Sociology aqa as unit 1 workbook answers



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WORKBOOK ANSWERS

AQA AS/A-level

Sociology 2

Families and households


This Answers document provides suggestions for some of the possible answers that might be given for the questions asked in the workbook. They are not exhaustive and other answers may be acceptable, but they are intended as a guide to give teachers and students feedback.

Section 1 Functionalist and New Right views of the family



1 The term ‘organic analogy’ refers to the extended comparison made by functionalists between the human or other living body and society, with the organs of the body equivalent to institutions and structures in society.

2 The term ‘function’ is used by some sociologists for the role or purpose that a social institution has which contributes to the success or survival of the society as a whole.

3 Nuclear families fulfil the function of ensuring boys and girls understand the expected correct behaviour for their sex; they do this, for example, by the adults (parents) acting as role models.

4 One change that New Right thinkers would see as undermining the traditional nuclear family is the growth of cohabitation (living with a partner outside marriage) because the bond between the two adults is not as strong as it would be if they were married. A second change is the growth of lone parent families; they are seen by the New Right as less effective than the nuclear family in socialising children because the lone parent has to try to carry out both the instrumental and expressive roles. Finally, the New Right would see the increase in the number of mothers of young children in full-time work as threatening the nuclear family because they would doubt that these mothers could fulfil the expressive role well enough for the wellbeing of the children.

Note: there are many possible answers, including:



  • higher divorce and separation rates

  • increasing number of births outside marriage

  • number of children not being raised by their biological parents

  • same-sex couples raising children

It is not necessary to explain your answers (because the question doesn’t tell you to do this) but to do so can help you to be sure that your answer is right and may convince an examiner that your arguments are tenable. Be careful though not to write too much — you have other questions to answer.

5 Functionalists argue that the nuclear family ‘fits’ modern industrial societies in ways that other types of family do not.

One way is that modern industrial societies require a mobile labour force; that is, workers need to be able to move to take up employment opportunities. This is very difficult with, for example, an extended family living together as there are a lot of people and possessions to move. So functionalists argue that nuclear families give greater flexibility, with a family able to move so that one member, usually the father, can take up the job opportunity.

A second way is that extended families in pre-industrial societies carried out functions that no longer need to be carried out by families in modern industrial society. For example, it has been argued that having a large extended family gave people sources of support in times of illness or hardship. This is said to be no longer necessary because of the range of support now available from the state and its institutions, so that nuclear families are now more appropriate.

6 The functionalist approach to studying families was the dominant theoretical perspective for much of the twentieth century. Functionalism suggests that the family can be seen as one essential part of society that contributes to the overall wellbeing of the whole, rather as different organs of the body work together to keep a person healthy (the ‘organic analogy’). Different functionalist writers have suggested different functions; for example, Talcott Parsons argued that the nuclear family in modern industrial society has two essential functions, primary socialisation of children and stabilisation of adult personalities. Each society in this view will have the type of family best suited to it; in the medieval period, extended families were more common because they could fulfil functions such as caring for the sick and elderly which the state had not then taken on.

One advantage of this approach is that it draws attention to the many positive aspects of family life, fitting in with many people’s experience and expectation of the family as a haven, where they are safe and cared for. There are, however, several problems with this approach. One is that it is very much focused on the conventional nuclear family, with its associated gender roles, as essential in modern industrial society. Sociology has since moved on, adapting to changes in society by focusing on families (a diverse range of families) rather than ‘the family’. The functionalist approach is also one that is based on structure — people seem to have to fit in to a set role in a set type of family. More recently, interactionist and other approaches have been more interested in the ways in which people actively create and negotiate their own roles and identities within families.

