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Postmodernist views of family Cheat Sheet by

WJEC AS paper 1 understanding society


-postm­ode­rnism is a socolo­gical theory that arose as a conseq­uence of advanced modern­iza­tion.
-postm­ode­rnists argue we should look at the family as a fluid and changing concept.
-therefore they disagree with theories such as functi­ona­lism, which argues that there is one ‘ideal’ or ‘normal’ family type (the nuclear family).
-in 1993 Cheal theorized that the family has undergone major change because society is no longer predic­table.


-to conclude, postmo­der­nists claim that family is unique for everyone and that family dynamics or intera­ctions cannot and should not be genera­lised
-this is evident in the increase in altern­ative family types, such as single­-parent families and same sex parent families ect.
-postm­ode­rnist views may be criticized by functi­ona­lists as they would agree that the nuclear family is the ideal.
-However it is a strong perspe­ctive as it offers an explan­ation of family change and family diversity.


-NR would criticize them as they believe these altern­ative family types are determ­ental.


Indivi­dualism means that people choose to act on the basis of what is good for them and not a sense of what others may expect or think
-in contrast to collec­tivism.
-a individual is always part of the family, community, society or nation. When an individual is corrupt it leads to corrup­tions everyw­here.
-when an individual works for themse­lves, they only benefit themselves but when they consider the community they help in social growth.
-the individual approach urges a person to pursue goals which may be hard to do in a family or sometimes even imposs­ible.
-for example, if an individual parents wants them to take over a family business they may not be able to pursue their dream career.
Critic­isms: Functi­ona­lists may criticize this as in order for social solidarity to happen indivi­duals must have a collective conscience where all members share norms and values.

Modern society is fragmented

Modern society is fragme­nted. There are a few connection between various groups or between some members of our society so the influence of society on behaviour has weakened.
-functions that were previously performed solely by the family have now been replaced with other instit­utions.
-for example the NHS now carriers out care for the family members and the media keeps family members up to date on news and also passes on norms and values.
-people create their identify from a wide range of choices, such as youth subcul­tures, sexual prefer­ences movements such as enviro­nme­nta­lism.
Critic­isms: Functi­ona­lists would criticize this as they believe that although society is fragmented it is still interc­onn­ected and dependent. Parsons organic analogy, different instit­utions rely on eachother in order for society to function.

The Rapoports types of family diversity

The Rapoports described and listed the variety of types of family diversity in modern society.
They explain there are 5 types of family diversity:
1. Organi­zat­ional- how a family might organise the roles people perform for example the ales in the family will perform tradit­ional tasks.
2. Cultural- families differ in terms of their beliefs and values.
3. Class- family life as experi­enced in a middle­-class family is not the dame for other social classes. For example resources, housing and opport­unities all impact the nature of families.
4. Life course- we dont live in the same family structure our whole life for example we might be born into a nuclear family which may change to a lone parent family ect.
5. Cohort- there is a change over time of what is the norm in terms of family life, for one generation is not for the next.
Critic­isms: Since Rapoports wrote about the family in 1982, families have become even more diverse e.g same sex families

Charac­ter­istics of postmodern family

Postmo­der­nists do not believe that the family should be regarded as a concrete fixed concept
Postmo­der­nists argue that there are six charac­ter­istics which make the postmodern family different to families that existed in modern or even late modern families.
1. Liberated sex attitudes- women are less likely to view romantic love and therefore marriage as their primary goal.
2. Voluntary childl­ess­ness- increasing number of young women choosing not to have children.
3. Reprod­uctive techno­logies- lesbians, single hero women and women in their sixties can receive fertility treatm­ents. Surrogacy has meant that homosexual couples can now be parents and have families.
4. Diversity in parenting arrang­ements- Parenting now shared with the father and non parental care givers is becoming poppular as dual worker families increase in number.
5. Crisis of mascul­inity- Mac en Ghaill suggest postmodern society is experi­encing a crisis of mascul­inity as menus futures no longer involve skilled, highly paid work. This has led to emergence of signif­icant altern­ative mascul­inities which challenge dominance in families and tradit­ional mascul­ini­ties.
6. Consum­ption- Families are no longer solely influenced by what signif­icant others may think may be more concerned with what a wide range of insign­ificant other i.e their fellow consumers think of them. Goods and services are more important than family intera­ction and intimacy.
Critic­isms: Postmo­der­nists may have exagge­rated the degree and diversity of choice avaible in personal relati­ons­hips. In particular PM have neglected to recognise that structural forces such as social class, patriarchy and ethnicity still exert influence.


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