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People are naturally social beings as they exist and function in groups. The most basic of these social groups is the family. Thus, it is prudent to mention that the weakening of the family affects the larger social setup. According to some experts, the problems facing the society today are as a result of the weakening of the family which has been experienced since the 1960s.
At the mentioned time, industrialization had picked momentum after World War II and the pressures on the family norms were great due to change in demographic trends. This translated to a vast social reconstruction in terms of marriage, divorce and the number of elderly people. It should also be noted that it is during this period that women who were previously confined to home chores found their way to the workplaces leaving the baby boomers at home to socialize with their television sets (Fuchsman, 2011, pp 86).
Significant changes in families
One of the significant changes that has faced the family institution since the 1960s is the increase in divorce rate. According to a research carried out in 1964 it is estimated that there were 34,868 divorces per annum in England. By 1972, this number had tripled to 119,025. This was facilitated by the divorce Act of 1969 which changed the perception of divorce within marriage and introduced new grounds for divorce (Allen and Crow, 2001, pp 24)
Another significant change that arose in the family setup was the increased numbers of lone mothers. Lone mothers are estimated to constitute about 90% of all lone parents’ households (Ellwood & Jencks, 2002 Pp. 74). What is worrying about this increased percentage of lone mothers is the fact that a huge chunk of it consists of single, never married mothers (Giddens, 2001, Pp. 181). This means that marriage as an institution is no longer given the emphasis as it formerly used to be and the social stigma formerly associated with getting children out of wedlock has vanished.
Lastly the other change in ideal family setup since the 1960s is the rise of the number of couples cohabiting with their future spouses. By 1985, it was estimated that there was only 5% of cohabiting couples in England, but the numbers had soared to 50% in 2005 (Allen & Crow, 2001, Pp 16). Although this development has affected the traditional family setup, it has proved to have a high potential of reducing the rate of divorce in England as it gives couples the opportunity to “try out” marriage before being committed to it.
Factors Responsible For This Change
One of the factors that have contributed to the identified trends in the family is the demographic trends. Raising population numbers have forced many people to move from what may be viewed as traditional marriage setup, especially to promote cohabiting as opposed to legal marriage. Another aspect that has contributed to the changes in families is the advancement in technology where it has made it possible to have children through surrogate means.
Advancement in technology has enabled the availability of sperm donors and sperm banks which have further made it easier for people to have children without necessarily having to get married. There is also the issue of same sex marriages that were not common in the 60s. Lastly, careers have become other social inhibitors to family life as people are delaying marriages to pursue their career progressions. Beside this, careers can be strenuous to people transferring tensions to marriages.
In conclusion, although I agree with those analysts that the family as an institution has undergone changes since 1960s, I totally disagree that families are becoming weaker as a high percentage of families are known to stay together. Even those who have undergone through divorce still maintain their family ties in terms of providing and taking care of their children. Therefore, families are not becoming weak, but are undergoing some changes which call for a new definition in the acceptable form of a family.
Allen, G., and Crow, G. (2001). Families, Households and Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave press
Ellwood, D., T. & Jencks, C. (2002). The Spread of Single-Parent Families In the United States since 1960. New York: HUP.
Fuchsman, K. (2011). The Family Romance Transformed: American Domestic Arrangements Since 1960; Understanding the “Why” of Culture. Current Events, History, and Society. 17(4). Pp. 58-69.
Giddens, A. (2001). What Do Sociologists Mean By Culture? What Functions Does It Perform In Society? Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.