Critically Assess the View That Family Breakdown Is an International Social Phenonenon.

This paper will attempt to examine and discuss what is meant by family, what social factors have led to the breakdown of the family and, with reference to two countries in particular, how this is reflected in the social policies of those countries.  

The notion of family has different connotations and meanings in different countries and cultures.   However, sociologists have broadly divided the concept of family into two main types, “the nuclear family, consisting of parent(s) and child(ren), and the extended family, consisting of parent(s), child(ren), and grandparent(s) or other kin.”   (Campling, 1993, p.6)

Whilst historically women and children have been defined in terms of their relationships to the family and kinship, men, whilst still within the kinship system, have primarily been defined in terms of their occupation.   Thus, according to Campling, “by definition the family has been an unequal institution premised on parental authority and power.” (Campling, 1193, p.35)   There is a clear patriarchal division of responsibilities, with the man being the bread-winner of the family and the woman being the primary carer.   However, in the contemporary world this is no longer the case for many sectors of society, certainly in advanced western societies.

The Second World War brought about many changes for the women in England as they were called away from the traditional patriarchal family to work for the war effort.   As many of the women had young children to care for the Government provided nursery care.   This was to be many women’s first real taste of how life could be if they were not tied to the home.   The 1960s saw a drop in the birth rate as people began to trust the guarantee that the welfare state would look after them in the their old age so no longer needed to have large families to look after them in their twilight years.   The introduction of labour saving devices into the home meant that women had more free time and gradually became more...