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Family and Social Structures - Case Study Example

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For centuries the family unit has been considered the foundation from which the rest of social structure emanates. As the bedrock of love and intimacy, it defines the human bond and exists as an establishment of connection. But while the family unit nurtures and solidifies social cohesion, it also provides rigid structures which are then integrated into the social fabric…
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Download file to see previous pages If we compare contemporary families with those from a century ago, the most significant difference we can note is the divorce rate. In 1911, approximately 700 families experienced divorce in England and Wales (Simpson 1994). Today that number has risen to 160,000 per year (Simpson 1994). Britain currently has the second-highest divorce rate in Europe (Simpson 1994). 55 percent of couples who divorced in 1990 had a child under the age of 16 (Simpson 1994). What, then, does this mean for the family as a structural unit Today, families continue to be less clearly defined as they must incorporate step-parents, step-siblings, half-siblings, and biological siblings or parents that are not in contact with one another. One such example is "Steve," a husband and father that Bob Simpson interviewed for his article Bringing the 'Unclear' Family into Focus: Divorce and Remarriage in Contemporary Britain. Steve is in his thirties and is married to "Karen." Since marrying in 1990, they've produced two children together. However, prior to their marriage, Karen had a daughter from a previous relationship, and Steve had two children from his marriage to "Kath," and a son from a relationship he'd had as a teenager. Steve considers himself to be a father of six, and the numerous other participants in his children's lives, such as his ex-partners, and his ex-partners' current partners, creates a network that functions as the family unit. While the typical nuclear family has two parents, this family has six. This differs most strikingly from the traditional family in the fact that there are no clear definitions. All six parents are part of the unit, but two children might be related to one set while the other four are not, creating an even more complex matrix of kinship. This becomes most complicated in how the grandparents treat all of the children. Steve's parents acknowledge all six children as family, but Karen's parents only acknowledge the three children that were born to Karen as family. This causes conflict when Karen's parents ignore Steve's other three children and only give gifts and candies to the three that are biologically Karen's. The "network" family could be successful were all parties open and accepting of different family ties, but now we have one family circle that only exclusively accepts blood relatives, thus dividing the family structure into blood relations versus non-blood relations. This calls into question varying definitions that people have for the family unit. Is a family just two parents and the children that are biologically related to them If so, what is the resulting implication for the rest of society A society in which its members must meet strict biological standards if they are to gain acceptance
One such example of the conventional family unit coming into conflict with the "network" family unit is in William Shakespeare's play, Much Ado About Nothing. The play depicts the rigid social structure of the Elizabethan era as it follows the efforts of Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato to make Benedick and Beatrix fall in love with one another. Don Pedro is the prince of Aragon, blood-heir to the throne, and as such, represents order, goodness, and purity. His bastard brother, Don John, is evil and devious, purposely setting out to ruin the marriage of Claudio and Hero. Don John is an outsider, an intruder, and thus his character is ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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