We will undertake a long-term programme to close the educational gap between the fortunate and the forgotten, with policies including:
- Building hundreds of good new schools within the state system
- Shifting the balance of power away from the government and towards parents
- Removing the obstacles which prevent new schools being established
- Encouraging smaller and more varied schools to respond to parents’ demands
In addition, we will take a number of immediate steps to improve standards in all our schools:
- Improve discipline and behaviour in schools by shifting the balance of power in the classroom back to the teacher
- Ensure more teaching by ability to stretch the strongest and nurture the weakest
- Look at reforming the testing regime in primary schools to reduce bureaucracy and focus on every pupil’s real needs
By doing all this, a Conservative Government will stop the decline in standards and create the excellent schools our children deserve.
Download (and learn some quotes from) their school policy paper...
It may be hard to remember, but it is almost a year since Gordon Brown began his short honeymoon period as prime minister after replacing Tony Blair.
It was June last year when he dusted down his old school motto (I will try my utmost) and promised "a new government with new priorities".
So what difference has a year made in education? And are these "new priorities" apparent in education policy?
There has certainly been plenty of action: a 10-year Children's Plan with lots more ambitious targets for higher standards, the raising of the education leaving age, and tougher measures to deal with "failing schools".
Yet all of these policies could just as easily have come from Tony Blair's government.
Indeed, at first sight, there appears to have been a seamless continuity from Blair to Brown in education reform.
The programme of City Academies and Trust Schools rolls on. There is no dilution of testing and league tables. "Failing" schools are threatened with the big stick.
There has been a shift in emphasis, but it is whispered rather than shouted
Yet there have been changes that would not have occurred under a Blair government. The biggest was the creation of two education departments in England, where formerly there was just one.
But was this just a re-arrangement of the furniture, or did it indicate a real shift in the education landscape?
Former education secretary Estelle Morris thinks there has been a shift. She believes there is now far less emphasis on those Blairite buzzwords: choice and diversity.
Speaking at an education conference last week, she said that while these Blairite values remain, she detected a "shift of agenda" towards a greater emphasis on wider children and family issues.
In her view, there has been a subtle move away from the emphasis on competition and contestability of services, with a new focus on tackling educational disadvantage through the "Every Child Matters" policies.
Shift of emphasis
It is certainly possible to see greater faith in targeted interventions for pupils in greatest need - the catch-up programmes in reading and maths, for example - instead of a belief in competition and parent power as the way to drive up standards.
Although closely identified with the reforms of the Blair years, Baroness Morris supports this change. But, interestingly, she argues that the Brown government "should have made more of it".
This looks like a shrewd judgement. There have indeed been some changes but the attention has remained on more long-standing policies, some of which are now feeling a bit tired.
The biggest target is the regime of national school tests in England. The recent Commons Children, Schools and Families select committee report reflected widespread opinion amongst teachers, and many parents, when it cast serious doubt on the value of so much testing.
The problems surrounding the planned new "testing when ready" approach suggest they could make the regular testing of children even more burdensome and unpopular.
Other recent developments, such as the claim by the chief inspector of schools that standards have "stalled", have exacerbated the belief that current education policies are not working.
Gordon Brown's difficulty is that the voters do not see him as a fresh start.
If last June had signalled a new approach to education reform, voters might have granted him more than 12 months to improve schools. As it is, they think he has had 11 years.
If, as Baroness Morris hinted, he had been more explicit about the shift in education policy, he might have been given more time. But Brown is a cautious politician, who does not favour gambles.
He shunned the chance to make a big statement on education by, for example, replacing A-levels with Diplomas.
Instead, his schools secretary has let it be known he would like Diplomas to become the qualification of choice but insists it is for the market to decide.
So again, there has been a shift in emphasis, but it is whispered rather than shouted.
Announcing the end of A-levels would have been a big gamble. Indeed, it may not have been the right gamble. But a subtle shift in policy does not give an impression of a fresh start or new energy.
As we know, there comes a time in the political cycle when voters tire of familiar governments. They just want a change, even if they're not sure what to.
And, although Gordon Brown's political troubles started elsewhere, all areas of government policy are now in the firing line.
It feels as if the opponents of Blairite reforms have sensed a weakening of resolve. So there is now re-invigorated opposition to school tests and a renewed drive against league tables.
As Baroness Morris hinted, it is precisely because he has not made more of any shift in policy direction that Brown is taking stick for reforms brought in by his predecessor.
If there really has been a shift in the government's education agenda - away from the competition and accountability model of the Blair years - then perhaps ministers might be advised to make this more apparent.