Functionalism emphasised the positive aspects of nuclear families; from the 1960s onwards feminist and other approaches increasingly drew attention to the negative aspects or ‘dark side’ of the conventional nuclear family, domestic violence (researched by Dobash and Dobash), the ways that the ‘housewife’ role restricted women’s lives (Ann Oakley) and the ways in which tensions and emotions can build up when the family is privatised and isolated from neighbourhood and wider kin. Feminists particularly criticised the functionalist assumptions about the instrumental and expressive roles being necessary and being ideally suited to males and females respectively. Breaking free from these prescriptions enabled both men and women to live happier lives, without their families becoming dysfunctional, as functionalists would have it.

The functionalist view now looks like an idealised view, taking the most common form of family in the USA in the mid-twentieth century as the best form by ignoring its negative aspects. It is still, however, useful as a corrective to other approaches; the nuclear family remains part of most people’s life course, is what many people aspire to, and is able to carry out important functions.



7 In your answer, keep your focus on views as to whether or not the nuclear family is essential in all societies. Points that could be made include:

  • the functions of the family according to sociologists such as Murdock

  • definitions of ‘nuclear family’ and its associated gender roles

  • Parsons’ view that the nuclear family now has only two essential functions

  • the loss of functions in the transition from traditional to modern societies

  • discussion of whether the nuclear family is present in all societies

  • comparison of family types in different societies

  • the nuclear family as the most common and most approved type of family in the twentieth century, the idea of the ‘cereal packet family’

  • greater diversity of family types and roles within families today and discussion of the extent to which these can be seen as different from or as variants of the nuclear family (e.g. cohabiting couples, symmetrical families)

  • Marxist and feminist accounts of the role of the nuclear family in supporting and legitimising capitalism/patriarchy

Section 2 Alternative views of family

1 The term ‘patriarchy’ means that the father/husband is the dominant figure, in a position of power and authority over his wife and children.

Note: the suggested answer above is about the term ‘patriarchy’ as applied to families. An answer that defined patriarchy more generally, as a society or social institution in which men were in positions of power and authority, would also be acceptable.



2 Feminists argue that in nuclear families women are expected to take on a restrictive role, which involves tasks such as housework and childcare. These are not recognised as ‘real’ work and so women can be seen as being exploited.

3 The nuclear family supports the capitalist system by providing it with a reserve army of labour; for example, when more workers are needed, women who have been carrying out the traditional female role of housewife and mother can be recruited into the workforce.

4 One reason why it is difficult to measure the extent of domestic violence accurately is the problem of identifying victims (and perhaps offenders); it is known that many cases are not reported and so there is no sampling frame that would allow researchers to identify potential respondents.

A second reason is that victims may be unwilling to take part in any research, either because they do not wish to talk about what has happened with a researcher or even possibly because they fear further violence if the offender finds out they have talked about what happened.

A third reason is that victims may be unaware that they are victims; that is, they may think it is normal or acceptable to be treated as they have been. They would therefore not report the violence.

5 Feminist sociologists have contributed to our understanding of families by focusing on different issues and relationships and by introducing new areas of study, which had been thought unimportant or had not been noticed by earlier sociologists.

One way in which feminists have contributed to our understanding of families is by drawing attention to the family as a place of work. Oakley showed how housework was real work, as real as paid work outside the home but undervalued and neglected. Housework and childcare, performed mainly by women in traditional nuclear families, meant that men had their meals cooked, houses kept clean and children looked after by women who worked hard for no reward.

A second way is that Marxist feminists have drawn attention to the ways in which the family supported the capitalist economic system. The family is where the next generation of workers to be exploited by capitalists are raised, and where children are socialised into the dominant ideology of the society, so that they are prepared for lives of drudgery and boredom but are also trained to be punctual and obedient. The need to support the family weakens workers’ ability to go on strike and also gives male workers a ‘safety valve’ — they can take out their frustration at their lack of autonomy on their wives.

