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Sociology for Social Care Practise

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1102
  • Category: Sociology

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This essay will discuss the “modern family Structures” within society and explore the lack of any “normal” or standard family. Using existing sociology perspectives this essay will further discuss modern behaviours, experiences and life chances within a specific family unit and how they fit the existing theories. Finaly the author will evaluate the usefulness if any of these theories and how they can be used in a coherent manner to explain the impact they have on a family unit and in turn what impact the family has on the individual.

Normal Family?
The image people have of a family is still the so called Nuclear family (1) popularised by sociologist such as George Murdoch(2) with parents of both sexes and one or more children with the father usually being the primary finical provider. This is no longer as common as it once was (3) and has lead to the rise of other family archetypes.

These different family types are varied and include but are not limited to examples such as the extended family (4) where you have parents usually unmarried living in the same household but with other close family members helping with the rearing of the children perhaps grandparents, aunties and uncles etc. This example also may or may not live within the same household but tend to very close to each other.

There are also more households with a single parent (5) now than anytime within the last ten years. The single parent household tends to be single mothers although it can also be single fathers with one or more children. The single parent tends to be the primary care giver of the child/children both emotionally and financially.

There is also now a rise in same sex families as with partners of the same gender sharing the responsibilities of parenting in both a financial and emotional sense. This is becoming more common (6) in the last ten years as same sex couples are now allowed to marry or form a civil partnership. This in turn makes adoption easier.

Family structures
Using one of the aforementioned family structures the discussion will now focus on how a sociological perspective can be applied to a family unit. For this example a young person that is currently in the care system (EB) came from an extended family background. The mother and father of EB where unmarried however they did share a home. EB was also cared for by her grandparents. This relationship was broken down due to behavioural issues which will be discussed later.

Using terms from a Functionalism (Consensus) Perspective EB’s family failed to function as a complete “body”. Her parents were absent through drug use or being imprisoned for the sale of narcotics. In this they failed in their responsibilities to society (7) as they where not sending Emma to school to further her education and social skill set to allow her to grow into a productive member of society (8). Emma behaviour and general outlook became negative due to a lack of parental guidance or the lack of any effective role. Consequently Emma’s experience where all negative as she could not count on her parents to look after her or her siblings her life chances also diminished greatly due to the dysfunctional nature of her family. This caused Emma “lose sight” of common goals within the approved “Functionalist perquisites” (Talcott Parsons) such as Goal attainment, Integration and Latency (pattern maintenance) (9) which caused EB to focus entirely on the upbringing of her younger siblings. As at this point EB had no meaningful parental supervision and the grandparents where no longer available to offer guidance.

The next part of the discussion on EB’s family life prior to her time in care will use the Marxist (conflict) terms to discuss EB’s situation. EB was now the primary care giver in a one parent family. EB had three younger children to look after and only her own limited experiences of how a role model should act. EB’s initial conflict (10) would arise from her upbringing without adequate parental figures to draw appropriate values such as respecting hierarchy or social capitalism (11) or positive behaviours holding down steady productive work from she was unable to provide care for her siblings.

Furthermore in our societies “norm” EB’s is of course unable to provide care to young children as she is herself a child. EB’s lack of background in a stable family life means she could not instil the proper values in her younger siblings. This led to attempts by EB’s parent to try and do the right thing by their children and go straight and get off drugs. However this led to more conflict between EB and her parents as by now she saw herself as the parent and could not accepted persistent absentee parents as equals. The next level of conflict came from social work as EB was by this time using drugs and having inappropriate relationships with older men. Therefore EB was now actively damaging the future of the younger children as her parents before her she could teach the appropriate values to them. The eventual change (12) that came from this was social work intervened and removed the children from EB’s care and put EB herself into the care system.

In conclusion, of the two competing theories functionalism shows in a more appropriate manner how EBs family directly influenced her perspectives on life. This is because using functionalism (consensus) you can see how those who are connected to you within your family structure affect your perspective and outlook on life (14). Functionalism also explains continuity within a family structure and society (15). There is also clear evidence in this study as to where EB learned the behaviours and lack of productive social skills she displays. Functionalism also shows where EB was failed by her family as they did not provide the “functional prerequisites” she needed to develop into a productive member of society.


1. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/421619/nuclear-family 2. Murdock, George Peter (1965) [1949]. Social Structure. New York: Free Press 3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10487318
http://theresurgence.com/2011/07/12/the-decline-of-the-nuclear-family 4. http://sociology.socialsciencedictionary.com/Sociology-Dictionary/EXTENDED_FAMILY http://www.sociology.org.uk/AS_family_changes.pdf (page 3)

5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/27/census-family-housing-ageing-population 6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/25/gay-adoption-fathers-parenting 7. http://www.slideshare.net/sociologytwynham/functionalist-social-theory-presentation 8. http://sociology.about.com/od/Sociological-Theory/a/Functionalist-Theory.htm Paragraph 3

9. http://realsociology.edublogs.org/2010/12/13/class-notes-functionalism-key-ideas-and-durkheims-functionalism/ Section headed “The Idea of Functional Pre-requisites”
10. Book “Care in practise for higher still” page 184 paragraph 2 11. http://tutor2u.net/blog/index.php/sociology/comments/revision-notes-family-perspectives-new-version paragraph 3 line 4 12. http://sociology.about.com/od/Sociological-Theory/a/Conflict-Theory.htm Paragraph 4 line 3 http://www.6sociologists.20m.com/marx.html paragraph 2

13. Overview of Sociological Theories FTS USB pen section on Marxism sub section weaknesses

14. Overview of Sociological Theories FTS USB pen section on consensus section on strength

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