Cambridge International Examinations - Cambridge International AS and A Level Sociology SB Sample

Page 1

TABLE OF CONTENTS How to use this book


Chapter 1 Introduction


(Michael Kirby and Steve Chapman)

Chapter 2 Socialisation and identity


(Steve Chapman) Section A Socialisation and the creation of social identity Part 1 The process of learning and socialisation Part 2 Social control, conformity and resistance Part 3 Social identity and change Exam-style practice questions

Chapter 3 Research methods

26 42 53 73


(Michael Haralambos and Pauline Wilson) Section A Research methods, approaches and issues Part 1 Types of data, methods and research design Part 2 Approaches to sociological research Part 3 Research issues Exam-style practice questions

Chapter 4 The family

76 112 132 141


(Steve Chapman)


(Michael Haralambos and Pauline Wilson) Section A Education and society Part 1 Theories about the role of education Part 2 Education and social mobility Part 3 Influences on the curriculum Section B Education and inequality Part 4 Intelligence and educational attainment Part 5 Social class and educational attainment Part 6 Ethnicity and educational attainment Part 7 Gender and educational attainment Exam-style practice questions


(Tim Davies) Section A Ownership and control of the media Part 1 The media in global perspective Part 2 Theories of the media and influences on media content Part 3 The impact of the new media Section B Media representation and effects Part 4 Media representations Part 5 Media effects Exam-style practice questions

Chapter 7 Religion

326 336 350 366 381 391


(Martin Holborn, Pauline Wilson and Laura Pountney) Section A Religion and social order Part 1 Religion and society Part 2 Religion and social order Part 3 Gender, feminism and religion Part 4 Religion as a source of social change Section B The influence of religion Part 5 The secularisation debate Part 6 Religion and postmodernity Exam-style practice questions

Chapter 8 Globalisation

394 414 421 429 440 454 461


(Steve Chapman)

Section A Theories of the family and social change Part 1 Perspectives on the role of the family 144 Part 2 Diversity and social change 157 Section B Family roles and changing relationships Part 3 Gender equality and experiences of family life 178 Part 4 Age and family life 203 Exam-style practice questions 225

Chapter 5 Education

Chapter 6 The media

228 247 259 271 277 301 307 323

Section A Key debates, concepts and perspectives Part 1 Perspectives on globalisation 464 Part 2 Globalisation and identity 477 Part 3 Globalisation, power and politics 494 Section B Contemporary issues Part 4 Globalisation, poverty and inequality 519 Part 5 Globalisation and migration 534 Part 6 Globalisation and crime 559 Exam-style practice questions 581

Chapter 9 Preparing for examinations


Glossary of key terms






Permissions acknowledgements



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HOW TO USE THIS BOOK Welcome to sociology and welcome to this book. Sociology is about you and the society you live in. As such it is important and exciting – and it can also be fun. This book is full of interesting international case studies reflecting issues of the day – ‘fake news’ and the 2016 US election, the #MeToo campaign, debates about ‘toxic masculinity’, and moral panics over migration. The book has been specially written for Cambridge International AS & A Level Sociology and contains a chapter on exam preparation. However, there’s a lot more to sociology than passing exams. If we’ve done our job properly, sociology will open your eyes to all sorts of new ideas. It will help you to see the world and yourself from a variety of different perspectives, and to understand and respect the ideas and views of others. It will encourage you to question everything you’re told.

w Right perspectives on

Education as a means to an end Some critics

The book contains number of features to helpleads you to understand and enjoy sociology and to develop your believe a that the marketisation of education to a narrow view of educationanalysis as a means to an skills in interpretation, application, and evaluation. They include the following. are unfair Do parents have

Stewart Ranson (1996) argues that markets 2 end. SOCIALISATION AND IDENTITY educational market? Some are based on the assumption that each individual owledge and understanding of will pursue an ‘instrumental rationality’ in which and more money. They are in a their sole will be to maximise their own opening page forconcern each section of the book outlines how the Key Concepts from the syllabus will be ipulate educational The markets to Gender role socialisation The process of learning self-interest. Ranson believes that when individuals explored in the pages that follow. em. For example, middle-class behaviour that is culturally expected from males act in this way, it is because the market encourages Socialisation The process of social learning that kely to get their children into and females. them to do so. It undermines values that stress occurs in the period from birth to death in which best reputations or to afford SECTION A the importance of selflessness and cooperation Custom regular pattern of behaviour that EDUCATION ANDA SOCIETY n some areas, for some parents, individuals acquire and absorb the cultural values with others. Chapter contents is accepted as a routine norm in a particular – there is no alternative to the and norms of the society in which they live. society; for example, shaking hands when Frank Coffield and Billof Williamson (2011) Society A community people who shareclaim a Contents greeting someone. that schools have been turned into ‘exam factories’ . common territory and culture and consequently ll competition and choice raise Social mores Values, often influenced by religion, Exam results have become a measure of success for interact with one another daily. study of evidence from the students, teachers and schools. Teachers ‘teach to the which set out the moral principles and rules of owing. Based on findings of Identity The qualities, beliefs, personality, looks test’ and students are ‘mark hungry and obsessed societies; for example, that sexual relationships he data suggest that competition and/or expressions that constitute both how you by exams’ . should only be conducted in the moral context e small improvements in student see yourself and how other people may see or of marriage. Hugh Lauder et al. (2006) do not agree with the d Belfield, 2006). However, judge you. Deviance Behaviour that is regarded as either view that ‘education is a servant of the economy’. ements are well below the levels Beliefs Ideas that members of society hold to offensive or odd to a social group or society and What about creativity, critical thinking, questioning rs of market approaches. be true. is therefore regarded as requiring some form of and self-awareness? There is little room for such ovement be spread evenly across Artefacts Material objects such aspolicy. flags or formal or informal regulation. concerns in New Right education n, or will some gain more than monuments and buildings or cultural products Law A rule or system of rules which a society m the USA suggests that market such as sport, music and national dishes agrees to follow and which regulate the behaviour o greater social inequalities – which have symbolic meaning for members of of all. The role of the police and the courts is to ren of higher-income parents particular societies. Assess the viewsections, that schoolsparts have become those rules thosebox, who break Each chapter is1.divided into and units. Eachenforce unit ends withbya arresting Key terms which defines the g to a wider attainment gap High exam culture Cultural products, such as art and factories. them and to impose punishments if found guilty of r (Levin and Belfield, 2006). key terms used in the unit, and a Summary, which recaps the main points covered in the unit. The Summary literature, that are regarded as rare, unique and doing so. 2. Explain two limitations of the New Right been widely applied in New provide boxes and straightforward theshort product of exceptional talent. outlines, which are ideal for revision. The key terms are also collated approach to education. achieving schools, student Mass orof popular cultureat Cultural artefacts such into a full Glossary key terms the end of the book. s expected with competition and as pop music or Hollywood blockbusters that are wever, this was mainly because mass produced for mass consumption. moved to schools with higher Folk culture A type of culture which stems from heir working-class counterparts 1. Culture is a crucial component of a society Marketisation The process in whichand organisations the experiences, customs, traditions beliefs of ools (Lauder et al., 1999). because it provides a template that most compete in the market. rural communities such as the peasantry or tribes members of a society share and follow, in terms In an open market, consumer Performativity an culture, individual or which is that make up partHow of awell wider and of what they should believe, what they should s result in provider choice. organisation performs. passed down by word-of-mouth. value and how they should behave in any given ols (the providers) choosing Vocationalism Education and training designed Values General guidelines about how members social context. parents (the consumers) prepare young peopleValues for employment and to of to society should behave. generally shape example, the most successful teachofwork skills toFor meet the needs of industry. 2. Cultures are relative. They are unique to specific norms behaviour. example, many societies enough places for all the societies and historical periods. Multinational value marriage. education businesses Private attend. This means that schools education companies which have branches in two Value system A collection of values, norms, 3. Social groups living within the same society 1996). or more and countries. traditions customs agreed upon and shared may share cultural values and norms, but remain at the top of the gapor A society. difference in achievements byAttainment a social group regard particular aspects of culture – high, pressure on these schools to between groups which is based, for example, on folk and popular – as more worthy of Relativity of culture The idea that what hey see as the most able. In class, gender or ethnicity. their attention. constitutes culture differs across time periods, ts are usually from middle-class Creaming studentssocial who appear societies andSelecting even between groups most livinglikely in ocess is sometimes known 4. Without culture, individuals would not be able to tosame succeed for entry to educational institutions. the society. live as members of a society. Norms The rules that govern what behaviour is 5. Those who fail to conform to dominant values iv normal in any given social situation. and fail to follow the norms of particular Secular Not subject to religious routines or rules. societies run the risk of being seen as deviant Role The behaviour that is expected from those and may consequently face some form of who occupy a particular status. punishment.