6 Postmodernists reject all earlier sociological theories as inadequate in explaining family life today.

One reason for this is that earlier theories rely on ‘metanarratives’, which claim to explain the nature of, for example, ‘the family’. Postmodernists would argue that no one theory or idea can explain the range of families and households today because social life has become more fragmented. Individuals are no longer constrained by social structures and all make their own choices about how to live, including their family life. We therefore need to reject the metanarratives and not look for theories or explanations on a macro scale.

A second reason is that postmodernists would argue that today there is a far greater range of types of families and living arrangements than is recognised by earlier theories. For example, rather than the nuclear family being the dominant family type, there are many reconstituted families, lone parent families, cohabiting couples and single-sex couples with and without children, as well as single person households and households of friends. There are also no longer always clear distinctions between types of families, power relationships are unclear (the father is no longer always head of the household) and there is a wide range of choices for dividing roles and responsibilities.

7 In your answer, keep your focus on views as to whether or not the main role of families is to maintain male dominance. Points that could be made include:


  • feminist views of the family — including different types of feminism (liberal, socialist/Marxist and radical), and using concepts such as patriarchy, age patriarchy and the triple burden

  • links between families and wider society (such as the economy), including Marxist/socialist feminist views

  • the housewife role and the ways in which it ‘fitted’ capitalist work practices

  • the dominance of men within families — power relationships, domestic division of labour, decision making within families, the ‘dark side’ of the family, age patriarchy — linked to the dominance of men in society

  • alternative views of the main role of families, such as functionalist views on the importance of primary socialisation and the stabilisation of adult personalities, and Marxist views on its role in maintaining capitalism and in perpetuating and legitimising class inequalities

Section 3 Families and social policies

1 The term ‘cereal packet family’ means the stereotype of the ideal nuclear family of mother, father and limited number of own children, conforming to gender roles and often seen in advertising and the media.

2 Social policies can make it easier or more desirable to live in a particular type of family. For example, a tax allowance could be given to married couples but not to cohabiting couples, thus encouraging people to get married.

3 One policy that can be seen as promoting the traditional nuclear family is the Child Support Agency’s role in making absent fathers contribute financially to their children’s upbringing, thus fulfilling part of the instrumental role even when not being physically present.

Another policy is the setting of school opening hours that do not recognise that both parents may be working full time and are therefore unable to take their children to school or pick them up.

A third policy is tax allowances, which make it financially advantageous for a couple to be married rather than unmarried.

Note: for this question (and for question 4) your answers do not have to be current policies, and you do not need to know details (for example, how much the tax allowance might be), although these can be helpful in demonstrating your sociological knowledge. It might be tempting to add a sentence that makes an opposing point (e.g. for the second point, ‘However, more schools now offer breakfast clubs and after-school care… ’), but this does not help you answer the question and so will not gain you marks.



4 One policy is the laws enforcing gender equality at work (such as the Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act); these have led to more women working and so fewer women take the traditional housewife role.

A second policy is the extension of rights to paternity leave and the greater flexibility couples now have; this means that men have a greater opportunity to become involved in the bringing up of their baby.

A third policy is the provision of free childcare and nursery education for 3- and 4-year-olds; as well as reducing the cost of childcare, this frees time for the parent (usually the mother) for other activities.

5 Moral panics are caused by media selection of news stories for exaggeration and sensationalised reporting, creating a sense that something needs to be done (for example, by the government). Sociologists point out that the initial news event often does not merit the media reaction.

One moral panic that has affected social policies about families has been about lone mothers. News stories have alleged that some young women become pregnant in order to get access to council housing, when they are not capable of raising children. New Right thinkers argued that welfare benefits were too generous and this has led to welfare cuts and more stringent means testing.

A second moral panic has been the idea that it has become easy for children and young teenagers to gain access to pornography and other adult material online. It is said that this makes children ‘grow up too fast’ and may encourage promiscuous behaviour. As a result, governments have tried to control access to pornography on the internet by putting pressure on internet service providers and have tried to ensure that school-children are taught in school about online risks.

