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

Archive for the 'Family' Category

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 »

The great immigration debate of 1621

Posted by Realsociology on 9th November 2010

If you teach the AS Sociology of the family module in the usual order, then the dreaded ‘Is immigration a problem’ question arises at this time of year. If you’re looking at this issue – watch this video!

Posted in Family, Sociology on TV | No Comments »

Happy families?

Posted by Realsociology on 4th November 2010

The Nuclear family is not as common in British history as you may think according to this recent podcast of Radio Four’s ‘Thinking Allowed that looks at Research into the history of the family and social policy by Pat Thane. You can also find details of the research at this link

This research challenges the idea that the nuclear family and marriage have been common throughout British History. The picture this research paints is that family diversity was the norm up until world war two, then there was a brief period of thirty years from the 1940s -to the 1970s where nearly everyone got married and stayed in nuclear families, and now we are returning to greater family diversity.

Firslty, On Marriage and Divorce –

The decades after the end of the Second World War constituted a quite abnormal period, with much higher marriage rates and much lower rates of non-marriage than had previously been known. In the 1930s 15 percent of women and 9 percent of men did not marry. Similar numbers had long been normal. After 1945 marriage, at least once, became almost universal and most marriages produced children. Average age at marriage fell to historically low levels at the same time that life expectancy was rising and divorce remained difficult to obtain, so marriages tended to last longer.

Secondly, there is a longer history of lone parenthood than you may expect –  In the late 1730s, 24 percent of marriages were ended by the death of a partner, more often the male, within ten years. For the same reason, complex families of step-parents and step-children were commonplace in Britain. As health and life expectancy improved in the twentieth century, so did the survival chances of marriage

There is more info in the podcast – check it out!

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Toxic Childhood

Posted by Realsociology on 20th October 2010

You may remember watching this video in class – with that psychopathic woman with the disturbing resemblence to Bruce Forsythe -


I used this to illustrate the Marxist view that ‘the family is a unit of consumption’ – What I didn’t mention is that it also serves as a good example of the ‘Toxic Childhood’ arguement – the idea that modern social changes are harmful to children.

Along the same lines, but in much more depth this is an interesting video from the institute of ideas that is relevant to the ‘toxic childhood’ debate.

The format is basically this – 2 people argue that we live in an age of ‘Toxic Childhood’ and secondly two people, one of whom is Niel Davenport, who writes for spiked (the same place I got that Frank Furedi article on ‘adultesence’ from) criticise thier points of view and ask them questions…

sleepykinsThe general gist seems to be that the first two have done lots of research into toxic childhood and make informed points backed up with evidence while the later two critics wave wafty overly intellectual and largely insubstantial statements at them to criticise them.

The Toxic Childhood camp wins the day in my view!

The video is divided into chapters and the best sections are the first few -

In the first section Agnes Nairn points out that whether we think advertising to children is acceptable depends on the way we view children – if you think children are in the process of becoming adults you will probably think they need protecting from advertising; if you think children are ‘beings who are already like adults’ then you will think advertising to them is fine.

In the second section she argues that children, and even teenagers (even 15 year olds) are emotionally immature, suffer higher levels of insecurity and lack the cognitive ability to realise they are being manipulated – and on this level advertising is wrong.

The next few sections talk about the reach of internet advertising – very much building on what the corporation DVD at the top of this post is talking about.

It goes on from there – with questions at the end!

Posted in Childhood, Family | No Comments »

Kat Banyard – Violence against women

Posted by Realsociology on 17th October 2010

book-equality-illusionA few quotes adapated from Banyard’s ‘The equality illussion’

Amnesty International has declared violence against women as the gratest human rights scandal of our times.

One in four women in the UK will experience violence at the hand of a current or former partner

One in three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused at some point in her life.

Domestic Violence causes more death and disability among women aged between 16-44 than than cancer or traffic accidents.

Pepertrators of domestic violence are portrayed as monsters, as abnormal. This is a lie.

Women are expected to take precautions against male violence and attempts to rape them (rape alarms, covering drinks in bars, getting taxis, always going out in twos, restricting their movements)

100 00 women are raped each year – 2000 every week – and yet only 6.5% are reported to the police.