Section openers Key terms


Education and society

Section B

Education and inequality

Exam-style practice questions

227 270


In many parts of the world today, education is a privilege rather than a right. In low-income countries, although access to formal schooling has increased, it is still limited. By contrast, in societies with compulsory mass education, many people are likely to have spent 11 or more years at school before progressing to further and higher education.

Some sociologists would see these experiences as worthwhile. Students learn to read, write and perhaps later to study academic subjects at A Level and beyond, and to prepare for life in the wider society. Others examine education within the context of social formations such as capitalism or patriarchy and, consequently, view it in a more negative light. They see education as benefiting some social groups – for instance, the rich and powerful – rather than all members of society. Such approaches see education as preparing students to accept life in an unequal society. They also argue that students are largely unaware of what education is doing to them and to the rest of society. This chapter looks at the positive and negative views of education and assesses the evidence for and against the different theories about the role of education in society.

Education is often seen as a key route to social mobility, enabling hard-working and talented individuals to achieve their potential and move up the class structure into high-status jobs. This chapter examines important debates about how far education operates on merit to provide equal opportunity to all regardless of their social background, class, gender or ethnicity.

Some sociologists explore what actually gets taught in educational settings. What factors influence the content of the curriculum? Does a hidden or covert curriculum operate alongside the official curriculum in schools and colleges? If so, how does it influence students? A main focus of this chapter is inequalities in educational attainment linked to social class, ethnicity and gender. Why do those at the top of the class system tend to get the best exam results and go to the highest-ranking universities? Why do different ethnic groups have different levels of educational attainment? Why are girls now outperforming boys at every level of the education system in some societies? How far does intelligence influence educational attainment? To what extent do material and cultural factors linked to students’ home backgrounds influence their attainment? Alternatively, are school-based factors such as student subcultures and teacher expectations more significant? Answers to these and other important questions are suggested throughout this chapter.

Part 1

Theories about the role of education 228

Part 2

Education and social mobility


Part 3

Influences on the curriculum


Section A focuses on the role of education in society. Three of the key concepts that you were introduced to in Chapter 1 are particularly important here. First, power, control and resistance. Potentially, education systems have enormous power to control people and shape their behaviour and ideas. Do education systems have an ideological role in keeping people in their place? Do they play a part in reproducing the power and privileges of dominant classes over time? Sociologists are interested in the control of the curriculum. Are powerful groups able to influence the content of the school curriculum? Resistance is an important concept within the sociology of education. How do some students exercise power in classrooms and resist their teachers’ efforts to exercise authority over them? Second, inequality and opportunity. The sociology of education explores structural inequalities in society such as differences in the distribution of resources including income and wealth. Are these class-based inequalities in the wider society reflected within education systems? Do they create barriers to educational attainment for some groups of students? Is equality of opportunity a reality within education systems? Do all students have equal opportunities to achieve their potential and to succeed, regardless of their backgrounds, gender or ethnicity? Does education provide a route of upward social mobility to students from less privileged backgrounds and to females? Or do social inequalities inhibit equality of educational opportunity and mobility?


Third, structure and human agency. Perspectives such as functionalism and Marxism adopt structural approaches that focus on the role of education in maintaining the social structure in its present form. How do schools contribute to maintaining the social structure? Do education systems shape individuals and constrain their behaviour through processes such as socialisation? Or do students exercise agency and choice within schools and classrooms by, for example, resisting their teachers’ authority? Do schools produce conformists, rebels or both? The concepts of structure and agency are also important in the debates about the factors affecting educational attainment. Structural accounts focus more on material factors – for example, parental income – to explain differences in attainment between social groups such as working-class and middle-class students. Interactionist accounts focus more on classroom interaction, teacher–student relationships and individual agency when exploring topics such as differential educational attainment or student subcultures. This section is divided into three parts. Part 1 looks at different theories about the role of education in society, including functionalist, Marxist and New Right approaches. Part 2 explores the relationship between education and social mobility. It examines the idea of equal opportunity, different accounts of meritocracy (in which achievements are based on individual merit) and whether education systems are meritocratic. Part 3 focuses on the curriculum. It examines some of the factors that influence the content of the curriculum, including power, economic factors and gender. It also looks at the hidden curriculum – the things that students learn in school (such as conformity and obedience) that are not part of the formal curriculum of history, geography and so on.


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Key terms Activity and summary boxes

Key terms

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For example, amily is the main ack feminists in aracterised by titutional racism, d liberation from ociety that is roups.

ce of a group hemselves as o included Camille ) argued that great deal of men had never cca Munford ts claimed that en reviled and onsequently minists. women were alternative economic success men. These ladettes’) were pt traits normally mple, to focus on d to drink heavily nists, therefore, ’ symbolised by and Madonna and n TV series Sex nford conclude cepticism by short-lived ion that women minist struggle.

culated very ves that this who have lost se who were neration – to s this wave of m and claims than theory. She as ‘re-discovered’ s in the worlds of ced the #MeToo observes atriarchy as violence on a

in magazines, had a mere 3 per cent response such as poverty, inequality, power and identity must rate. A low response rate may result in an be defined in such a way that they can be measured unrepresentative sample. Those who do not respond in a questionnaire. The concept of poverty, for may differ in important respects from those who instance, could be operationalised in terms of low do – for example, in terms of their age, gender, incomes and measured at below 60 per cent of the Images and activities ethnicity or social class. If this is the case, the average income in awomen. particular country. daily basis against However, fourth-wave The book contains many carefully selected photographs. findings Photographs the real world into sociology. They may bring be biased. feminism also sees patriarchy as oppressive and However, concepts, beliefs and attitudes show thewhen relevance of sociology to today’s society. There are also specially drawn cartoons in chapters 3 and 5. limiting for males too. It argues that both society There are many reasons for non-response to are operationalised, they may measure what They provide entertaining andnot memorable snapshots of key ideas. and families are responsible for inculcating men self-completion questionnaires, including lack of they are supposed to measure. It is often difficult Each and of photograph is accompanied by an activity –or one or more which ask you to the with acartoon toxic form masculinity, which has negative time interest. It questions is also easy to throw away to assess whether operational definitions provide think about and the picture with reference to the preceding text. These activities give you the consequences forcomment males as on they grow up to become questionnaire with few consequences. valid measurements. opportunity to apply what you’ve and just learned. adults, and particularly husbands fathers. The answers to questions are coded or classified into various categories. Answers to closed questions are pre-coded. For example, possible answers to the questionnaire in Table 3.1.3 are pre-coded into seven categories. The researcher simply has to count the number of people who chose each category. Quantifying the data is easy.



Open questions are coded after the answer has been given. It is sometimes difficult to code and quantify a written answer. Consider the following. Question Have you experienced bullying in the Take Back the Workplace and #MeToo survivors workplace during the past 30 days? march, November 2017. Give reasons for your answer. Why does Higgins describe fourth Answer It depends whatthe you meanwave of feminism as by digital feminism? bullying. Do you mean teasing? Or something physical? My has workmates often tease each Digital feminism also been influenced by other and occasionally they can go intersectionality and consequently it encourages tooTimson far andof people get upset. the view that athe experience patriarchy is cartoons. Special thanks tobit Matt for the excellent This happened to me last week. But qualitatively different for a range of social groups, I wouldn’t necessarily call it bullying. including the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and

Language difficulties may result in incomplete questionnaires, group efforts to complete them and low response rates.