6 A wide range of policies and laws affect families in many different ways. They can be grouped into two broad types — those that are specifically about families and those that are about other aspects of society but have an effect on families.

In the latter category are education, health, work and welfare policies. For example, the age at which children end their compulsory education has risen over the last few decades. Raising the school-leaving age has had the effect of making the young people dependent on their families for longer, and as they cannot work it may restrict the families’ income. On the other hand, state subsidies for nursery education and the availability of childcare through before- and after-school provision has had the effect of freeing parents to work longer hours and increase family income, while more of the child’s socialisation happens outside home and family. Policies improving sanitation and water supplies, the introduction of a National Health Service and of child immunisations have reduced mortality and increased life expectancy, with the result that families are changed as people have smaller families.

There are also policies specifically affecting families. For example, the Divorce Reform Act, which allowed ‘no fault’ divorces, resulted in an increase in the number of divorces and this led to more lone parent families and reconstituted families, and also to more people living alone. The availability of benefits to lone parents has been particularly contentious, with New Right thinkers like Charles Murray alleging that benefits encourage young women to have children when, without benefits, they would be unable to support them. Some policies, often from a New Right agenda, encourage the traditional nuclear family and its associated gender roles at the expense of other types of family. These have been opposed by, for example, radical feminists, who point out that the traditional nuclear family seems to be a family type that damages many members; for example, women and children can be victims of violence and abuse. It may be better for women to raise children alone, without an abusive male partner.

Some other policies, such as civil partnerships and other measures introduced by Labour between 1997 and 2010, recognise and support a wider range of families and living arrangements. These can be seen as favouring a more postmodern view of the family, in which individuals and couples work out for themselves the living arrangements that best suit them, resulting in a wide diversity. From this point of view governments should not ‘take sides’ by favouring one type of family over others. Some changes, though, can be interpreted as support for traditional families; for example, gay marriage, allowed by the Coalition 2010–05, does promote marriage (and two parent families) and can be seen as conservative by some activists who would prefer radical alternatives to marriage.

In other countries and in different periods of history, policies have sometimes affected families in more dramatic ways. For example, China’s one child per family policy has reduced the average size of families and also, because many parents want a male child and have found ways of ensuring this, such as aborting female foetuses, this has led to a gender imbalance in the population with males outnumbering females. This was an unintended consequence, but the Chinese government achieved its aim of controlling population growth and avoiding the return of the risk of famine. Romania, under the Communist dictatorship of Ceausescu, pushed couples, through a variety of measures, into having more children than they wanted to or could afford. The consequence of this was not that Romania became a more powerful force in international relations, as intended, but that the regime was brought down by revolution. Large numbers of poorer Romanian children, whose parents could not afford to look after them, were put in orphanages, where many suffered neglect and abuse.

Overall, it seems that social policies — even those not directly concerning families — often have significant effects, sometimes unintended, on families, and that policies often reflect the assumptions held about families and society by policy-makers.

Section 4 Changing family patterns

1 The term ‘cohabitation’ means a couple who are living together in a sexual relationship without this having been officially recognised by marriage.

2 Secularisation refers to the decline in the importance of religious institutions and thinking in social life. Secularisation has meant that cohabiting is no longer seen as morally wrong (as in ‘living in sin’) and this has contributed to the increase in the number of cohabiting couples.

3 One reason for the increase in the number of births outside marriage is that more couples are cohabiting; that is, living together without being married.

A second reason is that more women are choosing to have and raise a child without being married or even in a long-term relationship with the child’s father.

A third reason is that getting married — and especially having a traditional wedding — has become expensive and couples may delay getting married, even until after they have had a child.

4 One reason that some couples choose to cohabit is that cohabiting has become socially acceptable and no longer leads to stigmatisation; it is no longer seen as ‘living in sin’.

A second reason is that some couples cohabit in order to decide whether they are in fact well suited to each other and do want to commit to being married; this is a ‘trial marriage’.

