ABSTRACT

In industrialised societies, forms or models of families are changing rapidly, but one form, the nuclear family, is generally portrayed by the media as normative because it is regarded as well adapted to the demands of modern societies. Family life has become a topic for political debate, and various policies have been devised to try to support families. In this chapter, the diversity of family structures and some of the social and demographic changes that impact on family structure and type are explored. Marriage remains popular in the United Kingdom, and it is considered together with an examination of the roles of women in this context. A brief exploration of children’s perceptions of families will be included. Some sociological theories emphasise tensions and conflicts within the family, whereas others view family structure and roles as the product of social consensus. The various sociological approaches with regard to the family are compared, and there is a particular focus on feminist perspectives, with their emphasis on women’s experiences of oppression within the family. Social capital and its importance for the well-being of families will also be included.