Contemporary issues

Explain why a low response rate may be transgender) community. Digital or millennial Contemporary issues are short international case studies with activities asking you to apply sociological ideas problematic in sociological research. This answerare is difficult to code. Researchers feminists particularly critical of the radical to issues of the day from societies around the world. This shows the relevance of sociology to you and the usually have a listtoofaccept categories in terms of which feminist refusal the idea that transsexuals society you live in. For example, do you live in a fair and just society? Is there equality of opportunity? Does written answers are coded. however, who have transitioned fromSometimes, male to female should be everybody have an equal chance to succeed in the education system? These are fundamental questions written answers dowomen. not fit neatly into any of the ofANDquestionnaires considered to be They have accused radical 3.1 Strengths TYPES OF DATA, METHODS RESEARCH DESIGN which we hope will stay with you long after your A Level exams. categories provided. feminists such as Greer, who argue that trans women › Questionnaires can be a cost-effective way of are not ‘real’ women, of being transphobic. They are collecting large amounts of data from many people Contemporary issues: Fake news Response rates also critical of the idea that masculine and feminine over a relatively short period of time. A ‘quote’ from Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton is identity can be reduced a simple gender binary. The response rate is theto percentage of the sample falsely quoted on one questionnaire website as saying, in 2013, › The same can be given to all ‘I would like to see people like Donald Trump (aInsubgroup of digital research participants drawn this sense, feminism has been veryfrom research participants and running for office. They’re honest and can’t be their answers can be the larger group being actually bought and sold.’ In its first week on Facebook, this influenced by the workstudied) of Judiththat Butler (2006), directly compared. post had 480 000 shares, reactions and comments. participates in the research. For example, if half who argues that academics need to view both sex Source: Buzzfeed News online. › It is relatively easy to quantify the results of the sample a questionnaire, then theThe and gendercompletes as constituting separate continua. ‘Yourquestionnaires, Prayers Have Been Answered’ Under this particularly if closed questions response rate is 50 per cent. Response rates vary biological sex continuum is bookended at one end by headline, the article claimed that Hillary Clinton are used. can be analysed quickly and would be indicted andThe tried indata 2017 for crimes widely. For instance, Shere Hite’s The Hite Report biological males as represented by their possession related to her supposed misuse of her personal email. efficiently with the use of computers. on the Family (1994), based on questionnaires US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and This fake news produced 140 000 shares, reactions of male sex organs, and at the other end by female Donald Trump debating before the election in 2016.

biology as represented by the possession of female town of Veles in Eastern Europe sex organs, ovaries andThe a Macedonian womb. However, between has launched over 140 United States political 82 news websites. Almostof all biological support Donald these two extremes is found a range Trump, mostly with fake news stories. Here conditions that does not to news the stories biological areconform a couple of false for Trump supporters Hillary Clinton, his opponent norms of male and female. Forabout example, some people for the presidency. may be born with intersex biological features, some

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Strengths of digital content

An enormous amount and variety of digital content is available to researchers. Information can usually be accessed at no cost.

Digital content provides researchers with a rich source of qualitative data that can be used as an object of study.

Researchers can apply both quantitative and

and comments on Facebook.

Questions 1. Why is it important to study fake news? 2. Should fake news be censored? Think about freedom of expression in your answer. 3. How might fake news have influenced the US presidential election in 2016?

The researcher cannot probe to find out more about the poster or their postings.

The number of research questions that can be explored via postings is limited compared to the use of unstructured interviews, for example.

Traditional media sources Traditional media sources include radio and television


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Then and now

of how children interpret the concept of families suggest that some even see pets such as dogs and cats as family members.

For example, while a woman is expected to settle down with a man and start a family, the cult of the individual means she puts her needs before, say, her parents’ desire to be grandparents and this may mean she lives alone while establishing a career and independent lifestyle for herself. Klinenberg notes that the digital revolution, especially the availability of smartphones and the popularity of social media, make such single-household lifestyles more attractive.

This is a feature which revisits ground-breaking sociological studies from the last 50 years. Usually written by the original authors, from Paul Willis to Carol Smart, Then and now features assess the significance of these classic studies to today’s society. They also give you an insight into how sociologists think and carry out their research. 2. Eric Klinenberg (2014) argues that people in more industrial societies such as the UK and USA are influenced by the ‘cult of the individual’ in which people put their own needs before those that are expected of them by society. Klinenberg argues that this philosophy may be responsible for the large increase in single-person households.

Then and now: Carol Smart, Personal Life (2007) Personal Life was published in 2007. It was the culmination of many years of research, both empirical and theoretical, and so it is important to recognise that its intricate roots go much further back than the date of publication. When I was a sociology student I could never relate to courses on ‘The Family’ (as they were then called) because the idealised image of families we were presented with bore no resemblance at all to my own family or the families of my friends. Yet, paradoxically, as a teacher I was always keen to put on courses for students on families and relationships. This was because by then I had become fascinated by how close relationships work and because I wanted to explore and expose the complexities and challenges of these important relationships. These interests set in train a number of empirical projects which gave me the opportunity, over several decades, to talk to hundreds of people about their relationships. So Personal Life is not a single study, but rather distilled insights from many of my projects. Given this history to the book, I was somewhat taken aback to discover that some sociologists felt that I had abandoned my interest in family life and that I was trying to devalue the study of families – simply because I was trying to stretch the study of important relationships beyond the conventional limits of families by using the term ‘personal life’. It remains a mystery to me how anyone could come to the conclusion that Personal Life is not substantially about family life. It is true that it is more than just this, of course. Yet I prefer to think of it as being about ‘family life plus’, although we should always remember that families do not provide the primary source of relationships for all people or for all time. It was because I felt it was more important to study what people do, and how they relate to one

another, that I moved decisively away from the study of the structures of the family and the kind of sociology I had been taught as an undergraduate. Instead I moved towards studying what David Morgan (1996, 2011) has called family practices. This epistemological shift away from structures towards practices opened up a completely new way of understanding relationships as well as providing much more engaging methods of researching families, kinships and friendships. These included such things as basing discussions of relationships on photographs to evoke memories and stories; using vignettes or hypothetical situations as ways of eliciting sensitive ideas; and using written accounts of family histories. It even led me to the study of family secrets as a way of getting ‘behind’ the public front of family life. Since the book was published, families and relationships have inevitably continued to change. Same-sex marriage is now well established in England, Wales and Scotland (although not in Northern Ireland). Assisted reproduction (in the form of egg, sperm and embryo donation) and surrogacy are changing the shape of many families as children born from such methods may not be genetically related to one or both of their parents. This in turn means they are not genetically related to their grandparents. We need to understand how these new relationships work, and from my perspective, and from the perspective of Personal Life, this is a much more important question than simply bemoaning the fact that families in 2017 don’t look like the families formed in 1917 or 1957. In the second chapter of the book I stated that family ‘relationships are very sticky’ and I went on to say ‘it is hard to shake free from them at an emotional level and their existence can continue to influence our practices and not just our thoughts’ (2007: 45). I still

AND IDENTITY With many thanks to the following sociologists for contributing a SOCIALISATION ‘Then and now’ feature: 174

› › › › › ›

Professor Becky Francis, University College London human biology and behaviour are permanently linked. One example 87627_P142_225.indd 174

of this argument comes from the sociobiologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Professor Carol Smart, University Fox, who arguedof that Manchester gender roles were biologically determined and as a result, any attempt to interfere with what they saw as the ‘fixed’ nature Professor Rebecca Dobash,of masculine University Manchester and feminine of behaviour, was bound to end in failure. For example, they would argue this is why girls choose ‘female’ subjects at Professor Russell Dobash, school University of Manchester such as Health and Social Care, which are an extension of the caregiving maternal role, while boys opt for typically ‘male’ subjects Professor Paul Willis, Beijing Normal University such as science and maths. Furthermore, some(retired) neuroscientists and psychologists such as Baron-Cohen argue that the female brain is Glasgow University Media genetically Group, University oftheGlasgow. hard-wired for empathy while male brain is hard-wired for understanding and building systems. This all suggests that sociological arguments that socialisation shapes human behaviour are problematic and exaggerated.

Exam preparation

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A useful conclusion that is well supported by the preceding analysis.

