Contemporary Trends | Sociology UPSC Notes

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Families and marriages look different in different countries around the world today. In some places, like more rural parts of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Rim, family structures haven’t changed much over time. But in most developing countries, things are changing in a big way. There are many things that led to these changes, but a few stand out as especially important.

1. The spread of Western society is one example. For example, Western ideas about sexual love have spread to places where they were not known before.

2. Another reason is the rise of centralised government in areas that used to be made up of small, independent societies. People’s lives are affected by how they participate in a national political system, and the government also tries to change old ways of doing things.

3. Because of the problem of a quickly growing population, the government in China, for example, often starts programmes that encourage people to have smaller families, use birth control, and so on.

4. A second factor is the big number of people who move from rural to urban areas. Men often go to towns or cities to work, leaving their families behind in the village. In the other case, a nuclear family will move as a group to the In both cases, established family structures and kinship networks may weaken.

5. Lastly, and this may be the most important point, employment opportunities away from the land, such as in government bureaucracies, mines, plantations, and industrial firms where they exist, tend to upset family systems that used to be based on production on the land in the local area.

In general, these changes are leading to a breakup of extended family systems and other types of social groups all over the world. This was first shown by William J. Goode in his book World Revolution in Family Patterns, which came out in 1963. Other study has also shown this to be true. The most important changes that are happening all over the world are:

• The power of clans and other kin groups is going down.

• Most people want to be able to choose their own partner.

• More and more people are realising that women have rights when it comes to getting married and making decisions in the family.

• Arranged marriages happen less often these days.

• Men and women are getting more sexual freedom in countries that used to be very restrictive.

• The rights of children are getting more and more attention.

• People are becoming more open to same-sex relationships.

It would be wrong to overstate these changes or assume that they have happened everywhere. In fact, many of them are still being fought over and fiercely debated. In the same way, it would be wrong to think that the extended family is getting smaller everywhere. Even now, extended families are still the standard in most societies, and traditional family practises are still used.

There are also differences in how quickly things change, as well as reversals and countertrends:

1. Family Size Has Gone Down: It’s not a secret that families with twelve children are rare today. About a hundred years ago, the number of births in the Western world began to fall. “Smaller family” doesn’t mean that all families are proportionally smaller, though. The Women’s Liberation Movement has told women that having children is not a job, but rather a choice. More couples are choosing not to have children (Veevers, 1980), and one-third of women who have their first child at age 25 or older or later (Willkie, 1981) are older than 25. Contraceptives have given people the tools, but not the reason to use them. Contraceptives aren’t the reason why people have smaller families any more than ropes are the reason why people kill themselves. We can learn a lot about other parts of culture by looking at why people want smaller children. Since people in agricultural societies didn’t know how to read or write, the change to a literate, specialised, industrialised society has turned children from an economic advantage into an expensive burden. Changes in how people spend their free time, how much they want to learn and move up in society, and how they see their own rights have all helped to stop people from having kids at random. At the moment, the idea that having a big family is a good thing for society is quickly being replaced by the idea that having a lot of children is a selfish thing to do. So, the change in family size is caused by changes in technology, the economy, and morals.

2. The number of single-parent families has gone up, while the number of married couples with children in their home has gone down by a quarter. One in nine families is now led by a woman, which is a 65 percent rise from before. Families where the mother had never been married grew. Out of all families with kids, the number of one-parent homes grew. At any given time, 20% of today’s children live in a single-parent home, and a child has a 50/50 chance of living in a single-parent home before he or she turns 18.

• It can be debated whether or not a single-parent home is always bad for the kids. Blechman (1982) says that there aren’t many differences in how children grow up if socioeconomic position, education, and other factors are taken out of the picture and only the number of parents is looked at.

• Segalman and Basu say that most single-parent families are poor and that three-fourths of them get help from the government. Being single parents or parents before they turn 18 is a big reason why they don’t make much money and don’t do well in school. Duncan and Morgan did a long-term study of women who got divorced and didn’t remarry. They found that their average pay dropped by 50% after the divorce.

