"Family" is an ever-changing institution, which is highly debated amongst sociologists. With no satisfactory definition or description in place to encapsulate the essence of family, we can argue that the dynamic aspect surrounding family makes it impossible to pinpoint, and then rather than being a mere descriptive concept, can argue must be a form of ideology. I will argue this point by looking at the phenomenon of family over time and how it has changed in relation to other institutions. An ideology is defined as “a dominant set of ideas, comprising thoughts, notions, opinions and meanings that people come to attach to a phenomenon” (Linda McKie, 2012), how we interpret ‘the family’ and the functions we adjoin to it, therefore, is dependent on which sociological theory is applied to it. Ideologies change throughout time, and we see this reflected in our conception of what constitutes the family.
In the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, sociology of the family was dominated by the structural functionalist perspective, which treated the family as a universal feature, built around a biological basis surrounding kin relations (McLennan et al, 2010). Dominated by sociologists such as Goode (1963), Parsons and Murdock, this approach saw the nuclear family as the most suitable ideal surrounding family. The nuclear family can be described as “a social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.’ (Murdock, 1949 in McLennan et al. 2010: 127). The nuclear family was based on a gendered division of labour, with men expected to be ...
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...on co-residence, and which may not be centred around heterosexuality or conventional divisions of labour but as an ever-changing institution which holds different interpretations to different people. As (Gittens, 1985) stated there is no one clear-cut model of family, nor can family be understood through a singular model, rather change can be understood in terms of wider processes of social change in relation to evolving patterns of employment and production, shifting gender relations, increasing options in sexual orientation, cross-cultural influences in a multicultural society and changes in the legal, political and welfare spheres. (Neale, 2000) For these reasons we can argue that family is an ideology associated with dominant ideas and notions, differing from one culture to the next, allowing for variety in our new multicultural and globalised world.
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