Each chapter ends with exam-style practice questions. In the final chapter, these questions are explored in detail with annotated sample Comments responses at different levels to help you evaluate your own work and to show you This answer provides a sustained account of arguments from sociobiologists and psychologists questioning the importance of socialisation in explaining human behaviour. Different contributors to the debate are mentioned how to improve. These questions, and the accompanying commentaries have been written by our and their responses ideas are accurately and succinctly described. team of authors, not by Cambridge Assessment International Education. Mark 10/10 0 3b ‘The role of socialisation in shaping human behaviour has been exaggerated.’ Using sociological material, give one argument against this view.

[6 marks]


The functionalist Durkheim argues that socialisation is essential in shaping human behaviour. He carried out research into suicide rates using a comparative experiment. He argues that suicide rates differ in different societies because social forces control people’s behaviour, not biological, innate factors. In fact he claims that the more integrated people are by things like religion (an agency of socialisation), the less likely they are to commit suicide. Durkheim claimed that his research proves that social forces are essential in shaping people’s behaviour, rather than individual psychological or biological reasons for committing suicide.

Good use of an example of socialisation to support the argument that is presented.

Comments This answer makes good use of Durkheim’s own attempt to prove that socialisation is a key factor in shaping human behaviour. The relevance of Durkheim’s study of suicide in this respect is made very clear in the answer. Mark 6/6

Teacher resource


A free, editable resource for teachers is available on the Collins website 255019 AS and A Level Sociology_CH9.indd 587

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We hope you enjoy using the book.


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Chapter contents Section A

Theories of the family and social change 143

Section B

Family roles and changing relationships

Exam-style practice questions

177 225

The problem with studying the family is that we all think we are experts – not surprisingly, given that most of us are born into families and socialised into family roles and responsibilities. For many of us, the family is the cornerstone of our social world, a place to which we can retreat and where we can take refuge from the stresses of the outside world. It is the place in which we are loved for who we are, rather than for what we are. Moreover, studying the family is important because it is often a primary source of love, nurturance, support, affection,

commitment, responsibility, obligation, duty and sense of belonging, yet at the same time it can also be a site of significant conflict, tension and violence. Family life can be both positive and negative. It often provokes strong and contradictory feelings in most of us. This chapter, therefore, deals with sociological theories of the family that have contributed in some way to our understanding of family life in the 21st century. What all these theories tell us is that, although we all operate with a common-sense definition and understanding of what we mean by the ‘family’, once we examine sociological theories of families and family life, it soon becomes obvious that the way family life is organised is not so straightforward. There is both a huge cultural and global variation in how families are organised and how family life is lived. It is important to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to organise family life and that family groupings may differ according to cultural location.


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Contents Part 1

Perspectives on the role of the family 144

Part 2

Diversity and social change


Three of the key concepts that you were introduced to in the introductory chapter are particularly relevant to your study of the family.

between the family and globalisation. Some sociologists, particularly postmodernists, argue that the concept of ‘family’ should be abandoned because it has become too prescriptive. Instead, these sociologists argue that we should focus on the everyday components of people’s personal lives that contribute to their overall family experience. Third, socialisation, culture and identity. As we saw in Chapter 2, the family is central to the reproduction, generation by generation, of both society and culture. The interaction between parents and children is organised around the socialisation of children into the central values and norms of society so that they grow up to be law-abiding citizens and willing workers. Our identity, too, as individuals and as members of a social group is formed within the family unit.

First, power, control and resistance. The family has enormous power to shape children’s understanding of the wider world, and to mould children and adolescents into the type of citizens and workers that are going to benefit society. It is, therefore, important to examine how the family shapes social action via the processes of socialisation and social control. Moreover, as we shall see during the course of this chapter, some sociologists genuinely believe that what is taught to children by parents is the product of consensus and ultimately beneficial to society in terms of bringing about order and stability. However, other sociologists are critical of what happens during family life. They argue that the cultural values passed down from parents to children are potentially damaging to society, because these values ‘enslave’ our minds and consequently we are unable to fully see or understand how society works in practice.

Section A is divided into two parts.

Second, social change and development. The family, as we shall see, was an integral feature of the movement from traditional to modern industrial societies. But what role does it play in social change and development today? We will particularly examine the relationship

In Part 2, we look at how social change has produced diversity in family forms and family life. We consequently examine how changes in the nature of adult relationships, especially with regard to marriage, have impacted on family life, relationships and structure.

In Part 1, we seek to gain an overview of how different sociological perspectives view the relationship between family, society and the individual. Some are extremely positive about the contribution that the family has made towards society and social change, while other perspectives have been critical and even go as far as suggesting that the relationship between the family, society and the individual is unhealthy.


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Unit 4.1.2

Functionalist accounts of the family


Marxism, the family and capitalism


Unit 4.1.3

Functionalist theories of the family see the family as making a very positive contribution to society. For example, George Peter Murdock (1949) went as far as to argue that it is such an important institution that it is universal – meaning that it can be found in virtually every society in the world. Talcott

Unit 4.1.1 Definitions It is important that you have a clear understanding of some of the common concepts used in different theoretical perspectives on the family. For example, kinship refers to people who are biologically related by descent or who have attained the status of relatives via marriage, cohabitation, adoption or fostering. Kin normally enjoy legal rights such as those relating to the inheritance of property. Moreover, they may feel obliged to offer each other material and emotional support. The most common family type experienced by the majority of people in modern industrial societies, especially among urban populations, is the ‘nuclear family’. Traditionally, this has been defined as a two-generational social group – two parents and one or more children – who share a common residence. Evidence suggests that the most common type of family found in pre-industrial societies or the rural districts of societies which are rapidly undergoing urbanisation such as China is the ‘extended family’. There are three types of extended family: 1. The vertical extended family, in which three generations of kin – grandparents, parents and their children – live under the same roof.

Parsons (1902–79) argued that the multi-functional extended family was exceptionally well-suited for meeting the needs of agricultural pre-industrial societies but evolved and adapted to the needs of industrial society by becoming a smaller, more streamlined unit, shedding some of its functions and adopting more specialist functions better suited to modern demands. Not all functionalist sociologists agree with this ‘loss of functions’ argument, though. Finally, Marxist explanations of family life tend to question the functionalist view that family life is beneficial both for its members and for society. Marxists tend to argue that the family benefits a select few – especially those who benefit from capitalism, and men – rather than the many.

2. The horizontal extended family, in which brothers and their wives and children live under the same roof. These are mainly found in Sikh communities. 3. The attenuated extended family, in which extended kin live in close proximity to each other, and contact between them – which is shaped by a strong sense of duty and obligation – is frequent and based on offering each other mutual support.


An extended family. Construct a family tree that includes all your relatives or kin. Set it out so different-coloured arrows symbolise the strength of the relationship and/or the frequency with which you interact with


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them. For example, a dark-blue line might indicate kin you see every day because you live with them. A green line might indicate relatives you see fairly frequently. A red line might indicate kin you only ever see at special events such as funerals, weddings or religious ceremonies. Show the tree to your parents, and ask them to identify kin not included in your tree. Some people regard close friends – symbolic ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ – and pets as members of their families. If you do, feel free to add them. Finally, the concept of ‘household’ is central to an understanding of family. All families that share a common residence are households. However, there are also household set-ups that are not families. For example, a single person who lives alone, a couple of friends who share a rented apartment, students who share a house and elderly people who live in a retirement home are all examples of non-family households. In the USA in the 1960s and 1970s, some members of a youth counter-culture known as ‘hippies’ as well as members of religious sects such as the Moonies, set up types of households known as communes. Communes are self-sustaining collectives based on sharing property and responsibilities – for example, for raising children. In Israel, communes (known collectively as kibbutzim and based on socialist values such as economic cooperation and equality) are popular. In 2016, it was estimated that 150 000 people lived in 274 kibbutzim.