A third reason is that it has become very expensive to have a wedding, and some couples may cohabit while saving money for a wedding or, for example, to afford a home of their own.

5 Recent changes in the patterns of marriage, cohabitation and divorce include fewer people getting married, those that do getting married for the first time at an older age, an increase in cohabitation and an increase in the divorce rate.

One way in which feminists would interpret the change in the divorce rate is to argue that many women were dissatisfied with the traditional role of women in the nuclear family and that this led, when changes in the law permitted, to an increase in the divorce rate. They would argue that until this point, when the divorce rate was lower, far from being content with their role, women had in effect been trapped in the nuclear family. When the law permitted it was women who took advantage to file for divorce. It would seem, however, that this has not undermined the importance many women place on marriage, and many remarry after divorce, suggesting disillusion with one partner rather than the institution of marriage.

A second way is that feminists would argue that more women are choosing cohabitation rather than marriage, even for the bringing up of children. Marriage remains a patriarchal institution and so many women prefer the relative freedom of a relationship that can be ended easily and involves no legal tie, even though there is less financial security. Women may also be using cohabitation as a way of testing how suitable the man is as a marriage partner, before making a legal commitment. Against this it can be pointed out that marriage also imposes on men responsibilities towards partners and children, and this can, for example, provide the financial security a woman may need.

6 In your answer, keep your focus on the issue of whether changes in divorce rates are the result ONLY of changes in attitudes towards marriage and divorce. Points that could be made include:


  • Outline of changes in the divorce rate — rising steeply in 1970s then stabilising — and in attitudes towards marriage and divorce (e.g. as suggested by fall in marriage rate, the rising age of first marriage for both men and women, reduced stigma for divorce, examples of divorced people in the public eye, increase in cohabitation).

  • Other potentially relevant facts and ideas about divorce (e.g. most divorces are initiated by women, mothers are more likely to have custody of children, access arrangements, bi-nuclear families, the effects of divorce on children).

  • Reasons for changes in divorce rate — changes in social attitudes will be assessed against a range of other possible reasons such as changes in legislation, availability of welfare, the changed situation of women including careers and financial independence/earning power, the longer length of marriages due to rising life expectancy, secularisation, the costs of divorce (e.g. needing two homes on the same number of salaries).

  • Changes in attitude towards marriage and divorce might include rising expectations (e.g. of fulfilment in personal relationships).

Section 5 Contemporary family diversity

1 The term ‘life course’ means the developments and changes in people’s lives over a period of time.

2 There is a higher proportion of matrifocal (female-headed) families among the African Caribbean population in the United Kingdom than among the British population as a whole.

3 One reason for the greater diversity of family types in Britain today is the increase in the financial independence of women. This has led to more women choosing to bring up children as lone parents.

A second reason is that changing social attitudes, followed by legislation, have allowed more same-sex couples to marry and to raise their own or adopted children.

A third reason is immigration. For example, immigration of people from South Asia has led to an increase in extended families, as those are popular in the countries of origin and may be the family of choice here for first or even later generations.

4 One consequence of the increase in the number of lone parent families is, since the lone parent is usually the mother, that more children are being raised without a father or other adult male as a role model at home. New Right sociologists have been concerned about what this means for the socialisation of boys, suggesting that boys may grow up unaware of how a man ‘should’ behave, for example, in taking the breadwinner instrumental role and acting with consideration and restraint towards his partner.

A second consequence has been a growing number of children living in poverty. This is because while many lone parents are able to earn sufficient income, the risk of poverty is higher because there is only one parent, rather than two, to bring in an income, and because if children are young and there is no affordable childcare the parent may find it difficult to find a job with suitable working hours.



5 In your answer, keep your focus on sociological interpretations of the increasing diversity of types of family in Britain today. Points that could be made include:

  • Increasing diversity covers a wide range of types of families, including lone parent families, reconstituted or blended families, same-sex couples, bi-nuclear families, beanpole families, cohabitation. Answers could also refer to growing numbers of people living alone and to types of household (e.g. singletons, young adult friends sharing).

