Sociology AQA family and householdWatch
A social policy is a law implemented by the government to benefit society. These social policies have attempted to promote the nuclear family, such as those introduced by New Labour (although they are more accepting of family diversity than conservatives) and the Conservative government.The Child Support Act supports the conventional family by making the father provide for his children, even when he is absent - thus reinforcing the natural role of the breadwinner. Changes to taxes in 1988 also tried to reinforce the conventional families by not allowing cohabiting couples to claim more tax than married couples, and prevented them from claiming mortgage relief as two people, meaning married people are better off with their taxes. Maternity and paternity leave also reinforce the conventional nuclear family type, as maternity leave is far longer than paternity leave; this assumes that the mother is the primary caretaker of the child (this is not the case in Sweden, where both parents are treated as equal caretakers and income earners).Both New Right and New Labour are in favour of the nuclear family because they view it as the best way for a child to be adequately socialised. The New Right view the division of labour as natural and based on biology; when these roles are fulfilled the family will become self-reliant and not have to rely on the state for support. New Labour also support the nuclear family as the best place to raise children, but are supportive of benefits targeted at the poor rather than a totally laissez-faire approach. They are also more supportive of family diversity than the New Right, introducing the Civil Partnership Act, allowing same sex couples to have the same rights as heterosexual, married couples and allowing same-sex and non-married couples to adopt.Feminists and Marxists oppose these kinds of policies because they believe it oppresses a group of society - feminists believe females are oppressed by the nuclear family as they work a triple shift (paid, domestic and emotional work) without any extra benefits, whereas Marxists believe the nuclear family benefits the bourgeoisie as it allows workers to cope with being oppressed and carry on working. The feminist Land argues that policies assume that patriarchal families are the norm and so a self fulfilling prophecy is created and the patriarchal family is produced. Marxists argue that policies such as low state pensions are because when the workers are too old to work, they are not worth maintaining at anything other than the bare minimum required, thus benefitting the bourgeoisie by giving them more money.Some policies have worked to undermine the typical nuclear family, such as the Civil Partnership Act 2004 - this allowed same sex legal unions which had the same rights as marriages (this could also be changed into fully fledged same sex marriage, as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is currently in the process of being made a fully fledged law in 2013). Another policy which has undermined the nuclear family is the Divorce Reform Act 1971, which allowed divorce for “irreconcilable differences”; meaning people could divorce for easier and so go into reconstituted families quickly, too.New Right theorist Charles Murray argues that the welfare state creates a dependency culture with a perverse incentive; encouraging people to behave recklessly in order to gain more money, such as single women having unprotected sex and giving birth to the child to gain benefits. He argues that the lone parent family, over 90% of which are headed by women, provide inadequate socialisation, especially to young boys as they have no male role models. The “nanny state” gives the single mother money to look after her child, which Murray disagrees with; he believes that the nuclear family would allow for the family to not have to depend on the state for extra income, as the father would earn it all.Social policies in other cultures, such as those introduced by Nazi Germany in the 1930s, encouraged the traditional nuclear family in the Aryan race while preventing other races from reproducing at all. In China, the One Child Policy introduced in 1979 only one child is allowed per family (apart from foreign families living in China) and if this limit is exceeded then the family is penalised - this too promotes the nuclear family, although a reduced version. It also promotes a male dominated society, as people wanted to pass on their family lineage; girls are often abandoned or kept begrudgingly.Social policies have a very large influence on families, especially in allowing them more diversity; nuclear families are still the norm, but their majority is decreasing, with increases in divorce and remarriage meaning that reconstituted families are becoming more popular, in addition to unmarried couples due to secularisation, and the legalisation of homosexuality meant that same sex couples could form stable relationships and eventually adopt and gain the same rights as married couples, rather than the casual fling culture pre-1970s due to the illegality of their activities.