Activity Colin Turnbull was an anthropologist who specialised in studying primitive communities or tribes. Between 1964 and 1967, he lived among the Ik – a tribe of hunter-gatherers who spent most of the year moving around Northern Uganda in search of food. The Ik had a harsh life and were constantly on the verge of starvation. Turnbull noted that this struggle for survival had led to them rejecting basic human values such as love, kindness, sentiment or honesty. Instead, the Ik were motivated almost entirely by individual self-interest. The Ik regarded anyone who could not take care of themselves as a useless burden and a hazard to the survival of the others. This included children,

the sick and disabled and the elderly, who were often abandoned by parents and other relatives to die. Children were thrown out of the village at the age of 3 and formed themselves into gangs which raided crops, fought each other and generally competed for survival.

Questions 1. What positive features of your experience of family life simply do not exist in Ik culture? 2. Identify three similarities between modern family life and Ik family life. 3. Why is it a sociological mistake to judge Ik culture negatively?

Key terms Kinship Relationship between people who are related to each other by blood, marriage or adoption. Nuclear family A unit that comprises mother, father and children, natural or adopted. Extended family A unit consisting of the nuclear family plus other kin who may live under the same roof or in close proximity so that contact is regular and frequent. Household This includes all those who live under the same roof or occupy the same dwelling. These people need not be necessarily related. Commune A type of cooperative household made up of mainly unrelated people who agree to share work, possessions and religious or social objectives. Kibbutz A type of commune or household found in Israel (plural ‘kibbutzim’).

Summary 1. Sociologists agree that there are two types of family: the nuclear unit, which is common in modern industrial societies, and the extended family, which is more common in pre-industrial societies. 2. Some people choose to live in households or non-family units with friends, fellow students, or in communes or kibbutzim with people who share their collectivist ideals.


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Unit 4.1.2 Functionalist accounts of the family Functionalism is a structuralist or systems theory in that it believes that society and the way it is organised (that is, its social structure/system) is more important than the individuals who comprise it. Functionalism examines the social institutions (such as the economy, education, media, law, family, religion) that make up society. It sees these social institutions as moulding and shaping the individuals who belong to them. Functionalists often assume that if a social institution such as the family exists, then it must have a function or purpose – it must do something useful. As a result, the family is usually seen to perform functions which benefit both its members and society as a whole. In this unit, we will examine the functionalist idea that the nuclear family is so important to the maintenance of social order and stability that it is a universal institution; that is, it is found in every known human society. We will also examine the functionalist argument that the family, whether it is extended or nuclear, functions for the benefit of both society and the individuals who comprise it. The female role is concerned with motherhood and housework.

The husband provides for and protects the family, and is a disciplinary role model.

Children are the outcome of their parents’ love. The traditional nuclear family.

The universality of the family argument The functionalist sociologist, Murdock (1949) claimed that the nuclear family is universal (that is, it is the most common type of family found in any society) and that it performs four basic functions:

› ›

Reproductive – it provides new members of society, without which society would cease to exist. Sexual regulation – the idea that sex should be confined to marriage contributes to social order

› ›

and stability because such fidelity sets the moral rules for sexual behaviour in general. Economic – parents take responsibility for the economic welfare of their children. Educational – parents socialise the next generation into consensual social values.

However, Murdock’s view that the nuclear family is universal has been criticised because, although families do tend to exist in most societies, his argument fails to take account of the increasing diversity of modern family structures and relationships. For example, in many societies today, reproduction and sex are no longer exclusive to family and marriage. In some societies, households rather than families (for example, communes and kibbutzim) have successfully raised children. Finally, Murdock’s idea of a family is an ideological construct in that it is conservative. He seems to suggest that marriage and heterosexuality are central to the concept of family and consequently excludes alternative set-ups involving single, gay or surrogate parents, as not ‘proper’ families.

Talcott Parsons Parsons (1965), an American sociologist, was the most important contributor to the functionalist theory of the family. His theory of the family examined how the social and economic change associated with industrialisation and modernisation shaped family structures and relationships. He argued that most pre-industrial societies are composed of relatively small farming or hunter-gatherer communities. Land and other economic resources were commonly owned or rented by extended families. For example, it was not uncommon to live with and work alongside extended kin on the land, either tending herds of animals or raising crops. Parsons claimed that there was a functional ‘fit’ between extended families and the social or cultural requirements of pre-industrial societies in that such families performed a range of functions which was beneficial to both society and the kin that made up such families. In this sense, the pre-industrial family was a multi-functional unit. The extended family, therefore, functioned:

To meet the basic needs of extended kin through the production of food, clothing and shelter. They would trade or barter with other family groups for those things they could not produce or make themselves. In times of poor harvest or famine,


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4.1 PERSPECTIVES ON THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY the extended family rallied around to provide a subsistence living.

To educate children in whatever skills the family specialised in. These skills were not highly specialised and were probably limited to hunting, gathering, growing particular crops, soldiering and providing the community with basic services such as baking, brewing, metalwork, shoeing horses and so on. Most of these skills were shared and passed down through generations from parents to children. However, this socialisation rarely extended to literacy or numeracy. Specialised occupational roles which required these skills were often restricted to children from high-status families.

To take responsibility for the health of its members in the absence of a system of universal healthcare. However, the high infant mortality rates and low life expectancy of the pre-industrial period suggest that this was probably a constant struggle.

To take responsibility for the welfare of disabled and elderly members of the family. For example, the relatively few family members who did make it into old age would be cared for by extended kin, in exchange for services such as looking after very young children.

Extended kin, in the absence of a criminal justice system, often pursued vendettas to seek revenge for perceived slights. If a family member was unlawfully killed, blood feuds between extended families could last for three or four generations. For example, the War of the Roses in England in the 15th century was a conflict between two extended families, as represented by the royal Houses of Lancaster and York.

The decline of the extended family and the growth of the nuclear family Parsons argued that extended families were very effective for the needs of pre-industrial society, but he claims that they were too unwieldly and impractical to continue in societies that experienced industrialisation and the urbanisation that inevitably followed the industrial revolution. Parsons claimed that the extended kinship network was generally unsuitable in meeting the needs of an economy based on manufacturing industry. Consequently, Parsons argued that the extended family evolved into the smaller and more streamlined

isolated nuclear family in order to function in a way that effectively met the needs of an industrial-capitalist society. He argued then that the industrial revolution brought about five fundamental social changes to the family. 1. The new industrial economy demanded a more geographically mobile workforce. The responsibilities and duties that underpinned extended families (for example, members of such families felt a strong sense of obligation to remain near to their extended kin and to defer to their elders) did not suit these modern economic demands. Members of extended families were consequently reluctant to move to the urban areas in which factories and textile mills were being built. Nuclear families, on the other hand, because they were smaller, were more geographically mobile than extended families. Parsons, therefore, argued that as industrialisation spread nuclear families broke away from their extended kin to move to the growing urban centres to take advantage of the jobs and wages offered by the new factories and textile mills. In the UK, in which the world’s first industrial revolution occurred, this resulted in a mass migration from rural areas to cities. Most of this urbanisation occurred between 1700 and 1830, when the proportion of the UK population living in cities and towns increased from 15 per cent to 34 per cent. We can see similar trends in countries which have experienced rapid industrialisation during the past 20 years. For example, in 1982 China was still a mainly rural society and only one in five Chinese people lived in cities. However, the massive and rapid industrialisation and urbanisation that has taken place in China over the past 20 years now means that just over 50 per cent of China’s population now live in cities. It is predicted that 75 per cent of the Chinese population will be living in cities by 2030. 2. Another social change brought about by industrialisation was the opportunity to improve oneself materially. This is known as social mobility. In pre-industrial societies and in extended families, social mobility and status was/is ascribed. For example, the head of the household to whom all other members of the family were expected to defer was usually the oldest male. However, Parsons claimed that ascription was not suitable as a means of allocating roles in an industrial society. This is because such societies needed to ensure


