’s a first attempt at xtranormal – so I haven’t gone to town on the custom animation

2. This seems to contradict the ’rant against edutainment’ made about three blogs ago

3. I have no idea if it’s affect or effect – frankly I don’t care, whatever one you use the meaning is still clear…

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Who does the housework? Some relatively recent research on the domestic division of labour

Posted by Realsociology on 22nd December 2010

Who does the housework and childcare – men or women?

This is a classic question for the AS Family module, below are a few updates of survey data and a few pointers at the end to get some analysis marks in the exam.
Oh and shame on the timeservers who write the main AS level textbooks using all of that hideous dated material from the 1970s – 90s – all of this material is available if you just dig online for an hour.

There is evidence that gender roles in the family continue to move towards greater equality 

• According to the British Social Attitudes survey (2007/8) in 1989, 1/3rd of men and ¼ of women thought that it was “a man’s job to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family. Only 15 years later, in 2006 only 1/5 men and 1/6 women agreed with the statement.
The Fatherhood Institute certainly thinks there have been major moves to more equal gender roles within the family

 
• The time spent by British men on domestic work rose from 90 minutes per day in the 1960s to 148 minutes per day by 2004; while women’s dropped from 369 minutes to 280 minutes during the same period (Kan et al, 2009).

• British fathers’ care of infants and young children rose 800% between 1975 and 1997, from 15 minutes to two hours on the average working day – at double the rate of mothers’ (Fisher et al., 1999) despite the fact that over this period fathers’ time spent at work was also increasing (Gray, 2006).
It is worth reading this document that compares survey data on housework (where you ask questions like ‘how many hours per week do you think you spend doing the washing up…) with the more accurate (valid method) of keeping diary data (where you get men and women to actually note down what they do each week) – the authors found that, guess what, men are more likely to over-estimate the amount of housework they do in relation to women.
The document also argues that survey data on ‘who does the childcare’ is an invalid measurement of equality in domestic roles for various reasons.

 

Evidence that gender roles are not equal yet!

According to the couple connection who summarise data from this – Crompton, R. & Lyonette, C. (2008). Who does the housework? The division of labour within the home. In Park, A. et al., British Social Attitudes: The 24th Report 2007/2008. London: Sage.

• On average, women spend over 2 hours and 30 minutes a day doing housework: cooking, washing up, cleaning and ironing- 1 hour and 30 minutes more than men. Both sexes spend similar lengths of time gardening or looking after pets. DIY and car maintenance are the only household chores that men, in general, spend more time on than women.

• Overall men have an extra half hour of free time each day than women.

• The time spent with children is spent in different ways. Women spend around two hours on housework while with their children, compared with 1 hour and 20 minutes spent by men. In contrast, men spend around 1 hour and 20 minutes watching TV in the company of their children, compared with around 50 minutes by women. In other words, men may be doing a greater amount of childcare in the past – but this translates into watching TV with the kids, while a woman doing childcare translates into doing housework while watching the kids.

Breene and Cook studied surveyed attitudes to traditional gender roles in 22 different European Countries and found there were more. They found that that about 1/4 men (who they called hardliners) would rather get divorced than see their wife in a ‘breadwinner role’ while only 1/8 men would be happy adjusting to their wife being the main breadwinner. (These are very rough estimates from me, and there are wide variations across countries!)

• Finally, one third of the population still think that there are problems with both couples working… In 2006, 41% of men and 29% of women agreed that a pre-school child is likely to suffer if his or her mother works.

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SCLY1 AS Sociology of the family

Posted by Realsociology on 22nd December 2010

SCLY1  AS Sociology of The Family – Easy to understand breakdown of what we teach

Hi, it’s occured to me that we really don’t cover that much material in this module. Despite the main text books over convoluting a lot of the stuff – I think all that we cover boils down to the following 7 key questions (ok and sub questions)

Topic 1 – Domestic roles.

The General Trend here is that men and women have become more equal in their domestic roles and relationships are generally characterised by more negotiation and discussion (reflexivity)

Key questions –

  • To what extent is this true of modern relationships? Are there contradictory examples if you look at different generations/ social classes and ethnic groups?
  • If you believe this is there is a general trend towards gender equality, what factors have lead to this change and what is the relative importance of each factor?
  • What do the different sociological perspectives say about these

Topic 2 – Marriage, Co-habitation and Divorce

The general trend here is that there has been a long term decline in the rate of Marriage and a corresponding increase in cohabitation. The divorce rate has increased overall – especially rapidly after the 1969 divorce act, although it has been declining since 2006.

Key Questions

  • What are the reasons for these changes, and what is the relative importance of each.
  • What are the consequences of these changes (relates to topic 3)
  • What do different sociological perspectives think about the decline in marriage and increase in divorce?

Topic 3 – The decline of the traditional Nuclear Family and increasing in diversity in families and households –

The general trend here is that there families and households are characterised by more diversity in the following ways –

  • There are more reconstituted families (step families)
  • There are more single parent families
  • There are more single person households
  • There are more visible and legally recognised same sex relationships
  • There is greater ethnic diversity
  • There is greater generational diversity (as people live longer)

Key Questions

  • What are the reasons for these changes, and what is the relative importance of each reason for each change (relates to topic 2!)
  • What are the consequences of these changes
  • What do different sociological perspectives think about the decline in marriage and increase in divorce?