Brown may not have long to show that he is taking education reform in a new direction. Otherwise the polling evidence suggests voters will want to give someone else a go.
What is the Tory line on schools and universities?
"Parents must be given extensive power to chose schools for their children," the shadow chancellor, Oliver Letwin, recently said. For the Conservative party, it is all about parents: the party recently pledged to introduce "Better School Passports", a voucher scheme to give parents financial control over their children's education, along with vocational technical colleges funded in a similar way. The party is committed to matching Labour's current spending plans on schools for two years, after which it wants to move toward greater private funding for education.
On universities, meanwhile, the traditional Tory line of slimming down state involvement is reversed: the party is committed to abolishing fees, which inevitably means the state being more involved.
What is the Better School passport scheme?
The Tories labelled Better School Passports as their schools "revolution" at their party conference last October. Under the scheme, parents would be given cash for their child's education as a voucher, and could decide what school to spend it on. A Conservative government would kick off the scheme with a £400m pilot in six deprived inner-city areas after the next general election. But the term "voucher" has pointedly not been used, in an attempt to avoid comparisons with the Tories' ill-fated nursery voucher scheme, which resulted in the closures of dozens of nurseries in the 1990s.
Would schools themselves change?
Yes. The Tories want to see many more groups getting involved in running schools. They want to deregulate the cap on school rolls to allow the best schools to expand (and presumably others to decline) and, according to their head of policy co-ordination, David Willets, to get more "cut-priced" privately financed schools. They want to see more competition in the private school market and more involvement from parents and local community groups in running schools - so you would get faith-based organisations running schools with their own special ethos. Like Labour, they are preaching the mantra of school choice for parents.
Anything else destined for schools?
School-parent agreements are, according to an education spokesperson, high on the Tories' agenda. These would provide a mechanism by which parents could become more involved in their children's work - in good times and bad.
Why would a Tory government drop tuition fees?
When in government, top-up fees were also on the Tories' agenda - but at the height of the backlash against the Labour government over the issues, the then Conservative shadow education secretary, Damian Green, reversed the policy. The Tories said they would drop all fees, along with plans to widen participation and extend student numbers: fewer places, but better quality, was the mantra.
Is that still their commitment?
Officially, yes. But that could change. A traditional Tory plan has been mooted which would see a Conservative government privatise universities, offer tax breaks to businesses that donate or work with universities, and create a major "endowment" funded by the sale of disused parts of the TV and radio spectrums and possibly the privatisation of Channel 4. Today a spokesperson, asked whether the abolition of fees was still the policy, said: "Yes, but watch this space."
What about vocational training?
Pupils would be divided at 13 between those receiving technical and academic education under Tory plans. The proposals would see some teenagers opting out of GCSEs, and learning instead to "wire up a studio or repair a wall". This would involve the creation of business-technical schools, which might also work on a voucher system.
The underlying message is clear. You came to power on a manifesto of education, education, education. You promised to reverse years of underachievement for the country's most disadvantaged schoolchildren. So what have you actually done? Gove's answer is categoric: inequality hasn't just been maintained under Labour, it's actually increased.
A Failed Generation is not mere polemic. It's a thoroughly researched document, stuffed full of facts, figures and footnotes to highlight Labour's failure. And it makes for depressing reading: 55% of secondary schools in the most deprived parts of England do not achieve the benchmark of 30% of children getting five good GCSEs, compared with just 3% in the least deprived areas. Of the pupils who qualify for free school meals (FSMs), 47% - that's 33,909 children - did not attain any GCSE grades higher than a D in 2006-07. In the past year, the attainment gap at GCSE between the poorest and the wealthiest areas has widened by 15 percentage points, from 28% to 43%, says the report."
Computers in education can deepen the divide between rich and poor, claim researchers in the United States.
The use of online technologies in schools and colleges has expanded rapidly in the past decade, but it can put children from deprived backgrounds at a greater disadvantage, report researchers from The College Board, the non-profit group that oversees national school tests.
The Virtual University and Educational Opportunity, a research paper written by Lawrence Gladieux and Watson Scott Swail, concludes that new technology can create a "digital divide" between "white and minorities, the wealthy and less advantaged".
The Higher Education Funding Council for England said more people went to university in 2000 than in 1994.
But the percentage of poorer students "hardly changed at all", said its chief executive, Sir Howard Newby.