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4 THE FAMILY that the most skilled and talented occupied the most important occupational roles if they were to be economically successful. Parsons claimed that industrial societies needed to be meritocratic in order make sure that the most skilled and talented are allocated to jobs in which they will be most effective. 3. Parsons believed that members of nuclear families were more independent as individuals and less prone to the sorts of social pressures from extended kin and community that might have made them less adventurous in their social ambitions and choice of jobs or location. Parsons argued that the ascribed roles that were part and parcel of the extended family were likely to come into conflict with the roles required by a competitive industrial-capitalist economic system in which jobs and status were allocated on the basis of ability and qualification rather than being passed down and/or inherited. For example, the social stability of a family and community may be undermined if junior members of an extended family wield more economic power than the traditional head of the household. 4. A key difference between rural extended families and urban nuclear families was that the latter had experienced a separation between home and workplace, as they had become wage-earners in the factory system. They were no longer in a position to grow or rear their own food, build their own homes or make their own clothing. Consequently, as industrialisation extended its influence over society, specialised agencies gradually took over many of the functions of the pre-industrial extended family. Parsons referred to this process as ‘structural differentiation’ and argued that it was often accompanied by a social process that he called ‘functional specialisation’. This meant that more effective specialist institutions evolved to produce the goods and services previously provided by extended families. Members of urban nuclear families, therefore, became dependent on outside agencies – businesses – which evolved to meet many of their needs. For example, processed canned and frozen food was mass produced in factories and sold in stores that eventually developed into supermarket chains. Other products which had traditionally been produced by extended families, such as clothing, furniture and even homes, were produced by businesses which specialised in these commodities. In this sense, Parsons saw the

nuclear family as largely losing its most important economic function – that of production. 5. Industrialisation also encouraged the development of the modern bureaucratic state as society and the economy grew more formal and complex. For example, the development of a monetary system resulted in people entering contractual relationships in which they were expected to engage in official legal exchanges such as money for goods. Bureaucratic government increasingly took on the responsibility of regulating such relationships. The state also increasingly took over the functions of education, health, welfare and justice, which prior to industrialisation had largely been the responsibility of the extended family. Parsons suggested that this process of structural differentiation meant that the multi-functional family effectively disappeared and was replaced by the isolated nuclear family, which focused on performing two basic and irreducible functions: (a) the primary socialisation of children and (b) the stabilisation of adult personalities. Primary socialisation of children Parsons believed that the family should bear the main responsibility for the socialisation of children into the core cultural values of industrial-capitalist societies, such as:

› › › ›

achievement competition equality of opportunity respect for private property.

For a more detailed account of the functions of the family as an agent of primary socialisation and its effectiveness in helping bring about value consensus, conformity, social solidarity – the main foundation stones of social order – you should refer to Unit 2.2.2. Parsons viewed the nuclear family as a ‘personality factory’ whose manufactured products were young workers and citizens committed to the rules, patterns of behaviour and belief systems that make positive involvement in economic life and good citizenship possible. In this sense, Parsons saw the family as a crucial bridge connecting the individual child/adult to wider society.

Activity What evidence would you use to challenge Parsons’ idea that primary socialisation is successful in producing young citizens committed to the rules?


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Home and family

not be acceptable in the outside adult world but which nevertheless need release.




Pace of life






Hard work


Hiring and firing


Job insecurity

A father relaxes with his child after work. How might playing with children help to stabilise the adult personalities of parents? The ‘warm bath’ theory. Stabilisation of adult personality Parsons argued that the second major specialised function of the family is to relieve the stresses of modern-day living for its adult members. He observes that modern-day workplaces are very hectic, competitive and stressful places. Members of a nuclear family no longer have extended kin easily available for advice and guidance to help them cope with modern-day living. However, Parsons saw this as an opportunity for spouses and children in the nuclear family to positively reinforce their relationships. Parsons claimed that the nuclear family could act as a ‘warm bath’ – he suggested that immersion in family life could relieve the pressures of work and contemporary society just as a warm bath soothes and relaxes the body. John Pullinger (2014) claims that Parsons viewed the nuclear family as a ‘retreat’, especially for the male breadwinner, ‘from the competitive demands and formality of the workplace, so as to provide replenishment within a haven of emotional security. Moreover, it caters for the therapeutic needs of adults to act out childish residues – affective, childlike behaviour which would

This emotional support and security, and the opportunity to engage in play with children, acts as a safety valve that prevents stress from overwhelming adult family members. As a result, it both stabilises the adult personality by de-stressing the individual and strengthens social bonds within the family as well as stability in wider society.

Activity Feature

Preindustrial society

Modern industrial society

Family type Family functions Ascribed or achieved roles? Relations with extended kin?

Question Drawing on what you have read so far, fill in the table.


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4 THE FAMILY Instrumental and expressive roles Parsons particularly saw marriage as essential to the health, happiness and stability of adults in modern societies. Parsons therefore viewed the family as a positive and beneficial place for all its members – as ‘home sweet home’, as a ‘haven in a heartless world’ and a place in which people could be their natural selves. Parsons argued that this new nuclear unit provided the husband and wife with very clear and distinct social roles. Parsons claimed that the male should be the ‘instrumental leader’ – responsible for the economic welfare and living standards of the family group and the protection of other family members. He is the wage-earner and consequently the head of the household. Parsons claimed that the female is best suited to being the ‘expressive leader’ – this means that the mother and wife should be primarily responsible for the socialisation of children and particularly the emotional care and support of family members. Parsons argued that this sexual division of labour is ‘natural’, because it is based on biological differences. However, Parsons did see the relationship between husbands and wives as complementary, with each equally contributing to the maintenance of the family but in a qualitatively different way. In conclusion, then, Parsons argued that extended families, with their emphasis on tradition, hindered progress and modernity. In contrast, he argued that the nuclear family unit was superior because it was more adaptable to the needs of modern industrial societies. Parsons believed that only the modern nuclear family could produce dutiful citizens and the achievement-orientated and geographically mobile workforce required to make modern industrial economies successful.

Activity If possible, interview your grandparents and/ or great-grandparents about their experience of family life.

Ask them how they met, what cultural expectations in their day governed their contact with one another before marriage and how their wedding was organised.

Ask them what was expected by society about the role of men and women in marriage with regard to parenting, housework, decision-making, women taking on paid work and so on.

Ask about their contact with (and the influence of) extended kin, especially parents, on how they managed their marriage and family life.

Ask them what they think has changed for the better and what has changed for the worse.

Think about how their recollections might support or challenge the sociological studies mentioned in this chapter.

Finally, compare your own experience of family life to theirs.

Evaluating the functionalist theory of the family Functionalism was the first theory to point out that in almost all societies throughout the world we can see the two-generation nuclear family with adults of both sexes and dependent children. Furthermore, many state policy initiatives aimed at regulating family life, especially those in modern industrial societies, have their origin in functionalist theories of the family. However, the functionalist theory of the family has been criticised for several reasons: 1. Ronald Fletcher (1988) argued that Parsons was wrong to suggest that the nuclear family had undergone a ‘loss of functions’. Fletcher argued that the nuclear family continues to perform three unique and crucial functions that no other social institution can carry out in most of the societies in which it is found. These include: satisfying the long-term sexual and emotional needs of parents; raising children in a stable environment; and the provision of a home to which all family members return after work, school and so on. Moreover, Fletcher argued that the nuclear family continues to perform the functions that Parsons believes it lost to the state. He observed that most parents continue to take primary responsibility for providing their children with educational supports and daily healthcare. Moreover, even after children have left home to marry or have moved away to work, parents continue to provide welfare for their children and extended kin. Deborah Chambers (2012) agrees and observes that many nuclear families continue to ‘opt in’ to provide care or financial support to extended kin. Fletcher argued that Western governments never intended to replace the family and that the role of social policy is actually to supplement the functions of the family, for example, by providing


