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There has been a notable revolution in the family since the 1940s to the present. There have been varying theories that present differing perspectives on the reason for the family’s changing role. It is precisely within this context that the paper shall evolve in, offering a discussion on the theories that explain this phenomenon.Foremost is the theory of Talcott Parsons in the 1950s which tackles socialisation. Being a functionalist thinker, he proposed that the family is primarily for security and it is within this backdrop that he explains the changes within the family as a social institution. It is perhaps worthy to note that Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) lived within a white middle class society and was an advocated of functionalism. He staunchly advocated the idea that socialisation is a core driver of behaviour, and is likewise key to comprehending the rationale behind our actions. Social structures, including the family, religion, and media are channels through which we pass on our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour. Likewise, these channels are means through which values and norms are imbibed by the next generation.Law and religion are thus offshoots of these socialisation structures which further perpetuate what have been inculcated in us within the family. Ultimately, the family is the starting point through which social solidarity and integration are attained in society. There are several social influences to the family, including the government, media, and the police which somehow exert subliminal if not direct impact on the values and norms exercised by family members. Being born into a society logically means that we are exposed and sensitised to the factors that operate within it and are therefore influenced by these through socialisation. He likewise notes that as society progressed, religion has lost its past glory and luster.Talcott Parson’s views are in part similar to that of Irene Breugal who advocates the idea that women are relatively easy to enlist in the workforce but are just as easy to terminate. Thus, they are compelled to work when they are forced to do so, which suggests that it is not an intrinsic need for them to do so. Being a Marxist feminist, she also believes that women are never unemployed because they are inherently ‘destined’ to carry out housekeeping and child rearing. These views are in stark contrast with those of Betty Friedan and Ann Oakley who concur in saying that women are demotivated and bored with staying at home and would want to experience a strong sense of fulfillment by being employed. They are also lobbying for equitable treatment of women. It is worthy to note that in the 1950s, it is conventional to find women just staying at home and looking after their children; on the contrary, contemporary women have the freedom to choose and exercise their professions. Women of today’s society have greater autonomy in directing their lives and are not constrained by social norms to limit themselves to housekeeping or childrearing – these have ceased to be considered as norms.One of the occurrences which have exerted great impact on the family was the invention of the contraceptive pill – a milestone in 1961. This was instrumental in making women realise that they had a choice with their bodies, particularly in willingly conceiving a child. The exercise of a woman’s choice in birth control has been strongly supported by feminists; however, functionalist thinkers such as Parsons would not agree to this as it is not within a woman’s role or script to undertake such a decision. The woman has then acquired the power to decide on whether or not she would bear a child – a power which proved to be stronger than it was initially perceived.Numerous novel right thinkers view the 1960s and the 1970s as the dawn of the traditional family’s degradation. Specifically, the invention of the pill and the legalisation of abortion have marked such a decline. With increased sexual freedom wrought by these new developments, there was also notably less commitment to the family.Following these, the Pay Act of 1970 has been another milestone that influenced the way the family is viewed, necessitating that women receive equal pay as men for carrying out the same work. This applied only to a handful of vocations / professions because there have been a few male-dominated positions that have been as actively ventured into by women. In fact, even as late as 1990, women have occupied 2/3 of low paying jobs suggesting that there remains to be inequality in compensating women compared to men. Amidst all the efforts to break stereotypes, the glass ceiling phenomenon still persists to this day. There are still those who hold the implicit perception that women are born to stay in the house and care for their children while the father carries out the role of breadwinner. Oakley surmises that in a male-dominated and chauvinist society, the woman is still perceived as more fit to be a housewife and mother – in contrast with being a career woman.Wilmott and Young have carried out family research in the 1950s to the 1970s, and the second stage of such studies has focused on the early industrial family. When children have begun attending school, the support of extended families has become crucial owing to the lack of welfare support by the state. This set-up has evolved further in the third stage where the symmetrical family was apparent – nuclear families again became the norm. This change has been accounted for by the availability of welfare support from the state and the increased sense of self-sufficiency. The enhanced mobility of people was yet another factor that changed the family. This was then followed by the fourth stage’s managing director family, which has placed undue emphasis on work.Willmott and Young believe that there has also been an increased sense of involvement by the husbands; while the wives still have the primary responsibility of taking care of the household, there was greater support from their spouses. Thus, they purport that the increased involvement have caused wives to withdraw from their female kin and for husbands to experience greater engagement in conventionally female tasks and activities. This change of roles from segregated into those which are more distinctly conjugal has promoted equality between men and women and has reinforced the fact that the husband’s involvement within the family is critical. Liberal feminists have viewed this as a welcome change towards an increased sense of equality between sexes.The divorce laws of 1969 have been formally enforced in 1971 and composed yet another milestone in the evolution of the family as a social structure. This was considered a major change since previously, it was necessary for one party to commit an offense before divorce is feasible – that is, adultery, cruelty or deception. One problem with this process is that the couple becomes very vulnerable and this is even considered by some as blatant invasion of privacy. Some say that it is perfectly possible for a couple to drift apart, with neither party committing an offense. The publicity generated by this old premise have discouraged couples from openly filing a divorce and have been compelled to stay within their unhappy marriages just to save face. The divorce law has changed this landscape by simply requiring proof that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.The simplicity of the process has facilitated divorce proceedings, as attested to by the number of divorcees following 1971. There are those who evaluated this as an apparent decline of the family – these are categorised as “new rights” who staunchly uphold convention. These people have supported the ideal family, depicting the latter as husband and wife being committed to each other, children respecting their parents, and all family members being compliant with the law. Thus, the divorce reform act was perceived by new rights as a decreasing the commitment to the family. Moreover, the de-criminalisation of homosexuality has also been gauged as a contributor to moral decline. They have also opined that women have been distracted from their ideal roles as wives and mothers. Feminists such as Betty Friedan, on the contrary, thought that this was a commendable development since women were ‘saved’ from the emotional roles within the family. In addition, this has permitted greater autonomy and to decrease their dependence on men.The chart below depicts the effect of the divorce law on the number of divorces carried out by women in _______(year). This change has caused 73% of wives to request for a divorce, compared to just 27% among husbands. Needless to say, this has had substantial impact on the family.The varying roles within the family been investigated by McGlone, Park, and Smith in 1998. It has shown that older people now have longer life spans, a decline in the birth rate, and of families taking care of their elderly rather than being left to the custody of state welfare. They have also noted that there has been an increase in the rate of unemployment, particularly of older men. With this is the increased self-reliance of women and we now live at a time where women can choose to occupy high-powered jobs for as long as they are qualified and they may also wish to have children at a latter stage in their lives. A large part of these decisions – these turning points – are left to the discretion of the woman. At the other end of the spectrum are those families which are dependent on state support and who contribute to the unemployment rate. In contemporary times, there has been large number of divorces and an increase birth rate of children outside of marriage.There are diverse family structures in contemporary society – including those living only as couples without children, single parents, and homosexual couples. These set-ups which have been previously categorised as unconventional are now accepted today. In the past, the norm was a nuclear family with or without children living with grandparents. Functionalist thinkers such as Parsons would conceive this as ideal and would not be amenable to these other ‘aberrant’ family structures. The latter are lobbied for by the feminist, in lieu of the greater freedom of choice that is given to the woman in the process. Whereas the woman was a mere follower in the past, she has now been more empowered and independent. She can make life-changing choices and direct her fate. If only for this, the evolution of the family to what it is today has been worthwhile.

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