  • Diversity is usually contrasted with the supposed prevalence of the conventional nuclear family in the postwar period.

  • Diversity might also be related to ethnic groups (e.g. matrilineal families among African Caribbean people and extended families among Asian minorities) and to locality.

  • ‘Interpretations’ means that answers should refer to different theoretical perspectives and/or research findings and their implications.

  • Broadly speaking, increasing diversity is welcomed by feminists (because it allows people to escape from the patriarchal nuclear family)and postmodernists (because it breaks away from the metanarrative of a single family type). It is, however, seen as a problem by the New Right, who see nuclear families as best for socialising children and for ensuring social stability.

  • Good answers will consider the view that while there may be greater diversity, the conventional nuclear family remains an important part of most people’s life course. Most people live in nuclear families for considerable periods of their lives. They may refer to Chester’s neo-conventional family and suggest that some supposedly new types of family are in fact similar to nuclear families.

6 In your answer, keep your focus on views and evidence that support or question the idea that there is no single dominant type of family in Britain today. Points that could be made include:

  • the argument that in the mid-twentieth century the conventional nuclear family was dominant, both in terms of number of households and ideologically; the functionalist view that the nuclear family is universal and desirable, and still fulfils essential functions

  • arguments against this view, seeing the nuclear family and its associated gender roles as always coexisting with other types of families; feminist and Marxist arguments against the nuclear family

  • the nuclear family promoted as ideal by the media and politicians

  • increasing diversity in Britain today, including lone parent families, reconstituted or blended families, same-sex couples, bi-nuclear families, beanpole families, cohabitation, couples ‘living apart together’. Answers could also refer to growing numbers of people living alone and to types of households (e.g. singletons, young adult friends sharing)

  • reasons for the greater diversity including legal changes, changes in social attitudes, secularisation, immigration, the shift to a consumer society and to individualised lifestyles, changes in social policies

  • reactions to and interpretations of the greater diversity, e.g. by New Right thinkers, feminists, postmodernists

  • the view that the nuclear family remains an important part of most people’s life course; most people live in nuclear families for considerable periods of their lives; Chester’s neo-conventional family; the view that some supposedly new types of family are in fact similar to nuclear families

Section 6 Roles and power within families

1 The term ‘symmetrical family’ means a family in which the traditional gender roles within a marriage have changed so that both the husband and wife have similar roles, both doing paid work and sharing housework and childcare.

2 Segregated conjugal roles means a clear division and separation between the expected behaviour of the man and the woman in a married or cohabiting couple.

(Note: there are three words in the term to be defined. To be sure of both marks, do not repeat these in your answer. For example, do not write ‘… between the roles of the man and the woman’ but instead replace the word ‘roles’ with, for example, ‘expected behaviour’.)



3 There is often inequality in families today. For example, there is inequality between male and female partners in decision making, with men often being the main decision makers about issues such as the purchase of large items.

4 One problem in carrying out research is the definition and operationalisation of ‘domestic division of labour’, for example what tasks are included. Researchers’ questions could unintentionally miss out tasks.

A second problem is that the husband and wife might give different and incompatible accounts of the amount of domestic labour they do, basing their accounts on their perceptions rather than an accurate record.

A third problem is that people do not keep an exact and accurate record of what domestic labour they do and how long they spend on it, so when asked may not be able to give accurate answers.

5 The roles of fathers in families have changed considerably in recent years. For example, fathers now often play a more equal part in domestic labour and childcare, and are less likely to be the sole breadwinner.

One reason for these changes is that attitudes about masculinity have changed. For earlier generations of fathers, to be involved in care of infants or to do some kinds of domestic work would have been seen almost as a sign of weakness. The ‘new man’ role and the idea of the ‘metrosexual’ have become more popular and acceptable, with many men willing to share roles more equally and, for example, to be fully involved in childcare. This may be partly because women now expect and look for this when choosing prospective partners.