• Single-parent mothers use more mental health services than any other group, and their children are four times more likely to use mental health services than children from two-parent homes (Guttentag, 1980). Some of these problems can be directly or indirectly linked to having only one parent.

• It is also clear that a healthy environment for children can be found in a home with only one parent. (McLanahan et al.) say that having a network of helpful family and friends can make a big difference. The way a family looks is not nearly as important as how the parents act. Children may be better off with one responsible parent still alive than with two cruel parents who fight all the time. But it’s hard to say that two responsible parents who are still alive aren’t better than one.

3. Unmarried Parenthood Has Gone Up: Since 1950, the number of children born to parents who are not married has gone up by more than four times. Nine out of ten illegitimate babies were given up for adoption a generation ago, but now more than nine out of ten are kept by their moms. This often means that the mother will be poor for the rest of her life and that the baby will be emotionally poor (Furstenberg & Fosberg). One wonders what the long-term effects on society will be if a large part of the next generation is raised by teenagers who are not married and are not old enough to sign a contract, drive a car, vote, or buy a drink.

4. Single-person households are on the rise. In the past, it was hard for one person to live peacefully by themselves. One could only live in comfort if they were part of a family or set up a home with servants. Today, living conditions are better for singles. Apartments come with furniture and maid service, wash-and-wear clothes, Launderettes, and many different kinds of food services make it easier for singles.

• Until they got married, women used to live with their parents or other family. When younger women wanted to live alone, people thought they were up to no good. Today, having a place to live and a car are almost like signs that you are an adult. Single-person families have gone from making up 4.7% of all households in 1950 to making up 23% of all households today.

• Several books, like Adams’s Single Blessedness, have been written about how great it is to be single. Even though people may have different ideas about what it means to be “blessed” as a single person, the rise of single-person homes is a very important change in the way families live (Stein, 1981). For example, Davis and Strong say that people who live alone are more likely to stray from the norm and are more likely to get sick or lose their job than people who live in groups.

5. Non-marital cohabitation is on the rise. Some unmarried couples have always lived together publicly as “lovers” instead of as husband and wife. Except in the most sophisticated and “arty” groups, most people thought they were scandalous and wrong. But today, living together without being married has grown by a lot.

1. In Sweden, living together without being married was pretty common, but until about 1965, it was seen as a sign of deviance (Trost). Now, it is fully institutionalised. A long-term study of 111 Swedish couples who lived together found that after 3 12 years, 22 were no longer together, 25 were married, and 51 were still living together (Trost). Cohabiting with someone who isn’t your spouse has become pretty normal in the U.S., but parents and other people’s attitudes about it vary. It’s not clear if it will ever become a standard practise.

2. Most people who live together without being married see it as just another step in dating, with no clear plans to get married (Macklin). Most cohabiting couples don’t have a clear plan to get married, but most do get married or break up within a few years. Few people plan or choose to live together without being married as a permanent lifestyle, according to Macklin. Because of this, cohabitation has become a fairly normal step before marriage, which can be seen by looking at the addresses of people who apply for marriage licences in the newspaper.

3. One study of cohabiting people’s scores on the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory found that, compared to other college students, cohabiting students tended to be more irreligious, nonconformist, immature, impulsive, manipulative, selfish, outgoing, friendly, fun-loving, and creative.

4. Studies show that the problems and changes of nonmarital cohabitation are a lot like those of traditional marriage, and that nonmarital cohabitation has almost no effect on the marriages of those who marry (Blane, et al., Stafford, and Macklin). May come to the conclusion that living together without being married has become a common step before getting married, but that it has little effect on marriage and the family.

6. The Quiet Revolution in Women’s Employment: The rise in “working wives” may be the most important change. Today, more than half of the people who work are women. About 61% of married women between the ages of 20 and 45 who live with their husbands work, and more than 90% of married women work at some point in their lives.

• Married women with children are now more likely to be working than married women without children. This may be because many “married women without children” are at the age where they can retire.

• In the past, a woman who worked was seen as proof that her husband wasn’t able or willing to take care of her. In 1908, 140 married women who worked found that only 6 of their husbands had jobs that were better than unskilled labourer. Once more common in the lower classes, the working wife is now a regular sight in the well-off middle classes. We have no reason to think that this trend will change.

