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Families in transition

Families in transition: Social change, family formation and kin relationships

Nickie Charles
Charlotte Aull Davies
Chris Harris
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  • Book Info
    Families in transition
    Book Description:

    This book addresses the complexity of family change. It draws on evidence from two linked studies, one carried out in the 1960s and the other in the early years of the 21st century, to analyse the specific ways in which family lives have changed and how they have been affected by the major structural and cultural changes of the second half of the twentieth century. The book shows that, while there has undeniably been change, there is a surprising degree of continuity in family practices. It casts doubt on claims that families have been subject to a process of dramatic change and provides an alternative account which is based on careful analysis of empirical data. The book presents a unique opportunity to chart the nature of social change in a particular locality over the last 50 years; includes discussions of social and cultural variations in family life, focusing on younger as well as older generations; explores not only what happens within family-households but also what happens within networks of kin across different households and shows the way changing patterns of employment affect kinship networks and how geographical mobility co-exists with the maintenance of strong kinship ties. The findings will be of interest to students of sociology, social anthropology, social policy, women's studies, gender studies and human geography at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-360-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  2. ONE Understanding families and social change
    (pp. 1-24)

    This is a book about families and how they have changed since 1960. It is based on the findings of two studies of the family in Swansea (in western industrial South Wales), one carried out in 1960 (Rosser and Harris, 1965), the other in the first few years of the 21st century. It therefore provides a unique perspective on how families in a particular place have been affected by the massive social changes of recent decades. In the 1960 study, Rosser and Harris charted how changes during the period 1900 to 1960 had affected family life, particularly how kin living...

  3. TWO Changing societies
    (pp. 25-52)

    Having explored the different ways in which social change and its effects on families have been theorised, in this chapter we turn our attention to the nature of the social change that has taken place between 1960 and the first decade of the 21st century. This provides a context for the exploration of patterns of family formation and kin relations that follows. We describe demographic, industrial and cultural change, looking particularly at the ways in which they have manifested themselves in Swansea, the setting for the research on which this book is based. We begin with an exploration of demographic...

  4. THREE Changing families
    (pp. 53-80)

    In this chapter we turn our attention to the ways in which family practices have changed since 1960 and the sense in which such change can be understood as the decline of ‘the family’. In the baseline study, Rosser and Harris conceptualised social change in terms of increasing differentiation and the move from a cohesive to a mobile society. They also spoke about the ways in which demographic change was associated with the ‘de-domestication’, or increasing individualisation, of women. Since 1960, as we saw in the last chapter, there have been considerable changes in the occupational structure which have created...

  5. FOUR Families and cultural identity
    (pp. 81-114)

    In the last chapter we explored the degree to which societal change since 1960 has affected the connectedness of kin networks. We found that, in spite of the increased heterogeneity of extended family networks, in terms of both residence and occupation, most of our respondents still lived close to other members of their extended family and had regular contact with them. Looking at their patterns of residence and contact more carefully revealed some differences, with both ‘Welsh’ and working-class respondents being likely to live closer to their parents and to see them more frequently than their ‘non-Welsh’ and middle-class counterparts....

  6. FIVE Families in and out of work
    (pp. 115-138)

    In this chapter and the next we explore the ways in which employment and unemployment, together with changing gender divisions of labour, affect the support that is exchanged within extended family networks. It has been argued that this support is lessening because of women’s increased participation in paid employment and that there is a weakening of the connectedness of local social networks because of increasing occupational and geographical differentiation. This, as we have seen, has been conceptualised in terms of a reduction in social cohesion and/or social capital and increasing individualisation. There is also considerable debate about the effect of...

  7. SIX Caring families
    (pp. 139-162)

    In the last chapter we explored the ways in which extended family networks support their members, focusing particularly on circumstances where unemployment is high and resources are scarce. In this chapter we investigate how people care for children, older people and those who are unable to care for themselves, whether temporarily, due to illness, or on a more permanent basis. We also discuss how the connectedness of kin networks varies and how this relates to class and patterns of women’s and men’s employment.

    Much research into the care that takes place within families looks at divisions of labour within nuclear-family...

  8. SEVEN Dispersed kin
    (pp. 163-186)

    As we saw in Chapter 3, there are high levels of geographical stability among the survey population, with relatively few respondents having lived for substantial periods of time outside Swansea, let alone outside Wales or the UK. However, there has been a small but significant increase in geographical mobility between 1960 and 2002 which is greater among our middle-class respondents. This, together with class-related patterns of employment, is reflected in the variation in the kin-connectedness of our different ethnographic areas with Fairview, our most middle-class, culturally ‘English’ area, being characterised by less dense kinship networks than our more working-class and...

  9. EIGHT Families, friends and communities
    (pp. 187-212)

    This chapter considers the variety of living arrangements that are found in contemporary Swansea, contrasting them with the findings of the 1960 survey. We noted in Chapter 3 that there has been a striking increase in single-person households between 1960 and 2002 as well as a substantial increase in married or cohabiting heterosexual couples living alone. In this chapter we examine the nature of these categories in more detail and ask what these household types mean in terms of contact with kin. We do this in part to show that, although people may not live in so-called ‘traditional’ family households...

  10. NINE What is the future for the family?
    (pp. 213-234)

    In this final chapter we interrogate the notion – common to grand theory and government statements, to academic analysis of family change and policy research – that we are living in a period of transition. We show that although there are significant changes in household composition and in the proportion of the population that chooses to partner and parent, there are important continuities in the practices by means of which we ‘do’ family and that, given the overall rate of social change, family lives exhibit a quite surprising degree of continuity with the past. This is particularly unexpected given Rosser and Harris’s...

  11. APPENDIX I Methodological problems in comparisons of class over time
    (pp. 235-238)
  12. APPENDIX II Swansea boundary changes
    (pp. 239-240)