Increasingly more women than men went to university, while tuition fees and student loans made no major difference."
|Under the Tories, the break up of the comprehensive system began with the creation of new kinds of schools - city technology colleges (CTCs) and grant-maintained(GM) schools - and the publication of league tables of exam results with parents allowed to express a preference for their child to leave their catchment area school for one they considered better. Grammar schools remained in some areas. GM schools received extra funding and the private sector had always had financial help. Powers were taken from Local Education Authorities (LEAs), and central control was maintained through the National Curriculum, Ofsted inspections, hit squads for failing schools (?), etc. Class sizes rose and many school buildings needed extensive repairs. Student grant levels were frozen, and so had to be supplemented by increasingly large loans.|
|Labour policy was:|
|1||An end to grammar schools|
|2||An end to GM schools|
|3||Restoration of comprehensive state education|
|4||An end to the Assisted Places Scheme for private education|
|5||Less league tables comparing schools more fairly by giving value-added data|
|6||LEAs to be valued once more as accountable local service providers|
|7||Ofsted inspections to be less confrontational and to help schools improve (?)|
|8||To reduce class sizes to below 30|
|9||To have a major programme to repair school buildings|
|10||A student grant system helping those most in need and widening access|
|In fact under New Labour:|
|1||All the grammar schools remain in a system biased towards keeping them|
|2||GM schools were in effect renamed as Foundation schools, kept their extra funding for many years and often still get it in other ways|
|3||Comprehensive schools are now damned as a failed "one-size-fits-all" model, there are even more separate categories of schools and they can diverge more in their curricula|
|4||The scheme was abolished|
|5||There are even more league tables and when value-added data were published in 2007 they were an addition not a replacement for raw data|
|6||LEAs have lost more powers and there will be a presumption against them running any new schools|
|7||Ofsted inspections were not changed by government, so attitudes depend on who is running the system, [?]|
|8||Class sizes are below 30 for 5-7 year olds, but up for older children|
|9||The major repair programme was achieved|
|10||Grants were first abolished then reintroduced for the poor, but variable tuition fees threaten to restrict their access to more expensive courses|
|The private sector is now running "failing" state schools and whole LEAs, and will be allowed to provide more services for other schools|
|By 2001 schools received government funding in 71 different ways, making it hard to check whether funding is fair|
|Free nursery places and SureStart schemes give more early years support|
The Hidden Curriculum
There is plenty of evidence available to show that the hidden curriculum, in some shape or form, does exist within schools. There is also a range of evidence to show that its effect can be quite marked in terms of how it affects the achievement levels of different social classes, genders and ethnic groups. However, because the concept is so general (it can be related to a huge range of different effects) we can restrict ourselves to looking at a few examples of the way the hidden curriculum can be related to differential achievement.
In this respect, concepts such as teacher labelling and stereotypes, streaming, banding and setting, and sexual / racial forms of discrimination are dealt with in more detail in the appropriate areas of the evidence section.
For the moment, therefore, we can set the scene for this evidence by looking in more general terms at the overall concept of a hidden curriculum and, in particular, we can examine some of the general principles involved in the interpretation of this concept.
To help us do this, we can look briefly at how writers such as Pat McNeill, and Phillip Jackson (to name but two - the contributions of writers such as David Hargreaves and Howard Becker are discussed in the "class discrimination" section) in have applied the concept of a hidden curriculum to a general understanding of various aspects of the schooling process.
We have already referred to this theory when we looked at gender socialisation within the family group. Specifically, we referred to it in terms of evidence for the influence of primary socialisation on subject choice and differential educational achievement. However, it is clear that, in terms of secondary socialisation, this type of theory may have some currency in terms of explaining the problems faced by women in our society / educational system. We can, therefore, examine it in a little more depth in this particular section.
As you should be aware, in the past, the sociology of education has looked at examination differences between males and females to illustrate various outcomes of the hidden curriculum. Over the past few years, however, both males and females seem to perform equally well (or equally badly) in both GCSE and A-level examinations.
This has led to the focus of sociological attention moving away from educational performance to a less apparent manifestation of the hidden curriculum, namely a gendered curriculum (in simple terms, the idea that males and females are encouraged to study different subjects). Some subjects, it is argued, are seen as male / masculine, some as female / feminine and some as gender neutral (that is, they are seen as being neither wholly masculine nor wholly feminine subjects).
Over the past 100 years, explicit curriculum differences have been progressively eliminated. As Taylor et al ("Sociology In Focus", 1996), for example, note:
"The 1902 Education Act made domestic subjects such as cookery and needlework compulsory for girls but not for boys…During the 20th century…the tradition of girls doing home economics and boys woodwork and metalwork has been largely replaced by technology for all pupils.".