• The quiet revolution has changed how work is done around the house. Housewives don’t spend less time on housework because of labor-saving tools. In fact, wives today spend more time on chores than they did 50 years ago (Hall and Schroeder; Vanek). The time that used to be spent hand-washing clothes and putting up food at home is now used to put away a daily pile of toys, books, magazines, and hobby gear, drive kids to and from school, go to PTA meetings, and do other things that grandmother did not do.

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• When the wife works, it’s clear that something has to give. Some of the nice things about housework became products, but the working wife still works about ten hours more a week than the housewife on average. One study (Bohen and Viveros-Long) says that husbands of working wives do about four more hours of housework each week than husbands of wives who don’t work. Another study (Pleck) says that they do less than two hours more housework each week. Scanzoni says that working wives’ husbands do help a lot with child care, and a recent study of male college students found that three-quarters of them expected to spend as much time raising their children as their wives (Katz). It will be interesting to see if they do what they say they will do. Most of the men who read this book have already found out, or will soon find out, if their manhood will dissolve in dishwater.

7. The Dual-Carrier Family Is Coming: Many wives have worked for a while, but few have had jobs. Most working wives thought of their jobs as temporary, extra, or helpful, but not as important as their husbands’ jobs. It’s not clear if these wives who work are happier than those who stay home all day. Several studies have found that housewives are less happy with their lives than working women. Most of these women grew up in a time when gender roles were more set in stone. Where young women of today will find the most happiness may be changing.

• More and more young women are saying that they have the same right as men to a career, not just a job. The difference between a job and a career is that a career is a long-term commitment to a series of positions with growing responsibility and expertise. Many women today think that any sacrifices that need to be made between work goals and family life should be shared and equal, not just put on the wife. If a couple tries to use this formula properly, they will find that they need to make many changes.

• Most couples who both work and have children hire domestic help. Critics say this creates a class of women who have to do housework and care for children so that other women can live a better life (Hunt and Hunt). Some couples with two jobs get around the job-transfer problem by driving, but Gallese says that this kind of part-time marriage often leads to divorce. In a mobile, specialised society, it’s hard to have a close family and two jobs at the same time.

8. Divorce has changed in that it is no longer always a sign of moral decline or social instability. To bring up the idea of cultural relativism once more, whether divorce is seen as a stressful crisis or a necessary change relies on the culture. The loss of a standard set of sex roles makes it more likely that a husband and wife will argue about their rights and responsibilities.

• For many ages, people thought that marriage was pretty much unbreakable. Divorces were only given in very rare situations, like when the couple never made love. Most countries have moved quickly in the direction of making divorces easier to get. Almost all industrialised courtiers used to use the so-called confrontational system.

• It’s clear that divorce rates are not a straight measure of unhappy marriages. For one thing, people who are separated but not officially divorced are not counted in divorce rates. Also, people who are unhappy in their marriages may choose to stay together because they believe in the sanctity of marriage, worry about the financial or emotional effects of a breakup, or want to stay together to give their children a “family” house.

• Why are there more and more divorces? There are a number of things that have to do with changes in society as a whole. Unless you are one of a very small number of very wealthy people, marriage today doesn’t have much to do with passing on property and status from one family to the next. As women become more financially independent, marriage isn’t as important as it used to be as a way to make money. When the economy as a whole is doing better, it’s easier to start a new home if you’re unhappy in your marriage than it used to be. The fact that divorce is no longer seen as a big deal is partly due to these changes, but it also helps them move forward. A second important reason is that people are more and more likely to judge marriage by how happy it makes them. Divorce rates seem to be going up not because people are unhappy with marriage as a whole, but because they want to make it a more rewarding and enjoyable relationship.

• The growing specialisation, individuation, and mobility of modern life, along with the speed of social change, make it less likely that a couple will always share the same tastes and values. Women’s income dependence upon men has decreased. In the past, unhappy wives didn’t have many options, but today’s unhappy wives can work if they can or get help from the government if they can’t (Udry).