If a rapist comes to trial, the vicitm is often viewed as partly sharing the blame for the rape.

Two women are murdered each week as a direct result of Intimate Partner Violence (100 a year, roughly 1/7 of all murders)

IPV has the highest rate of repeat victimisation of any crime

40-50% of female accident and emergency visits in the US are due to violence done by intimate partners.

The total cost of DV for the state, victims and employers is £23 billion a year.

Only 17 percent of rapes take place by strangers and only 13% in a public place, but analysis of newspaper reports show that 55% of them are about stranger rapes – Domestic rapes by partners (the overwhelming norm) is not seen as newsworthy.

60% of women who have had an experience that fits the legal definition of rape don’t define the act as rape because it doesn’t fit the ‘typical stranger scenario’ that they are taught is the norm.

It is estimated that between 100 and 140 million women in the world have undergone female genital mutilation – 66000 in the uk.

It is estimated that 5000 women are murdered each year in ‘honour killings’ – honour killings can take place because the woman has brought shame on the family – through wearing make up, losing her virginity outside of marriage or having an unapproved of boyfriend. Banyard sees this as an organised crime.

Banyard also tries to argue that plastic surgery etc. should be seen as a ‘harmful cultural practise stemming from gender equality.’

In western culture – millions have their flesh sucked, foreign bodies inserted under their skin and, increasingly, parts of their labia minora cut off for non medical purposes. We don’t name this a harmful cultural practise stemming from gender inequality, we call it plastic surgery.

Posted in Family, Sociological Theory, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Tory Budget shifting women’s economic independence back a generation?

Posted by Realsociology on 9th October 2010

An extract from an excellent documentary, aired on 6th Oct on Radio 4, on the continued relevance of Feminism in Britain today – focussing on how the budget cuts are likely to affect women more than men. You can read the full transcript of the programme here ([Whatever happened to the sisterhood) – or the gernal web site with comments is (30 minutes) here

‘We know that the emergency budget (earlier this year) raised about 8 billion in revenue – of which over 5 billion, just over 70%, is going to come directly from women’s pockets. This will impact on all women, but particularly some of the women who already have least – single parents, black minority ethnic women, women who are living in poverty. It could literally shift back women’s economic independence a generation.

Until now, the recession has hit the private sector, mainly affecting male employees, but now that the budget cuts are hitting the public sector, which employs twice as many women as men. In addition, women draw more of the benefits that are being slashed as well: pregnancy grants, obviously, but also child and housing benefits.   The budget cuts are now hitting the public sector, which employs twice as many women as men. In addition, women draw more of the benefits that are being slashed as well: pregnancy grants, obviously, but also child and housing benefits.

Further analysis in the programme suggests that part of the reason women are likely to be affected by the forthcoming budget cuts is that they are much more likely to do caring jobs than men – teaching, social work, nursing, and these are public sector jobs (health and education are huge employers – approaching 2 million people!) – and many of these are in part- time positions – this reflects two things – firstly, that women have failed to move out of their stereotypical traditional gender roles as carers and secondly that women are still more likely to be finically dependent – either on their male partners who are more likely to be in full time work, or on the state, which many part-time working women rely on to top up their wages.’

For AS students – this is directly relevant to the ‘conjugal roles’ part of the AS Family course – this analysis reminds us that woman generally do not have as much financial independence as men.

There is more in the programme than the extract above – I suggest you listen to it!

Posted in Family, Feminism, Sociological Theory | No Comments »

Some research on gender Socialisation – 2010

Posted by Realsociology on 20th September 2010

In this article -  – Cordilia Fine argues that biological differences only account for 3% of the difference between boys and girls, gender stereotypes held by parents are far more important in shaping a child’s gender identity.

Where gender is not emphasised the differences between boys and girls are minimal…

Posted in Family, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Should we ban the world cup for the sake of women?