Topic 4 – perspectives on the extended and nuclear family in historical context

The general trend is that European societies use to have more extended families, however, with industrialisation; the nuclear family came to be the dominant family form. However, since the 1970s, the nuclear family appears to be in decline.

Key questions/ perspectives

  • Assess the Functionalist/ Marxist/ Feminist/ Postmodernist/ Late Modernist view on the role and functions of the nuclear family in society.

Topic 5 – Childhood.

The general trend here is that family life and society in general has become more child centred, and children’s lives are more regulated, although some would argue that childhood is now disappearing.

Key questions

  • Examine the ways in which childhood is socially constructed
  • Assess the view that children are better off today than in the past, now that their lives are more regulated by adults.
  • Assess the view that childhood is disappearing.

Topic 6. Demography

The general trend is that birth and death rates have both decreased and net migration to the UK has increased steadily in recent years.

Key questions

  • Why are the birth and death rates decreasing?
  • What are the causes and consequences of immigration/ emigration?

Topic 7. The family and social policy

Here we examine different perspectives on how the government should influence family life through policy

Key questions

  • Examine the relationship between social policy and any of the following – gender equality in the family, the role of children in the family, marriage/ divorce, family diversity, the place of children in the family.
  • Examine different sociological perspectives on social policy.

See this site for revision aids

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Kirsty and Phil’s unrealistic christmas

Posted by Realsociology on 15th December 2010

kirstie-phil-christmas-lgNow after everything I’ve said about the Marxist view of the family not being especially relevant anymore up pop this obnoxious pair of petit-bourgeois media lovies to prove me wrong.

In the show this utterly detestable pair demonstrate how much money you could be spending this Christmas – typically visiting some upmarket gift shops and food stalls to purchase a bewildering array of non-necesseties to make that ‘speical day’ extra special.

How utterly bourgois this is – this kind of month long ‘make everything yourself build up’ is great if you happen to be earning £200 000 a year (just an estimate) as a TV presenter – then you’ve got the time and the money to invest.

For the average person, however,  all this show is going to do is enhance the sense of relative deprivation about how poor their own Christmas is by comparison and encourage them to put even more money on their credit card.

There’s even something hyper-real about this show – I’m sure they alter the colour filters on the cameras to give it that extra reddy-warm Christmas feel – if you know what I mean.

Now my advice is to pick up the remote – switch off the TV – stand up – go over to said TV – unplug – period – now welcome to YOUR reality. And if you must celebrate christmas, don’t over consume, it really won’t do anything to give you or anyone else meaningful, lasting, deep-rooted happiness.

Posted in Family, Sociology on TV | No Comments »

Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Monitoring Poverty and Social Exlusion Annual Report 2010

Posted by Realsociology on 6th December 2010

Or Modern Britain: What a mess
 
Fresh out today - the latest annual report from the JRF

OK, so you may accuse me of biased interpretation of the stats (see below) but I get the following impression – there are more people (13 million!) living in poverty this year compared to last – despite the fact that the wealth of the richest thousand people grew by £77 billion last year.

On the plus side, the number of children leaving school without qualifications has fallen, so our kids are better educated – however, the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds is the highest in nearly two decades, so those qualifications won’t get them jobs, so aren’t that much use in lifting them out of poverty.Finally, the number of workless families who are in poverty has fallen in the last year, while the number of children in working families in poverty has risen – suggesting that combining work and having a family is economically irrational.

Maybe now that children from poorer families are better educated, they are in an even better position to figure out that work doesn’t pay compared to staying of benefits!

This is what I love about the JRF ‘monitoring poverty’ report – it’s a no nonsense guide to how messed up our country is!

In a summary in the Guardian Julia Unwin says -

‘Over the last decade we have seen poverty rates fall, before rising back up to their highest levels for years, with many of the gains lost years before the recession reared its head. In terms of income poverty, on the most-used measure, we are back to where we started at the beginning of the millennium, with rates now at the same level as 2000; having risen every year since 2004/05. The advances made during Labour’s first term did not hold.’

Some of the key stats from the summary

  • By 2008/09, 13m people were in poverty. Of these, 5.8m (44% of the total) were in ‘deep poverty’ (household income at least one-third below the poverty line), the highest proportion on record.
  • Despite the recession, the number of children in poverty in workless families fell in 2008/09, to 1.6m, the lowest since 1984, but those in working families rose slightly to 2.1m, the highest on record.
  • The numbers of 16-year-olds lacking five GCSEs at any level and of 19-year-olds lacking a level 2 qualification fell in 2009, and are lower than any time in the previous decade.
  • By mid-2010, the unemployment rate among those aged16–24 was, at 20%, the highest in 18 years, and three times that for other adults. After the last recession (1993), the rate was 16%, twice as high as for the rest of the population.

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Tory cuts – encouraging a return to the traditional family?

Posted by Realsociology on 5th December 2010

Tory cuts are unfairly disadvantaging women, according to this article in the Guardian, which is akin to encouraging a return to the traditional family with the male breadwinner role.

The article draws on research from the Fawcett Society, who are making a legal challenge against the government’s cuts on grounds of sex inequality.

I’d recommend listening to this excellent recent debate on women’s hour between Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society and Professor Len Shackleton, Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs and Dean of Business School at the University of East London which shows you that it isn’t particularly helpful talking about how the budet cuts will affect ‘women’ as a homogenous group.

Posted in Family, Feminism | No Comments »