• Divorce is now publicly accepted, and people who get divorced are no longer thought of as moral lepers or outcasts. As more and more people have parents, cousins, or friends who are divorced, the number of people who are divorced grows. Greenberg and Nay’s research shows that a person’s willingness to divorce is more strongly linked to the number of people they know who are divorced than to how unhappy they are in their marriage. Close relationships with divorced people make divorce seem less like a distant nightmare and more like a reasonable option. No-fault divorce rules have made it cheaper and easier to get a divorce. Unhappiness in marriage may or may not have gotten worse, but the number of people willing to get a divorce has grown a lot.

• There are at least five ways for a society to have a very low divorce rate. First, it can make love less important. In many cultures, marriage is a way to work together, not a romantic journey. If people had fewer expectations of marriage, more of them would be “successful.” Second, it can keep love and marriage from being together. A lot of societies have a lot of clubs for men to hang out with each other and give men a lot of freedom to look for sex. Again, the marriage is asked to do less. Third, society can socialise its members so that their personalities and expectations are so similar that almost all weddings will work out well. This levelling is usually possible in a society that is safe and well-integrated. Fourth, family values may be so strong that a breakup can’t be handled. In other words, so many of a person’s needs, rights, and pleasures may be tied to their marriage and family that severing the marriage tie is like giving up almost all of the rights and benefits that make life worth living. Lastly, divorce can be made illegal or so hard to get that most unhappy married people can’t or won’t use it as an answer.

9. Domestic violence:

• We could say that domestic violence is when one family member hurts another or others with their body. Studies show that children, especially young ones, are most likely to be abused physically. The second most common type of domestic abuse is when men hurt their female partners. Domestic violence is the most common crime against women. Men in their own families or close friends are more likely to hurt them than men they don’t know (Rawstorne, 2002).

• Violence in the family is nothing new, but it was only recently “discovered” as a social problem (Pfohl). Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz did the first national study of family violence in 1975. Self-defense violence is also more common among wives, which helps explain why the violence score for women is so high (Gelles).

• Violence between husbands and wives and between parents and children happens in all classes, but it happens a lot more in the lower classes (Pelton). (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz) say that the violent husband is usually poor, uneducated, jobless or stuck in a low-paying, low-status job, and the son of a violent father. Most of the time, the parent who hurts their child has the same traits. Most of them were abused as kids, are young and immature, have unrealistic standards for how their kids should act, and get violent when their kids don’t meet those expectations (Thorman). Most likely to be hurt are children who are unwanted (Freeman) or who are sick, upset, or hard to care for.

• Abuse of parents or older people is the most newly “discovered” type of family violence. Violence from children or grandchildren is especially likely to happen to elderly parents, and early studies show that it happens much more often than most people think (Peek). As more study is done, it will be interesting to see if family violence affects three generations, such that abused children grow up to be abusive parents, who then abuse their grandchildren.

• Family abuse probably won’t go away. There will be a lot of family violence as long as many children grow up in violent homes and as long as people have to deal with poverty, unemployment, unwanted children, and a hopeless, dead-end life (Gelles).

• In the 1970s, feminist groups that ran shelters for battered women brought the problem of domestic violence to the attention of both the public and academics. Before that, domestic violence, like child abuse, was something that people just didn’t talk about. Feminist studies of domestic abuse brought attention to how common and bad it is for women to be hurt at home. When couples fight and call the cops, most of the time it is the husband who hurts his wife. Women are much less likely to use physical force against their husbands than men are. Feminists have used these kinds of numbers to back up their claims that domestic abuse is one of the main ways men control women.

• In response to feminist reasoning, conservative commentators have said that violence in the family is not caused by patriarchal male power, as feminists claimed, but by “dysfunctional families.” Violence against women is a sign that the family is in trouble and that moral standards are slipping. They don’t agree with the conclusion that violence between wives and husbands is rare, and they think that men are less likely to report violence from their wives than the other way around (Straus and Gelles).

