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Contemporary family diversity

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The nuclear family unit is in the minority with only around 39% of households being made up of a heterosexual couple with dependent children. This is obviously changing all the time as single parent families, cohabiting couples and those that are married evolve into, or evolve from, the nuclear unit.

There appear to be differences between middle-class and working-class families in terms of the relationship between the parents and the influences they have on the socialisation and discipline of the children. Class diversity seems to show that middle-class families have a greater interest in the education of their children, and pass on advantages and values which help their children through the education system.

However, even if working-class families are just as child-centred, material deprivation would limit how much help they could give their children. Therefore the working class child would have fewer chances due to poverty, poor schools and lack of material support.

Cultural diversity shows there are many differences between families based on cultural and religious beliefs.

Research carried out by Essex University in 2000 shows that only 39% of British born Afro-Caribbean adults, under 60 years of age, are in a formal marriage, compared to 60% of white adults of the same age. This group are far more likely to inter-marry than any other group with the effect that only one quarter of Caribbean children live with two black parents. It is also traditional for Afro-Caribbean women to live apart from the father of her children and therefore half the Caribbean families are single parent households.

The study also found that the old fashioned view of the nuclear family is most likely to be met by the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, though 33% of Asian families are extended. These include families extended by more that one generation as in many East African Asian families, or are organised around brothers and their wives as in the Sikh community. Children seem to respect religious and cultural traditions in these communities and feel a strong sense of duty to their families.

With the advances in medical techniques enabling artificial insemination, sexual diversity shows an increasing number of single sex families have appeared in recent years. Homosexual and lesbian couples are able to have their own children using insemination or via surrogate mothers. Studies of children bought up in single sex families have shown that no significant effects concerning gender identification or sexual orientation.

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