One explanation for the fact that girls perform as well as boys academically but tend to avoid certain subjects) is that when girls enter education they have a problem:
a. They are taught, as part of the secondary socialisation process in schools, that they are the equal of boys and that their eventual achievement will be on merit (that is, girls are not actively discriminated against - although there is evidence of passive forms of gender discrimination).
b. Their primary socialisation has taught them that there are some areas of the social world that are not considered, in our society, to be feminine.
In this respect, the problem for women is largely one of how to resolve the tension between these two important sets of social pressure. How, in effect, to conform to the demand that their educational efforts match those of their male peers while, at the same time, retaining a sense of femininity and, by extension, avoiding deviant labels amongst their peers.
Similarly, males are also faced with the problem outlined above; they too have to attempt to resolve the contradiction inherent in the idea of "achievement through merit" while simulatenously retaining a sense of masculine identity - one that is not undermined, in terms of their peers, through the association with subject choices that are "not masculine".
This theory keys into a number of further ideas surrounding the educational system, such as the nature of intelligence debate (is it inherited / is it socially constructed?), the social creation of gendered identities and, of the course, the hidden curriuculum debate.
"Some pupils are able to maintain popularity with peers in spite of their high academic achievement," said Professor Becky Francis, from Roehampton University, joint author of the paper. What appears to be a fundamental facilitator of this "balance" is their physical appearance, and for boys, their physical ability at sport. Of course, notions of 'attractiveness' are socially constructed, but it remains the case the some pupils are blessed with features that conform to such constructions and other are not.""
Outline Flanders interaction analysis categories (FIAC). Sit at the back of a lesson. Work with Daisy. One of you observing and recording the other indicating every ten seconds when to record. (Record using pen and paper NOT mobile phone etc.)
After ten minutes, swap roles.
a) Immediately afterwards make a list of the problems you experienced.
b) What did your results show? Were they similar to those of Flanders?
c) What are the advantages of using this method of studying classroom interaction?
d) Does your numerical data give a true reflection of what seemed to be happening?
Outline Flanders interaction analysis categories (FIAC). Sit at the back of a lesson. Work with Anastasia. One of you observing and recording the other indicating every ten seconds when to record. (Record using pen and paper NOT mobile phone etc.)
After ten minutes, swap roles.
a) Immediately afterwards make a list of the problems you experienced.
b) What did your results show? Were they similar to those of Flanders?
c) What are the advantages of using this method of studying classroom interaction?
d) Does your numerical data give a true reflection of what seemed to be happening?
One problem of using survey methods such as interviews and questionnaires to study people is what they say do and what they actually do may be two different things. For example, in interviews, people may conceal information or lie about their real behaviour in order to please the interviewer, save face or create a better impression of themselves. Discuss ways of overcoming this problem.
Compare and contrast the main types of observational methods.
How may a participant observational study be conducted?
Why do interpretivists favour unstructured participant observation?
Why do positivists favour structured non-participant observation?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of participant observation?
FOUR SEPARATE BLOGS
Contrast structured and unstructured interviews.
Explain how social interactions can threaten the validity of interviews.
Why do positivists favour structured interviews?
How may sociologists improve the validity of interviews.
“The popularity of questionnaires is undoubtedly due to to the considerable range of advantages they offer to researchers” – Discuss
“Questionnaires are often criticised, especially in relation to the validity of the data they produce.” Discuss
Explain the term “Operationalisation of concepts”
Discuss the types of questions used in questionnaires and interviews.
Once a suitable topic has been chosen for research there are a number fo stages sociologist must go through before they can start gathering data. Describe these steps.
Describe the various sampling techniques used to achieve a representative sample.
Outline the main reasons why it may not be possible to create a representative sample.
Sociologists use three different types of experimental method in their research. These are: a) laboratory experiments b) field experiments and c) the comparative method. Examine these three different forms of experiment and their strengths and limitations as ways of investigating the social world.
Your examination could include reliability, practical problems. Ethical problems and the problem of free will.
There are five characteristics of education as an area for research. These are a) pupils b) teachers c) parents d) classrooms e) schools. Each of these presents particular problems and opportunities for the sociologist in choosing a suitable method to use. Discuss the problems.
SEVEN SEPARATE BLOG ENTRIES
Outline the methods of collecting primary data
Outline the methods of collecting secondary data
Describe the practical issues that influence the choice of methods of collecting data
Describe the ethical issues that affect the choice of methods of collecting data
Describe the theoretical issues outlining the collection of data
Why do positivists and interpretivists prefer different types of data?