• Feminists and other experts have strongly disagreed with these claims. They say that violence by women is more limited and sporadic than violence by men, and is much less likely to cause long-term physical damage. They say that it’s not enough to just look at how often violence happens in homes. Instead, it is important to look at what violence means, how it happens, and what it does. Wife beating, which is when men regularly hurt their wives physically, doesn’t happen the other way around. Research found that violence by women against their male partners is often defensive rather than attacking, and that women only turn to violence after being attacked repeatedly over time (Rawstorne). Men are also much more likely than women to hurt children physically in the same way over and over again, which can cause long-term damage.

• Why does domestic abuse happen so often? There are several sets of factors at play. One is the way that family life is a mix of strong feelings and close relationships. Most family ties are full of strong feelings, often a mix of love and hate. When fights happen at home, they can bring out feelings of dislike that wouldn’t be as strong in other social settings. What seems like a small problem can lead to big fights between couples or between parents and children. A man who doesn’t mind when other women act strangely might get very angry if his wife talks too much at a dinner party or tells people things he wants to keep private.

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• A second factor is that there is a lot of violence in the family, which is accepted and even encouraged. Even though family violence that is accepted by society usually stays in the family, it can easily lead to more serious types of violence. Many children in Britain have been slapped or hit by a parent, even if it was just a small thing. People usually agree with these kinds of actions, and most likely don’t even think of them as violent, even though there is more and more pressure.

• Spouse abuse can happen in any social class, but several studies show that it happens more often in low-income couples (Cherlin, 1999). William Goode wrote in 1971 that low-income men may be more likely to be violent because they don’t have many other ways to control their wives, like a better income or education level. Poverty and unemployment can also cause a lot of stress, which can make families more likely to fight. Gelles and Cornell (1990) found that unemployed men are nearly twice as likely to beat up their wives as working men. This proves the point.

Contemporary trend in family functions :

1. The economic functions have changed a lot. A hundred years ago, the American family worked together on the farm and was a unit of economic output. The family is no longer a basic unit of economic output, except on farms. Instead, this has moved to the shop, factory, or office. Members of the family no longer work together, so they are no longer tied together by work. Instead, the family is a unit of economic consumption that is tied together by companionship, love, and fun.

2. The Sexual Regulation Functions Have Changed: According to Kinsey’s studies, even though most sexual activity still happens between married people, the amount has probably gone down. A study found that more than 90 percent of college students approve of sexual activity between people who are involved, in love, or have “strong affection,” and that more than two-thirds approve of sexual activity between people who are “not particularly affectionate” (Perlman). Many other studies (Schmidt and Sigursch, Hunt, Yankelovich, Zelnik and Kantner) come to the same conclusion: virgin marriage is becoming less popular and may go away completely in the near future. It’s not clear yet if this is a “sexual revolution,” as some experts say (Skolnik), or if it’s just another swing in history between being more permissive and more strict (Hindus; Shorter).

3. The Reproductive Function Is Less Important: It’s true that birth rates are much lower than they were a century ago, but if you only look at the size of the living family, the family’s ability to reproduce hasn’t changed that much. A few hundred years ago, between half and three-quarters of children died before they turned 18. Today, over 96 percent live to be adults. Research shows that smaller families are less stressful, more comfortable, and “most satisfactory to spouses, parents, and children” (Nye et al.). They are also happy and better adjusted (Hurley and Palonen; Schooler; Glenn and McLanahan). Even when other factors like income, schooling, and job are taken into account, children from smaller families are healthier, smarter, and more creative (Lieberman). But if small families are good for kids, it seems like adults would be better off without kids.

4. The socialisation function is becoming more important. The family is still the most important place for socialisation, but school and friend groups also play important roles. There are times when people need help from other social services. Our focus on the socialisation role has been the biggest change. People in the past didn’t know much about “personality development,” but almost every educated parent today does. Today, we know a little bit about how emotional development affects school success, job success, physical health, and almost every other part of a good life. Our great-grandparents worried about things like smallpox and cholera. Now, we worry about jealousy between siblings and fitting in with our peers.