A second reason is changes in the labour market for men. Fewer men have ‘jobs for life’ and many traditional working-class male occupations have been lost. Many men are less able to be the sole breadwinner for their family and at the same time more women have been able to take up careers. So many men have had to compromise and accept changes to the traditional gender division of labour, with joint rather than segregated conjugal roles.

6 In your answer, keep your focus on views and evidence that support or question the idea that couples are becoming more equal as their working and domestic roles have changed. Points that could be made include:


  • the instrumental and expressive roles in functionalist accounts of the family

  • joint and separate conjugal roles

  • aspects of equality could include housework and the domestic division of labour, childcare, power and decision making within the family

  • the symmetrical family

  • the concept of the ‘new man’ and accounts of the changing nature of motherhood and fatherhood and of the ‘rise of the couple’ (Giddens)

  • changing expectations that couples have of relationships

  • research findings relating to tasks undertaken by gender, decision making and so on

  • abuse, violence and the ‘dark side’ of family life

  • feminist accounts of inequality within families

  • roles and relationships in different types of families and households

  • the role of social policies in encouraging and preventing greater equality

Section 7 The nature of childhood

1 The term ‘child-centred’ refers to a family, a type of society or a way of teaching and treating children in which the child(ren) are considered more important than anything else.

2 Social policies can affect the status of children in many ways. Social policies say that young people now must stay in education or training until they are at least 17. This has affected the status of young people by limiting their ability to support themselves and live independently.

3 One way in which the lives of children in the UK today are different from those of children in pre-industrial society is that children today must attend school and are not expected to work, as was the case in pre-industrial society.

Being in school means that children mix socially, mainly with their own age group; in pre-industrial society they would have been in contact with people of different ages.

A third way is that today there are entertainments and leisure activities aimed at children specifically rather than being shared by all age groups.

4 One way in which the lives of children have improved is that there is now much greater awareness of the abuse and neglect of children and more ways children can report abuse, so that it is more likely they can escape the situation.

Another way is that there have been rising living standards and policies to reduce child poverty, so that children today are likely to have a higher standard of living, better health and diet and so on.

A third way is that children have more education (for example, the raising of the school-leaving age) and training, and so have better opportunities to achieve career goals.

5 One way in which children’s lives have become more like those of adults in recent years is that children now have greater access to adult content and images, such as those relating to sex and violence. The methods used with older media for limiting children’s access to such images (such as 15 and 18 certificates for films) are less effective with newer media such as the internet.

A second way is that children have become seen as consumers in a consumer society in the same way as adults. Aggressive marketing and advertising has become increasingly aimed at children (rather than their parents), encouraging them to want fashion items, new technology and so on. As a result some children may have become, as adults have to be, critical consumers who are aware of how they are being targeted by corporations.



6 In your answer, keep your focus on views and evidence that support or question the idea that the position of children in society today has improved. Points that could be made include:

  • legislation and policies affecting children (e.g. Children Act 2004, Every Child Matters policy, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC])

  • rights and responsibilities of children

  • protection of children from violence and abuse (e.g. Childline — greater recognition of abuse and of children as possible victims)

  • changes in the ages at which children are able to do certain things

  • children in poverty and limitations on some children’s life chances

  • differences in the position of male and female children, children from different social classes and from different ethnic groups

  • ways in which the position of childhood may be seen as having got worse (e.g. loss of freedom because of ‘stranger danger’ fears, over-testing in schools, being made to ‘grow up quickly’)

As the question does not specify a time frame, comparisons may be made with any period in the past so answers could include, for example, changes in ideas about criminal responsibility of children, child labour, a child’s right to education.

Section 8 Demography



1 The term ‘pivot generation’ is used to describe the age group that is at the same time responsible for or caring for both the generation younger than them and the generation older than them.

