Discuss the ways in which British family structures may have changed since the Second World War.
In order to discuss and evaluate any changes which may have taken place within the structure of the British family after the Second World War, it is first necessary to examine the structures of the family unit prior to the Second World War. Only then will it be possible to make comparisons between the two. In this essay I shall look at overall family structures, more specifically the gender roles played out by men and women within the family. Before considering these, I shall begin by exploring what is meant and understood by “family” and whether the definition of family can include households composed of single parents and their children, childless and cohabiting couples and same-sex relationships.
Definitions of the Family
Definitions are always crucial in discussing social issues, because a word such as “family” is almost inevitably laden with value-based meanings. As society has changed and attitudes and values have influenced sociological thinking, some theorists have redefined the terms in which family is studied and discussed.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of family is: “members of a household, parents, children, servants etc…sets of parents and children, living together or not”. This definition reaches to the heart of the difficulties in defining family, as it identifies two of the main ways people have tried to describe it. Elliot comments that the definition of family as “a unit consisting of a husband and wife, and their children” is very much a concept belonging to modern Western society. She emphasises the fact that society often defines family by a set of value-based assumptions rather than a careful and precise analysis, pointing out:
“This unit is widely thought of as a group based on marriage and biological parenthood, as sharing a common residence and as united...