• Does it hurt the child when mum gets a job? Several dozen studies have been done on this question, and Stoltz, Herzog, Nye and Hoffman, and Schooler have all looked at them. The older studies didn’t account for things like class or family size. Because of this, there were more poor, uneducated slum dwellers, widows, and divorced people in the sample of working mothers than in the sample of nonworking mothers. Such poorly done research seemed to show that when moms worked, it was bad for the kids. In later tests, children of working mothers were compared to children of non-working mothers who were the same in every other way. Even though these studies don’t prove anything for sure, they don’t show that children usually do worse when their mother works. Even though the evidence isn’t always clear, it seems that whether or not the mother works isn’t a very important factor. What kind of mother she is and what kind of home she and the father make are more important (Hoffman).

• The socialisation function is becoming more important at the same time that the structure of the family is changing. Divorce, illegitimacy, single-parent families, and families where both parents work seem to make it harder for the family to do its socialisation function. Time will show if this fear is real or not.

5. The importance of the affectional and companionship function grew. The main community, which was made up of a small group of neighbours who knew each other well and had a lot in common, is no longer a part of most Americans’ lives. It’s gone because of urbanisation and specialisation. In a world that is becoming more careless, cold, and cruel, the immediate family becomes the main source of mental support. Only in the family can you hope to find lasting support when you’re in trouble or joy that doesn’t come from envy when you do well. Single, widowed, divorced, and separated people of both sexes, all races, and all ages are less happy and have higher death rates for all of the top causes of death. It is true that people who are alone die faster. The post-parental time is getting longer, which makes the affectional and companionship functions even more important. In the past, parents didn’t usually live very long past the time their children reached adulthood.

6. The Status Definition Function Goes On: Many families still teach their kids to stay in the same class as the family, while others try to teach their kids to move up in society. Most of the time, they do this by trying to give kids the kinds of goals, attitudes, and habits that will make them work hard for a better class status and be successful in it. This is called anticipatory socialisation because it is an attempt to give children a sense of class standing that they may one day have. This is only partly good, at best. The child may learn the goals and work habits that will help it move up in the world, but no family can fully prepare a child for a way of life or way of doing things that is not done in that family.

7. The protective duties have changed. In the past, the traditional family in the West did most of what organised social work does today. For example, they cared for the sick, took in the disabled, and gave shelter to the elderly. We now have a medical tool that can only be used by doctors and hospitals. Some kinds of disabled people can’t be cared for in today’s crowded homes. When the old couple lived on the farm with their married child or mate, it was easy for the family to take care of them. The parents could ease into retirement by taking on less demanding jobs, but they would still be useful and valued. Today, only a small number of people can follow this pattern, and many elderly couples who live with their children feel useless and underappreciated. Our fast rate of social change and social mobility also means that when three groups live under one roof, there may be a lot of tension. So, for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with greed or personal responsibility, many of the protective roles of the traditional family have been taken over by other institutions.

Changing attitudes to family life:

There seem to be big differences between classes in how people feel about how family life is changing and how many divorces there are. In her 1994 book, “Families on the Fault Line,” Lillian Rubin did in-depth interviews with 32 middle class families. She came to the conclusion that working class parents tend to be more conservative than middle class parents. The norms that many middle-class parents have accepted, like having sex in public before getting married, are more often frowned upon by people from the working class, even if they are not religious. Since this is the case, there tends to be more fighting between the generations in working-class homes.

1. The young people in Rubin’s study agree that their views on sexual behaviour, marriage, and gender roles are different from those of their parents, but they stress that they are not just interested in having fun. They just have different ideas about what’s important than the older group.

2. Rubin found that the young women she talked to were much less sure about getting married than their parents were. They were very aware of the flaws in men and talked about exploring their choices and living life more openly and fully than their mothers could. Men’s views didn’t change as much from one age to the next.

3. Rubin did her study in the U.S., but her results are very similar to those of researchers in Britain and other European countries. Helen Wilkinson and Geloff Mulgan did two big studies of men and women in the UK between the ages of 18 and 34. They found that young women’s attitudes were changing a lot and that their values were different from those of older people in Britain.

4. Young women have a “desire for autonomy and self-fulfillment,” which they try to get through work and family as much as possible. They also value risk, excitement, and change. In this way, the old values of men and the modern values of women are getting closer and closer together. Wilkinson and Mulgan say that the younger generation’s values have been shaped by freedoms that were mostly unavailable to older generations. These freedoms include the freedom for women to work and control their own reproduction, the freedom for both men and women to move around, and the freedom to choose one’s own way of life. Such freedoms make people more open, generous, and tolerant, but they can also make people more self-centered and less trusting of others.

