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Major changes in family forms and structures that have taken place in Australia since Federation - Essay Example

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Since 1901 and the Australian Federation there have been significant changes and variations in family forms, structures and values (Gilding, 1995). The first sociological study in relation to families was printed in 1957, wherein the family was theorised as a ‘basic unit of society’ (Gilding, 1995, p.9) comprising mum (housewife and caregiver), dad (breadwinner), and the kid (s) (Gilding, 1995), but later, in the 1970s, such a concept became invalid…
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Major changes in family forms and structures that have taken place in Australia since Federation
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Download file to see previous pages Gilding (1995, p.8) contends that the family form is a ‘social ordering of kinship and co-residence’ that is politically asserted with the aim of attaching relations based on reliance and commitment but that the family members alter and modify that form to meet their own needs and demands. The historical definition proposed by sociologists and anthropologists was the ‘nuclear family’, which was thus considered as the norm to the extent by some that the construct was a universal ‘basic living unit’ (Baker, 2001, p.7). Today the term ‘nuclear family’ is still under contention, with some believing the ideal is a myth (Eichler, 1997, cited in Baker 2001) to which very few households have and do actually adhere; for others it is the norm but declining (Briggs, 1994; Gilding, 1995). Bittman & Pixley (1997) believe the fact that the nuclear family is declining at the rapid pace as proposed by government statistics and researchers, is itself a myth. While they agree there is a diversity of family units, they assert that the measurements are invalid because they are taken at a particular point in time and that people move via a succession of changes wherein they move in and out of a nuclear family structure. What is apparent however, despite the myth or reality of a nuclear family being the norm within Australian society, is that the family structure and form has changed and become more diverse, particularly over the last four decades, for a number of reasons. Since the post war period more Australians have been marrying later and divorcing earlier; marrying partners from different ethnicities; making choices on whether to have children, how many and when; living in de-facto relationships (cohabitating) with and without children, living within homosexual or lesbian partnerships, with or without children, and mixing their family roles (Briggs, 1994). It is quite common to find Australian children living in sole parent families, step parent families, extended families, same-sex families and foster families (Saggers & Sims, 2004). This diversity has been a progressive process over the last century due to the changes in fertility patterns, with women giving birth to 6 children on average pre-Federation to the current day average of 2 children per woman; increasing lifespan resulting in an aging population and an increase in the number of divorces and people choosing not to marry (Bittman & Pixley, 1997). Family diversity in Australia can also be attributed partly to immigration resulting in cultural and ethnic diversity. Immigrants bring a plethora of different beliefs, ideals, behaviours and languages, together with their family structures and relationships, and the roles each member plays within those family forms. Cultural diversity also incorporates Australia’s indigenous people, who again bring their own family structures and values to the stage. Thus the Australian family now incorporates those that are not only diverse in terms of size (single parent, nuclear or extended families); they are also diverse in terms of organisation (Saggers & Sims, 2004) and the way in which children are raised, how elderly parents are cared for, and they are diverse in expectations of gender. Social changes and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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