• Revision:Young and Willmott: 4 stages of family life

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Stage 1 - The pre-industrial family

  • An organised unit of production.
  • Family members worked together in agriculture and cottage industries.
  • Home and work were not separated.

Stage 2 - The early industrial family

  • The family's economic function was taken over by large scale industry.
  • Men 'drawn' into industrial work while women did the domestic duties.
  • This caused the family to be 'torn apart'.
  • Women formed kinship networks to provide them with mutual support.

Stage 3 - The symmetrical / privatised nuclear family

  • Emerged in middle class but spread into working class.
  • Home centred and privatised.
  • Nuclear family is emphasised at the expense of extended family.
  • Symmetrical roles of husband and wife, less segregated, more equal.

Stage 1 - production

Stage 3 - consumption. More time with the family was spent.

Reasons for rise in symmetrical family

  • Money - increase in male wages and employment in women.
  • Decrease in male mortality and unemployment rate.
  • Geographical mobility has increased - Study of Bethnal Green
  • Less children - enables wives to get jobs. Economical equality between spouses.
  • Better living standards - Men were attracted to their homes + more home entertainment.

Stratified diffusion

Stage 3 family has been derived through the process of stratified diffusion.

  • Higher classes initiate ideas on family - Pass down to lower classes.
  • Working class - shorter working hours, higher standards of living, family life becomes more nuclear and privatised.
  • Less need for extended family for mutual aid.
  • Devote time and money to home and children.

Stage 4 - The asymmetrical family

  • Upper class will be setting the trends for family life.
  • Study of sample of managing directors' families. These in theory should diffuse downwards. Managing directors are work-centred rather than home-centred.
  • Husbands will be involved in work and domestic duties will be devolved onto wives.
  • Couples will spend less time together compared to a privatised family.

Criticisms of Young and Willmott's 4 stages of family life

  • Conflict theorist - they believe that family life will get better. They don't address negative aspects of changes in the modern family.
  • Sociologists unhappy about stratified diffusion.
  • Goldthorpe and Lockwood's study rejected the view that there was convergence between middle and working class value systems.
  • Feminist Family isn't symmetrical
    • Women still do the housework.

The extended family may be more important then Young and Willmott's picture of the independent nuclear family as shown below.


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