5. Remarriage and Step Families: There are many different situations that can lead to a second marriage. Some people who get married again are in their early twenties and don’t have any children. A pair who gets remarried in their late 20s, early 30s, or early 40s might each bring one or more of their children from their first marriage to live with them. People who get married again later in life may have grown children who never move into the new homes they set up. There could also be kids from the new marriage. Either person in the new pair may have been single, divorced, or widowed in the past. This means that there are up to eight different ways that this could have happened. Because of this, it’s hard to make broad statements about remarriage, but there are some general points that are worth saying.

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6. Even though it might seem strange, both men and women are more likely to get married if they have already been married. People who have been married and divorced are more apt to get married again than people who have never been married and are the same age. At every age, divorced men are more likely to get married again than divorced women. Three out of every four divorced women get married again, but only five out of every six divorced men do. At least from a scientific point of view, second marriages don’t work out as well as first marriages. More people get divorced after their second marriage than after their first.

7. Stepfamilies: A stepfamily is a family where at least one adult has children from a past marriage or relationship. Sociologists call these kinds of groups “reconstituted families” a lot of the time. There are clear joys and benefits to reformed families, but as they grow, they also tend to face some problems. First of all, the child or children usually have a biological parent who lives somewhere else and has a strong impact on them. Second, when one or both of two separated people get remarried, it can be hard for them to work together. Take the case of a woman with two kids who marries a guy with the same number of kids and moves in with them. If the “outside” parents demand that the kids visit them at the same times as before, it will add to the major tensions that come with bringing a new family together. For example, the new family may never be able to get together on the weekends. Third, when children from different backgrounds are brought together, they may have different ideas about how to act in the family. Since most stepchildren “live” in two households, it is likely that their habits and ideas will clash.

8. Modern Western societies haven’t always had reformed families or the problems that come with remarriage after divorce. For example, reformed families are creating new ways of being related to each other. The people in these groups are coming up with their own ways to deal with situations that are pretty new to them. Some writers today talk about “binuclear families,” which means that the two homes that form after a split are still part of the same family system if there are children involved. With so many complex changes, it might be best to come to a simple conclusion: even though divorce breaks up marriages, it doesn’t break up families as a whole. This is especially true when children are involved, as many ties remain despite the new family connections made by remarriage.

Different ways to get married and start a family:

1. Cohabitation, which is when a pair lives together and has a sexual relationship but is not married, is becoming more common in most Western countries. Once upon a time, marriage was seen as a dishonourable way for two people to get together. This is no longer the case. Today, it might be better to talk about “coupling up” and “breaking up” like we did when we talked about divorce above. More and more couples who have been together for a long time and are committed to each other choose not to get married but to live together and raise their children together.

• In 1999, sociologists at the University of Nottingham did a study in which they talked to a sample of married and cohabiting couples with children under 11 as well as a sample of their still-married parents. They were curious about the differences in commitment between older married people and younger pairs. Researchers found that younger married and cohabiting couples had more in common with each other than with their parents. The older generation saw marriage as a set of tasks and responsibilities. The younger generation, on the other hand, saw it as a choice to make a commitment. The biggest difference between the younger people who answered was that some of them wanted to get married to show the world how much they cared.

2. Gay and lesbian couples: Many gay and lesbian men and women now live together in stable relationships. But since most countries still don’t let gay people get married, lesbian and gay relationships are based on personal commitment and trust rather than on the law. Families of choice is a term that has been used to describe gay partnerships in order to show how positive and creative they can be. That gay couples are able to do more and more often together. Many standard parts of heterosexual relationships, like helping each other out, taking care of each other when sick, sharing finances, and so on, are now being added to gay and lesbian families in ways that weren’t possible before.

• Since the 1980s, gay and lesbian relationships have been getting more attention in scholarly circles. Sociologists have seen that closeness and equality in gay relationships are very different from those in straight relationships.