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4.1 PERSPECTIVES ON THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY social, economic and educational supports such as postnatal care, free healthcare from the cradle to the grave and compulsory education. Fletcher accepted that the nuclear family has largely lost its economic function of production, although many family-based companies continue to be successful. However, Fletcher argued that the family functions as a major unit of economic consumption, because the modern nuclear family spends a great proportion of its income on family or home-orientated consumer goods, such as the family car, garden paraphernalia, the latest electrical appliances for the kitchen and leisure use, and toys. The consumption function of the family, therefore, motivates its members as workers to earn as much as possible, as well as motivating capitalist entrepreneurs and businesses to produce and market what families want. In other words, the nuclear family is essential to a successful economy. 2. Parsons failed to consider the impact of global migration on family life in the USA and other industrial nations. This migration has resulted in a diversity of family types existing alongside each other. The nuclear family is, therefore, no longer as dominant as it once was. 3. Parsons neglected agency and free will. Interactionist sociologists argue that Parsons paints a picture of children as ‘empty vessels’ being pumped full of culture by their parents. They claim that this is an over-deterministic and passive view of children which fails to acknowledge that in reality socialisation is a two-way interaction in which children have the power to modify their parents’ behaviour – for example, by taking part in family decision-making with regard to consumer spending, television viewing, use of social media sites and so on. 4. Historians suggest that Parsons was far too simplistic in his interpretation of the impact of industrialisation on the family. They point out that the evidence suggests that industrialisation follows different historical patterns in different industrial societies. For example, until the 1980s, the Japanese experience of industrialisation stressed the importance of a job for life with the same company. Employees were encouraged to view the company and their workmates as part of a larger extended family and consequently duty and obligation were encouraged as important cultural values. As a result, Japanese extended kinship

networks continue to exert a profound influence on their members and the isolated nuclear family failed to gain a significant foothold in Japanese culture. 5. Some sociologists and social historians claim that Parsons confused cause and effect. For example, Parsons hypothesised that industrialisation resulted in the decline of the extended family and its replacement with the nuclear family. However, this is not supported by the limited historical data that we have. Social historians now hypothesise that industrialisation was able to take off so quickly and effectively in some societies because nuclear families already existed in large numbers, so people could move quickly to those parts of the country where their skills were in demand. 6. Similarly, studies of urban areas undergoing industrialisation suggest that the need for the extended family was actually strengthened by migration to towns and cities. For example, extended kinship networks probably functioned as a mutual economic support system for migrants. It is very likely that migrants sought out extended kin when they arrived in an urban area and that such kin pooled their wages in order to share the high cost of rents and to help out kin who were sick, disabled and elderly. Moreover, in European countries such as the UK, social surveys indicate that the extended family continued to exist well into the late 20th century. 7. Parsons presented a very positive picture of relationships within the nuclear family, but evidence suggests that living in such a unit can sometimes be very dysfunctional or harmful to its members. As David Cheal (2002) notes, functional relationships can easily slip into damaging relationships, and love can often turn into hate in moments of intense emotion. He notes that ‘we have to face the paradox that families are contexts of love and nurturance, but they are also contexts of violence and murder’ (Cheal 2002). Feminists are critical of functionalists for ignoring the ‘dark side of family life’. They point out that, in many societies, most recorded murders of women and children, assaults and abuse of children, sexual or otherwise, take place within the family unit. For example, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) estimated that of all women who were the victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members, compared to less than 6 per cent of men killed in the same year.


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4 THE FAMILY The UNCSW also observed that 43 per cent of women in the 28 European Union member states have experienced some form of psychological violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Key terms Fidelity Faithfulness, usually in a relationship. Consensual All involved agree willingly.

8. Finally, Parsons’ theory of family has been criticised as ‘ethnocentric’. This means that Parsons assumed that his American experience of the nuclear family life was a universal experience. However, he failed to consider the fact that wealth or poverty may determine whether women stay at home to look after children or not. Religious and ethnic subcultural differences may mean that Parsons’ version of the family is no longer relevant in societies that are multicultural.

Multi-functional Performing lots of functions, such as the pre-industrial family.

9. Feminists are particularly critical of functionalism, which they describe as a patriarchal ideology that justifies sexism, misogyny and gender inequality in its insistence that family roles are somehow biological in origin, and that males and females are somehow more ‘naturally’ suited to being instrumental leaders and expressive leaders respectively. Feminists such as Cordelia Fine (2017) point out that there is absolutely no scientific evidence for such assertions. Moreover, such ideas seep into popular consciousness and undermine the aspirations of females, consequently limiting the number of positive female role models that are available to girls and young women. As Sally Ride, the first female commander of the Space Shuttle commented, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.

Geographical mobility Refers to people and families physically moving across the country, usually in search of work or education.

Activity Evaluate the view that Parsons’ ideas about the relationship between men and women in families are patriarchal.


Urbanisation The process of people who had previously lived in the countryside moving to the towns and cities, usually to find work in factories, mills and so on. Isolated nuclear family A family that is self-contained and which has little contact with extended kin.

Ascription/ascribed role A role assigned at birth over which an individual has little choice or say. For example, members of a royal family inherit a role. In patriarchal societies, females involuntarily occupy a subordinate role. Structural differentiation The emergence of specialised agencies which gradually took over many of the functions of the pre-industrial extended family. Basic and irreducible functions The two crucial functions performed by the nuclear family in modern capitalist societies: the primary socialisation of children, and the stabilisation of adult personalities. Stabilisation of adult personality An irreducible function of the nuclear family according to Parsons, in which the male worker’s immersion in his family supposedly relieves him of the pressures of work and contemporary society, just as a warm bath soothes and relaxes the body. Instrumental leader The role of economic provider or breadwinner for the nuclear family. Parsons claimed that this is usually the role of the male.

Sally Ride in the flight deck of Space Shuttle Challenger STS-7 in June 1983. Why are female role models so important to the aspirations of girls and young women?

Expressive leader The role of nurturer of children, primarily responsible for the primary socialisation of children, and emotional caretaker. According to Parsons, females have a ‘natural’ empathy for this role. Loss of functions The functionalist idea that the multi-functional extended family of the pre-industrial era lost many of its functions after the industrial revolution.


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Consumption Refers to the spending of money on goods and services. A successful economy needs to competitively market its goods and services in ways that attract consumers to spend their cash on them. Ethnocentric Judging other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture.

Summary 1. The functionalist sociologist Talcott Parsons believed that there was a strong relationship between structural social change and changes in family life. 2. Parsons claimed that multi-functional extended families were the norm in pre-industrial societies because they functionally fitted the needs of that type of society. 3. Industrialisation was the catalyst of family change. 4. Parsons claimed that the nuclear family evolved out of the extended family, and became the universal norm in more industrialised societies because it met the functional needs of industrial society for a geographically and socially mobile workforce. 5. Parsons claimed that the nuclear family was functionally beneficial for both modern industrial societies and for the individuals that comprised it. 6. However, Parsons has been criticised for being ethnocentric and over-deterministic and for neglecting or ignoring the ‘dark side of family life’.

Unit 4.1.3 Marxism, the family and capitalism Marxism and functionalism are both examples of structural theories (see Unit 2.2.1 on structuralism). They are mainly interested in how the family contributes to the overall running of society rather than how people experience family life on a daily basis. Like functionalists, then, Marxists are keen to find out what the overall purpose or function of the family is for society. Marxists reject the functionalist view that society is based on value consensus and therefore operates for the benefit of all. Instead they argue that capitalist society is organised around conflict between social classes and exploitation rather than social order (as

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functionalists believe). This unit will examine the two main Marxist approaches to the family that originate with Engels and Zaretsky.

Friedrich Engels: the family, the bourgeoise and private property Engels speculated that the history of humanity could be divided into two main eras: 1. The era of primitive communism – Engels claimed that during the early stages of human evolution there was no private property and the family as we know it today did not exist. Human beings lived in ‘promiscuous hordes’ or tribes. There were very few rules limiting sexual relationships, and marriage as we know it today also did not exist. Children were brought up by the whole tribe rather than parents. 2. The era of capitalism – Engels claimed that the nuclear family based on monogamy (marriage between one man and one woman) only developed with the emergence of capitalism, which led to the accumulation of private property and wealth. Engels claimed that the monogamous nuclear family was adopted by capitalists because it provided the most efficient way of ensuring that wealth and private property was inherited by a person’s direct descendants. If there is only one husband and one wife in a family, questions about the paternity of children or about which wife’s children should inherit were unlikely to arise. Engels claimed that monogamous marriage, in particular, was useful to the capitalist class because it conferred legitimacy on children and, therefore, members of the bourgeoisie were able to ensure that their fortunes were inherited by their direct descendants.

Evaluating Engels

There is strong evidence that suggests that monogamous nuclear families have grown in popularity as capitalism has evolved although there is also evidence that nuclear families existed in large numbers pre-capitalism.