2 Fertility rate refers to the number of live births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. The fertility rate in countries of origin for some immigrants to Britain may be higher than in the UK, and this would mean that if immigrant women had more children than the British average while in the UK, the fertility rate would rise.

3 One reason why the fertility rate has fallen is that contraception has become more widely available, with the contraceptive pill giving women control over their fertility and the ability to choose how many children to have.

A second reason is that women are on average having their first child at a later age, often after working for more years than used to be the case, so that the period of their lives in which they have children is shorter.

A third reason is that infant and child mortality rates have fallen dramatically, so that women can be fairly certain that their children will survive into adulthood and they therefore choose to have fewer children.

4 The birth rate has fallen by more than 50% over the last 100 years, although there have been fluctuations and there has recently been a mini ‘baby boom’.

One consequence of the long-term fall is that the average family size has fallen; children have fewer siblings than used to be the case and many are only children. This has led to what has been called the ‘beanpole family’, where families have only a small number of people in each generation, with fewer aunts, uncles, cousins and so on and it has probably also made society more child-centred.

A second consequence is that with fewer children, women are more likely to be free to go out to work. This has contributed to the development of dual income families, where both partners have paid work, and to a dual or triple burden for women. The division of roles within the family is also changed by women’s greater freedom to work, with a move towards shared roles, the mother bringing in some income and the father taking on more of the housework and childcare.

5 Britain is beginning to experience an ageing population, in which the average age of the population is rising and there are higher proportions of older people, and lower proportions of younger people, than in the past.

One way in which this may affect family life and diversity is that there could be a return to the classic extended family. Because there are more older people, for example in their eighties and nineties, at the same time as couples are having fewer children and nuclear families are getting smaller, there is an increase in the number of families where three or even four generations are alive. There are fewer children but more of them may be growing up in multi-generational extended families.

Another way in which family life and diversity may be affected is that there may be an extra burden of caring work for women. Even though women carry most of the burden of housework and childcare, they are still expected to look after their own or their partner’s ageing parents as well, devoting time to caring for infirm or disabled elderly relatives. With growing numbers of older people and fewer people of working age, the state may be unable to provide much support and so women — perhaps even approaching old age themselves — may be expected to take on the care of the elderly.

6 In your answer, keep your focus on the comparison of sociological explanations for changes in the size and structure of the British population since 1900. Points that could be made include:


  • The demographic changes most likely to be considered are lower death rate, falling infant and child mortality rates, lower birth rate and fertility rate, higher life expectancy, the changing shape of the population (moving towards an ageing population) and migration.

  • For each of these a range of reasons needs to be examined.

  • Lower death rates: reasons include improvements in hygiene and sanitation, running water to houses, improved housing (central heating, less damp), improved working conditions, better nutrition, improved healthcare, elimination/reduction of some once common diseases through inoculations, better education about healthy lifestyles including public health campaigns such as the dangers of smoking, importance of exercise and healthy diet.

  • Lower birth rates: reasons include availability of better contraception, especially the female contraceptive pill, changes in women’s lives and expectations, influence of feminism, reduced child mortality meaning that children are more likely to survive into adulthood to support ageing parents, welfare state and pensions, later age of first marriage and first child meaning fewer children per woman.

  • Changes in childhood — children are an economic cost rather than a benefit as in the past; compulsory education and restrictions on children working.

  • Migration: immigration of working-age adults to take up paid work; 1950s full employment so recruitment of workers from the Commonwealth; more recently, immigration from an expanded EU; patterns of settlement, higher birth rate (at least initially) among immigrant groups.

  • Evaluation can take the form of assessing the relative importance of different factors, e.g. death rates were falling before mass immunisation, suggesting that changes in nutrition and sanitation were more important.

AQA AS/A-level Sociology 2 Families and households

© Jonathan Blundell Philip Allan for Hodder Education





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