• Weeks et al. (1999) say that there are three important trends in gay and lesbian relationships. First, there are more chances for equality between partners because they don’t have to follow the cultural and social rules that guide heterosexual partnerships. Gay and lesbian couples may choose to shape their relationships so that they don’t have the kinds of power differences and unfairness that are common in straight relationships. Second, gay couples talk about the rules of their relationships and how they function. If gender roles are important to heterosexual couples, same-sex couples don’t have as many assumptions about who should do what in the relationship. For example, in straight marriages, women tend to do more of the housework and care for the children. This is not expected in homosexual relationships. Everything is up for negotiation, which could lead to a more even distribution of duties. Third, gay and lesbian relationships show a kind of commitment that can’t be backed by an organisation. Homosexual partnerships seem to be based on mutual trust, a desire to work through problems, and taking turns with emotional work.

• As views towards homosexuality have become more accepting, the courts are becoming more willing to give custody of children to mothers who live in lesbian relationships. With artificial insemination, lesbians can have children and start gay-parent families without ever meeting a straight person.

• Homosexual couples have recently won a number of court cases, which shows that their rights are slowly being written into law. In Britain, a key decision from 1999 said that a stable relationship between two gay people could be considered a family. This definition of gay partners as family members will change laws about immigration, social security, taxes, property, and child support, among other things. In 1999, a US court supported the paternal rights of a gay male couple to have their children born to a surrogate mother listed with both of their names.

3. Recent changes in the number of people living alone make me wonder if we are becoming a country of singles. In modern western countries, the number of people living alone has gone up for a number of reasons. One trend is that people are getting married later.

1. At different points in life, being single means different things. People in their twenties are less likely to be married than they used to be. But by the time men and women are in their mid-30s, only a small number of them have never been married. Most people who are single between the ages of 30 and 50 are divorced or between marriages. Most people over 50 who are single have lost a spouse.

2. More young people than ever before are leaving home to start their own lives instead of getting married, which used to be the most popular reason for leaving home. So, it looks like the trend of “staying single” or living on one’s own may be part of a larger trend in society towards valuing freedom over family life. Still, even though independence or “staying single” is becoming a more popular way to leave home, most people do end up getting married.

The future of the family:

1. If you look at the number of divorces and think about the negative things people say about marriage, it’s easy to wonder if the family has a future. But there is strong proof that marriage and families are not on their way out. The ratio of one divorce for every two weddings is misleading because it makes it seem like half of people get divorced, which is not the case. Demographers say that at the current rates of marriage and divorce, less than two out of every five people who get married will get divorced, and some of them will get divorced more than once. However, more than three-fifths of first marriages will last until death (Glick and Norton).

2. Even though Keller says that some sociologists don’t think the family has a future, most sociologists don’t agree. It’s interesting that in the Israeli Kibbutz, where people have lived together successfully for more than a century and even tried to get rid of the family as a functional unit, the recent trend has been to make the family more important as a functional unit (Shepher, Talmon, Mednick, and Garson). All of this shows that the family is still alive (Bane), no matter how many times its death is reported in the news. Some experts even say that the family is becoming more important in today’s society. (Kornblum) says that because work isn’t enough to make working-class people happy and because they’ve lost their main group as a source of roots and identity, the family is now their biggest source of emotional satisfaction.

3. The most important question isn’t “Will the family stay together?”, but, “How will it be different?”Some people think that the computer revolution will change the family, with a lot more work, shopping, playing, and everything else happening at home in front of the computer interface (Frederick). The Wall Street Journal says that when computers let people work from home, productivity goes up, but people miss their main group interactions with coworkers. It is too soon to tell how the computer revolution will change the home.

4. One family researcher thinks that the nuclear family is falling apart and will be replaced by the “Freefloating” couple, which has less ties to children, close friends, and neighbours than in the past (Shorter). On the other hand, two major family thinkers (Vincent and Zimmerman) think that in the next few decades, families may become more structured, traditional, and strict than they are now. Etzioni, a well-known sociologist, says that the nuclear family will live because “no complex society has ever survived without a nuclear family. “There’s not much question that the family will stay together, but it’s hard to know how it will change.