Tag Archives: Family

Happy families?

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!

Toxic Childhood

I’ve moved this essay plan to my new site – revisesociology.com – It you’re here for A level resources, you’ll probably find that whole site more relevant, this one’s more eclectic.


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!

Kat Banyard – Violence against women

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.

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

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!

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

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.

Another coffee ruined by other people’s screaming children

So there we all were – upstairs in Cafe Nero – four of us – all sitting alone, reading or surfing – quietly enjoying the peaceful ambience enhanced by some gentle classical music – and then this ends abrubtly with the arrival of two mums with toddlers – who proceded to run around and scream very loudly – (the toddlers not the mums) – This isn’t the first time it’s happened – Cafe Nero is effectively a no-go area on Saturday mornings because it fills up early on with young families. This is a good example of how child centeredness has gone too far. If this were any other demographic causing such a public disturbance it would be clamped down on, but we lamely tolerate it if it’s families with young children polluting the environment with their uncessary frivolities- the social norm is that the rest of us are expected to put up with it.  

Personally I’ve had enough of this and think it’s unnacceptable – the general rule is that other people’s lifestyle choices should not inflict noise pollution on the general public – I say this should be generalised to families with young children too. Coffee shops are a relatively scarce resource – and all it takes is one family to ruin the atmosphere for any number of adults. I think I will start a campaign for child free restaurants and coffee shops – otherwise those of us that want a peaceful capuccino are effectively discriminated against because where there are other people’s children, there is rarely peace.

I also wonder if Neros, or any other coffee shop has actually done it’s market research – I wonder what proportion of people go to coffee shops for a civilised and peaceful experience – and how many avoid going because of the risk of becoming a victim of the ‘public violence of  liberal parenting’. Surely there has to be scope for a child free coffee house or two in the local area???

Sociology on TV – Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14

 If you’re here for A level resources, you’ll probably find my new site more useful– revisesociology.com 

I though this was relevant to ‘the social construction of childhood’

Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14  (aired August 2010) follows a 14 Yyr old girl from the UK who is in the process of becoming a superstar in Japan – for doing this –

Note how I picked the boarder to match her outfit. Gok would be proud I am sure.

51ge8Uwv87L__SS500_It turns out that she has a particular look that relates to Japanese anime . You see this look all the time in Japanese films such as ‘spirited away’ – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000087JI1/ref=asc_df_B000087JI1747221?smid=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&tag=googlecouk06-21&linkCode=asn&creative=22206&creativeASIN=B000087JI1 (An excellent, if odd, movie, which gets a 5* review on amazon – which is well deserved! (1600 reviews)

Now I’m sure in Japan this phenomenon of young girls dressing up in skirts, make up and ribbons is all just cutsie cutsie and innocent – but of course this being Britain the issue of the demographic of viewers on youtube came up – the biggest age group for females was her age range, but for men it was the 40 to 50 somethings. The question arose, why do 40 year old men watch 14 year old girls dancing on the internet – and the programme was staight into the paedophile issue… something which isn’t even discussed in Japan, this simply isn’t seen as an issue.  Now I imagine that just as many 40 year old men watch Beckii in Japan as in the UK – So my question is this -Why is it seen as acceptable for 40 year old men to watch Beckii in Japan, but viewed with suspicion in the UK?

On the methods front, you might like to see if you can find something by Dan Garder – he wrote something on the problem of counting paedophiles in a recent book called ‘Risk’.

Finally, it seams that we have here a 14 year old girl who has got famous by ‘getting lucky’ – she’s found a genre she likes, done some dancing, and been picked up by an agent – and fitted in to a particular subcultural style.  Perhaps her appeal stems from the fact that she is real? This suggests there is a chance that ‘I could be her too’ . What I personally like about Beckii is the fact that she seams to be her own person amidst the fame, she’s not a ‘desperate wannabe’ like some Big Brother types.

I also thought this discussion thread on facebook sounded quite sociological – the entries, however, show no sociological imagination whatsoever…. http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=172443271722&topic=13541 I’m sure you could add something more sociological in.

Interestingly, the producer says of her mature attitude and utter ‘normality’ – ‘her group of very lovely close friends at home always serve to make her feel normal, and rather than resent that she thoroughly embraces it, perhaps sub-consciously knowing that in the tough world of showbiz, she needs to hold on to something real and honest to keep her grounded. ‘

If you watched the programme, you might remember an odd moment in which a Japanese fan sent her a box containing about 20 packets of Japanese Noodles. If  I were to send her a present it would be a copy of this – although this might lead to Beckii giving up her life of dancing and become a Feminist activist… http://realsociology.edublogs.org/2010/08/03/book-review-the-equality-illusion/

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

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

According to everyinvestor.co.uk http://www.everyinvestor.co.uk/personal-finance/banking/the-penalty-for-being-single—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 – http://uclue.com/?xq=1533 – 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 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/feb/23/child-cost-inflation

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 –  http://www.abqtrib.com/news/2007/oct/12/don-schrader-reveals-inner-layers-his-life/   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!

Glamour Models, Mum and Me

I just finished watching this – BB3 – Glamour Models, Mum and Me – interesting thread of discussion below


206_glamourIt basically follows a few months or so of the lives of some Kiss- and tell glamour model, who makes her cash by hanging out with celebs and taking her top off, and her daughter – who is extremely level headed and wants to study her GCSEs and eventually become a ‘serious actress’ – the mother has other plans and is encouraging her to get a boob job, get into topless modelling and become famous.

One thing that stuck in my mind is that the GM mum, who is addicted to plastic surgery and seams to have  a mental age younger than her daughter, thinks that ‘the body is power’ and it is a way for women to get what they want in life. Given that this is her analysis of glamour modelling, one can forgive her for only trying to pass this on to her daughter.

However, the problem is that her analysis of the ‘body as power’ is incredibly shallow – and it is only by good fortune, and maybe the influence of the privte boarding schoo the daughter attends, that she has grown up being able to see through her mother’s lack of insight.

alicia_douvall_516x37_1239aWhat I mean by shallow is that this is clearly an example of a selfish woman – her idea of a vocation, glamour modelling, has no real useful social function – other than to prey on the weaknesses of men in order to sell products, sometimes the product being the image of the topless women herself. Devoid of any real usefulenss, what are the likely consequences of pursuing a vocation such as this? – We end up with the Beauty Myth perpetuted, young boys growing up thinking that it is acceptable to view women as sex objects, and, for the models themselves who have bought into this nonsense, an identity crisis once their looks start fading by their 30s.

So as well as illustrating the bizarre diversity of modern family life, Alicia Douval (or wahtever her name is) is a solid example of someone with the kind of post-feminist perspective on life that contemporary feminism hopes to rescue young women from. Although the daughter already seams well guarded against her mothers shallowness,  I still think she might enjoy reading some good Feminist literature, so if any of you bump into her – she boards in Kent and lives in London, so you never know – recommend her a copy of The Equality Illussion by Kat Banyard.