Posted by Realsociology on 9th September 2010

Two interesting articles – the first outlines police concerens over domestic violence increasing during previous world cup tournaments and announces measures to tackle it in the June 2010 one, the second is West Yorkshire police claiming success because there was less of an increase in DV during the 2010 tournament compared to the 2006 tournament, even if there was still significantly higher incidents compared to the same days in 2009 when there was no football.

West Yorkshire Police seam to think that their campaign was successful because they only got 284 reports of DV on the day Germany defeated England!

This is an interesting post about the history of England team members treating women badly -

Perhaps banning the world cup is an option to prevent DV against women? In my view the tournament is almost as overated as the England team.

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SocNews – the cost of being single, the cost of children, and the cost of mortgages

Posted by Realsociology on 9th August 2010

According to the latest survey research from, a single person will spend £250 000 pounds more in their lifetime than if they were part of a couple.

According to—250-000-over-a-life  

“ While the average annual income today is £23,960, someone living alone will be spending £11,904 of this on housing costs, essential bills and food, whereas somebody living as part of a couple will only be spending £7,110 a year. This means that those running a household single-handedly are forking out £4,794 or 67 per cent more just on the essentials.”

The article claims that single people will find it increasingly difficult to maintain a decent standard living, and given that the number of single person households are expected to increase to roughly 9 million in ten years, this means a lower standard of lving overall in the future.  

As always, you need to be critical of this research – As Stuart Adam, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), says

“The quarter of a million figure depends first on whether you believe their £5,000 a year finding and I’d need quite a lot of convincing that they’d got their methodology right. Then to get from £5,000 a year to a quarter of a million over your lifetime they’ve based it on 53 years alone from 22 to 75. But nowadays people change their status all the time, going into couples and splitting up.”

 In short, this means that this kind of comparison, which takes a hypothetical single person and a hypothetical couple and assumes that their status won’t change for the next half a decade is pretty worthless – as it simply does not reflect the life course of most people – according to this site – - the median length of a marriage is less than 12 years – and given this roller coaster ride of the lifecourse, there are many factors that will affect one’s consumption habits

For a start it is quite likely that a couple in a long term relationship will have children, in which case the difference in living costs referred to above is nearly wiped out because the cost of having a child is £200 000 over the course of the child’s life -

Secondly, some people will end up living in single parent households, and are more likely to experience poverty than couples of any status or just plain single people.  

Thirdly, and Interestingly, according to the BBC article mentioned above, single people are better off at the bottom of the income scale because benefits are set up to favour them rather than couples, however, this could change when the Tories change the benefits regime.

Where I can see support for the ‘pity the poor singles’ tone of the article is when it comes to those people not on benefits but in the fourth quartile of income earners – I would imagine that being a minimum wage income earner and being single is pretty grim – and here I can see how being in a couple would be an economic advantage –

(A quick aside – fear poverty is one of reasons why victims of domestic violence do not leave their partners – interesting research idea – are affluent victims of DV more likely to leave their abusers than poorer victims? There must be something out there on this!)

 Finally, whether or not a single person or a couple will spend more also depends on what type of person, or what type of couple they are – it depends on their values and their lifestyle. A materialistic couple may well spend more than a non-materialist single person –the naked guy –   certainly bucks the expenditure trend mentioned above.

Something else worth noting is that it is mainly housing costs which make the difference, which are so expensive because of our desire to own our own homes which means we spend a lot of our adult life in debt – which means we end up paying a lot of money in interest – I have a fairly good mortgage deal and will be paying back about £170 for every £100 borrowed from my bank! So whether in a couple or single – the bank’s a winner -

My mortgage will last for fifteen years – longer than the averge marriage – and so doing a ‘static comparison’ on this is much more valid than is the case with the uSwitch research – lets keep the maths simple – on a £200 000 house (although you wouldn’t get a house for that where I live!) I will end up paying the bank and additional £140 000 in interest – so I say stuff these silly comparison sites – lets socialise lending for housing  – this makes a huge different to our life quality too.

To conclude – have a look at this blog -

Having pointed out that the survey was probably done in order to generate publicity for the uSwitch website, she reminds us that the equation – relationship – cheaper – happier – is a pretty mercenary view to have of relationships!

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