Feminists point out that there is no historical evidence of an era of primitive communism. This is pure speculation on Engels’ part.

However, anthropologists (people who study primitive tribal societies) such as Kathleen Gough (1973) have supported Engels’ idea that primitive human societies were characterised by promiscuous sexual relations because our nearest relatives – chimpanzees – live in promiscuous groups.


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Describe two types of family structure.

[4 marks]

0 2

a. Explain two ways in which government policies may influence family life.

[8 marks]

b. Explain one strength and one limitation of the Marxist view that the family is an agency of social control.

[6 marks]

0 3

‘Family diversity is the norm in most societies today.’ a. Explain this view. b. Using sociological material, give one argument against this view.

[10 marks] [6 marks]

0 4

Evaluate the view that the family is a patriarchal institution.

[26 marks]

0 5

Evaluate the view that family life is harmful for many people.

[26 marks]


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9 PREPARING FOR EXAMINATIONS In this chapter, you will explore a range of sample responses to the exam-style practice questions included at the end of Chapters 2 to 8 of this book. These responses and the activities around them are designed to help you to reflect upon and improve your own writing. Exam-style questions and sample answers have been written by the authors. References to

assessment and/or assessment preparation are the publisher’s interpretation of the syllabus requirements and may not fully reflect the approach of Cambridge Assessment International Education. Cambridge International recommends that teachers consider using a range of teaching and learning resources in preparing learners for assessment, based on their own professional judgement of their students’ needs.


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Socialisation and identity To make the best use of this section, you should have already completed your own responses to the exam-style questions at the end of Chapter 2. Now look at the sample responses to Q1–4 below. As you read the shorter responses and the supporting comments, decide what mark your own response(s) deserve. Identify anything you could do to improve your responses. As you read the longer responses and the supporting comments, decide whether your own response is closer to the level of the ‘competent’ answer or the ‘strong’ answer. Identify any ways in which your own response could be improved, using the commentaries on the sample responses as guidance. 0 1

Describe two factors that might influence a person’s social identity.

[4 marks]


Social class may influence a person’s social identity. This can be the social class that a person is born into, their attitudes and their wealth or income. These affect the way that a person sees themselves as well as the way others see them. It has an important influence on their life chances and the consumer goods they can afford to purchase as a way of expressing their identity. Gender can influence a person’s social identity. Socially constructed ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman vary from culture to culture but patriarchal ideology is universal, which means that men generally have more power in society compared to women. Gender can influence which roles people play and the choices available to them.

Comments Two relevant factors (social class and gender) are identified for 2 marks; the way that each factor may influence a person’s social identity is described accurately for a further 2 marks. Mark 4/4 0 2a Explain two reasons why people usually conform to social expectations.

[8 marks]


1. People usually conform to social expectations due to positive sanctions that are used by agencies of control to reward and reinforce the conformity of individuals who accept that complying with the rules brings about a social exchange that benefits themselves and their community. For example, conformity and working hard usually results in a pay rise and the opportunity thereby to have a better lifestyle in material terms. 2. Another reason people conform to social expectations is that social control agencies can also use negative sanctions or punishments. For example, if you do not conform to laws, you may be sent to prison.

Comments Two reasons why people usually conform to social expectations are identified (2 marks). The first reason is explained and uses appropriate sociological material to support the answer and to show with the example of a pay rise why rewards might encourage a person to conform to social expectations. The second reason is less well developed and lacks reference to sociological material that explains why a punishment such as going to prison might encourage a person to conform to social expectations. For example, the answer might have referred to the loss of status and the stigma of going to prison as a relevant sociological explanation for why the threat of this particular punishment might encourage conformity. Mark 6/8


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0 2b Explain one strength and one limitation of the view that individual behaviour is shaped by the social structure.

[6 marks]


The view that individual behaviour is shaped by the social structure helps us to understand social conformity. Both functionalist and Marxist theory supports this view. Functionalists claim that institutions such as the family and education work together to ensure that young people are taught the norms and values on which the social structure is based. Marxist sociologists also see social structure dominating individual behaviour, though they argue that it is the requirements of the economic system specifically that exercise this controlling influence over people’s thoughts and actions. The idea that individual behaviour is determined by the social structure is a strength because it helps us to understand why there are often similarities in the way individuals behave and why social interaction mostly takes place in an orderly way rather than being chaotic. One limitation of this view is that it tries to explain conformity and non-conformity entirely in terms of the influence of social structure. The fact that people mostly accept social norms and values is seen as evidence that the institutions underpinning the social structure have been effective in shaping individual behaviour. Likewise, people who act contrary to social expectations are seen as lacking adequate exposure to these institutional influences (not attending school, for example). This is a limitation in the argument that individual behaviour is shaped by the social structure, as people may actively choose to reject social norms and values; their non-conformist behaviour is not necessarily the result of inadequate exposure to institutional influences. Nor should we assume that people who conform to social norms and values do so because they have been taught this is the right thing to do (it may have more to do with self-interest or apathy and/or a sense of being powerless to challenge the status quo, for example).

Comments One acceptable strength is identified (the ability to explain similarities in individual behaviour) for 1 mark; how structures may influence behaviour is explained through reference to the role of the family and education in the socialisation process for the second mark. The final sentence provides a clear reason why the focus on the influence of structure in shaping individual behaviour is a strength and so the third mark is also merited. One acceptable limitation is identified (the response tries to explain conformity and non-conformity entirely in terms of the influence of social structure) for 1 mark; the way that functionalist theory relies on exposure to institutional influences (socialisation effectively) to explain conformity and non-conformity is demonstrated in the second and third sentence for the second mark. The final sentence provides a clear reason why relying on the concept of social structure to explain individual behaviour is a limitation and so the third mark is also merited. Mark 6/6 0 3a ‘The role of socialisation in shaping human behaviour has been exaggerated.’ Explain this view.

[10 marks]

Competent answer

Structural theories such as Marxists and Functionalists have been criticised for assuming that the people just accept social forces as a result of socialisation. Interactionists argue that human behaviour is a product of individual interactions and meanings. For example, interactionists claim that crimes are only criminal because we label it that way. Becker argues that actually, people commit deviant acts as part of a bigger process based on

Although interactionists would add that society provides a menu of meanings from which the individual draws in making sense of the social world. Action is guided by social meanings rather than the individual having free choice in how they behave.


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decisions that a person makes. For example, people do not become criminals overnight, becoming a criminal is a process, and people have individual agency in that process. Once a person commits a crime, they can decide if they are going to commit another crime, or not. If they do commit a crime they may allow the label of criminal to become their master status, which means that is how they see themselves essentially – as a criminal. This is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, or accepting and living up to the label. The role of socialisation may also have been exaggerated as people behave the way they do due to innate or inborn biological factors. This is known as the nature vs nurture debate. Sociologists argue that people behave the way they do due to social factors, whereas others such as biologists claim that in fact, things like gender roles are connected to our biology. Functionalists claim for example that gender roles in the family are based around women giving birth and men being breadwinners because they do not give birth.

Good to show awareness of non-sociological explanations for human behaviour in answering the question.

Comments The answer rightly uses the interactionist perspective as a way of illustrating how the role of socialisation in shaping human behaviour may have been exaggerated in other (structural) sociological perspectives. However, the interactionist critique of structural theories of socialisation could have been more clearly expressed and is inaccurate in some respects. There is a useful, but brief reference to the nature versus nurture debate. Mark 6/10

Strong answer

All sociological theories assume that society is overwhelmingly the main influence on human behaviour. For structural theories (functionalism, Marxism), the socialisation process more or less ensures that people conform to social norms and values. Interactionists allow more scope for free will and personal choice in understanding human behaviour, though in this perspective it is still the process of interacting with each other in society (socialisation) that provides the main context for understanding how people act and think. However, the importance of nature as an influence on human behaviour may have been underestimated in these sociological accounts. Sociobiologists such as Morris (1968) argue that it is not socialisation that shapes behaviour, rather it is biology that shapes human behaviour, due to the fact that sharing culture is based on the innate or genetic need to continue the life of the social group over time. They claim that 585

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