Industrialisation took place in the late 18th century and early 19th century, but in Britain industrial revolution began in 1750. It brought many important changes to the world societies. A manual labour world economy changed into a machine based economy this also led to urbanisation, as population became concentrated in large urban areas rather than small villages. Eventually every aspect of daily life was influenced because of industrialisation. Functionalists believe that kinship systems are means to procreation and socialisation.
Parsons (1951) suggested that the impact of industrialisation led to multifunctional extended families transforming to isolated nuclear families due to separation of the functions being performed by the family. This was because the government reduced or took over certain functions thus reducing the need for a wider kinship network. Essential functions were retained in the nuclear family and improved in quality, these included: provision of a home, stable satisfaction of sex needs and production and rearing of children.
Whereas the non-essential functions (structural differentiation) such as: economics, education, health, governmental, religion and recreational were transferred to specialised organisation. For instance: the educational system and employer rather than the family performs job training. Also an industrial society requires geographical mobility for the workforce hence an isolated nuclear family is preferred as extended families cause duties and obligations to the relatives.
Another functionalist, Fletcher published a book: Family and Marriage in Britain (1996) in which he agreed with Parsons theory about industrialisation resulting in an isolated nuclear family. Although, he disagrees with the non-essential functions being “transferred” as he believes that these functions are retained. Fletcher claims that the family is still responsible for these functions as the family interacts with the specialised organisations e. g. : governmental and religious functions are both conducted with the home and are picked up by discussion.
Religion is a form of primary socialisation and both these functions depend upon the family to turn out believers. Parental support is required in order for the child to have a good education. Also it is the families’ responsibility to aid the child’s education i. e. : private school, study area, rewards for achievements. Both these functionalists theories that industrialisation caused multifunctional extended family to transform into isolated nuclear families.
On the other hand, Laslett (1972) was a historian who conducted a study that showed that industrialisation had no effect on the family and that nuclear families were the norm of pre-industrial Britain, as industrialisation occurred half way through his study (1700) and the results remained the same. He studied the British family household (defined as kin sharing a common residence) between 1564-1821 and found that throughout this period 10% of the households consisted of the extended kin i. e. : kin beyond the nuclear family.
On extending this study to include the wider European data he found that in North-Western Europe nuclear families were the norm before industrialisation had occurred. Anderson (1971), also a historian studied the effects of industrialisation on the family in Preston. He agrees with Lasletts definition of households. But, he disagrees with Lasletts claim of nuclear families being the norm of pre-industrial Britain and says industrialisation led to extended families being formed. He looked at the census of 1851, which showed that 23% of the families were extended families; this is twice as much as Lasletts study.
Anderson studied the family in particular rather than as general. He saw the family as victims of industrialisation as they had to deal with “slump” times via mutual aid, which mainly occurred within women. This caused families to spilt up during the slumps and to form extended kin during the “booms” as no mutual aid was required. Roberts (1984) published a book: A Woman’s Place: An oral history of working class women 1890-1940 in which she used interviewing methods. Like Anderson she also found strong kinship ties among working class families but she argued that as well as kin, close female neighbours and friends also provide support.
She also debated Anderson’s theory of kin relationships being based on mutual aid i. e. : self-interest. Instead she points out that kin ties tend to be emotional, they were based on love and duty and little was expected in return. Janet Finch (1989) attempted to explain the differentiation between Anderson and Roberts studies in her book Family obligations and Social Change. She says that: they both used different time periods, the later period i. e. : Roberts study was conducted in a less harsh time period therefore there might be more support provided from those others than kin.
Secondly Roberts’s study was only conducted on women who have higher responsibilities and more duty. And that both the historians used different research methods: Anderson used quantitative method whereas Roberts used qualitative methods. On the other hand, historians disagree with the functionalists and claim that industrialisation did not cause nuclear family to emerge from the extended kin. Their data proves that potentially nuclear family caused industrialisation to occur, given that nuclear family existed rather than industrialisation causing nuclear family from extended family.
Willmott and Young (1975) were sociologists who studied Bethnal Green in their book called Family and Kinship in East London. They suggested that a community must have stability to survive. Stability is offered via: low social mobility, low geographical mobility, and that the whole community has the same social class. They said that males rely on their friends for social support whereas women reply on their female kin. That was the common scenario of the traditional Bethnal Green community, until housing shortage occurred due to slump clearance, rising population and bomb damage.
Because of this young couples were offered accommodation on the new Essex council estate, this led to the young couples forming isolated nuclear families. Bott supported this argument; she confirmed that in a close-knit network the conjugal roles become segregated as the couple rely on their friends and family for social support rather than each other. But in a loose social network the conjugal roles become joint and the couple give each other social support. O’Brien and Jones collected data for their book Revising family and kinship (1996) on 600 families in Dagenham, East London.
They compared their findings against the earlier studies of Willmott and Young and found that many changes had occurred. O’Brien and Jones found that there was greater diversity of types of family and household involving what they called pluralization of lifestyles, for instance: over a third of the births were outside of marriage. 14% of the children lived with a stepparent and 14%lived with only one parent. Whereas in 1950’s 78% of the women were married and only 1% were divorced. Willmott conducted a later study in 1988, which he published as Urban Kinship. Past and present.
He developed the idea of a dispersed extended families, this consists of related families staying in regular contact via: phone, cars, and other means of public transport despite living some distance apart. He concluded his study by saying “in modern Britain although kinship is largely chosen, it not only survives but most of the time it flourishes. ” Another sociologist, Brannen aggress with Willmott in her book The Age of Beanpole families (2003). She also believes in the continuing importance of kin contacts and support, but she emphasises the key role of grandparents and intergenerational link while the horizontal links become weaker.
Sociologists oppose the historians’ definition of extended family and pursue their own definition, i. e. : that kin doesn’t necessarily have to share a common residence in order to be referred as extended family. They believe that kin living in nearby residence is in fact known as extended family, given that they stay in regular contact. On the other hand they agree with functionalists in saying that industrialisation led to extended families transforming to nuclear families, but they disagree with the theory that it caused the nuclear family to be completely isolated.