Before choosing which method of collection to use, sociologists need to decide what topic they wish to study. Outline the factors that affect their choice
And yet what happens?
We get this thinly-disguised moan. The disguise it that it is 'education' which is not being examined for another 8 days.
Read this and consider how the time could have been more maturely used:
"sociology notes on education
If people are defined in a certain way, this definition includes a prediction of their future behaviour. If others act as if the prophecy is true, then there is a tendency for it to come to fulfill itself. In education there is a very common thing - labelling. If someone is labelled is as a certain kind of person, others will respond to them in terms of label.
I will give you some examples.
A student called D is labelled as the best one in class. The teacher puts this label on the student because of the student's abilities in a particular subject (simply because he has learned the subject in depth before). The teacher builds up his relationships with the student basing on this label, paying more attention to his progress etc.
A student called R is labelled as lazy and not working at all. The labelling happened after a certain period of time, when the student actually didn't show any interest or effort. Of course the teacher didn't realise that this might be because the student R saw how the student D was treated and understood that he is not able to achieve the same level (students are praised ONLY if they are at the same level with D), so he gives up.
Student K and L feel pretty the same as R and therefore don't do their best as they don't see any point in that.
Some students, like B, who tried to go against the label of the student D, were said to be angry and distruptive.
The student M is labelled as a troublemaker. Because of this label, he is never praised (label does not allow him to be praised), so the only thing he can do is actually.. deal with it. However, the student is accused of being the cause of the class's overall underachievement, just because of the label.
Or another example.
Students E and D are performing exactly the same in subject S - just perfect.
However, only one of them is frequently praised. Why is that? Maybe because of labelling.
Another student, M (do not confuse with the other one, who is an awful troublemaker and the cause of all problems), gave up after only one student in her class was praised. he was treated as a weak and confused student and in the end he gave up 2 weeks before the exams."
Jan 09: Examine the view that childhood is a social construction.
Assess the view that the nuclear family is the main family form.
I predict for June something on family and social policy and feminism/is family patriarchal/ conjugal roles and paid work.
This might be useful
The rest is from Elvi
The United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child. (UNCR)
From 15 January 1992, when the treaty came into force, every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights.
The Children Act 1989. Welfare rights of children
Children support agency
“Our role is to make sure that parents who live apart from their children contribute financially to their upkeep by paying child maintenance.”
Women's Aid is the national domestic violence charity that helps up to 250,000 women and children every year. We work to end violence against women and children, and support over 500 domestic and sexual violence services across the country.
Refuge's network provides emergency accommodation for women and children when they are most in need. -- Financial guide for women experiencing domestic violence.
The new Adoption and Children Act 2002, in force from 30 December 2005.
Improvements in adoption services. Unmarried couples may now apply
to adopt jointly, for example, making sure that any child they adopt will have
two full legal parents.
The Civil Partnership Act - December 2005. The act grants same sex couples identical rights and responsibilities with heterosexual couples
The Divorce Reform Act 1969( since 1971). Don’t have to prove guilty of a partner and have to be married at least three years in order to get divorced.
The Family Law Act 1996. A one year waiting period before a couple can get divorced
Family breakdowns are leading to youth crime, unemployment and anti-social behaviour, according to a parliamentary report; women's attitudes have shifted significantly, undermining traditional ideas of patriarchal control and economic dependency.
New Labour's consultation document Supporting Families says that "women increasingly want to work and have careers as well as being mothers". There is no attempt to force women back into the home. On the contrary, the thrust of New Labour's Welfare to Work policy has been to get lone parents, the section of women least likely to work outside the home, into the workforce.
- “Marriage is the "healthiest environment" for the family.” – report Supporting Families
The report comes as Home Secretary JACK STRAW is expected to announce that the government will set up an Institute for the Family, aimed at preventing the breakdown of family life in the UK.
- The New Deal program is primarily motivated by the need to cut back on benefits by encouraging, and as this isn't working, coercing lone parents into work. Those that stay at home to look after their children, either through choice or because they can't get a job, are made to feel guilty for doing so.
- Married couples should get better tax-breaks and child allowances.
Labour Party and the Family
Labour party policy making
"We are taking action to increase take-up of free school meals, investing to improve the quality of school meals and we will keep the nutritional value and cost of school meals under review.”
- Labour will implement a new negotiating body for school support staff and replace term-time only contracts with 52 week contracts:
“We will improve progression and consistency in terms and conditions for support staff through their new negotiating body. In establishing the new body it is our intention that it will resolve the long-standing issues around term time working as a priority.”
- The two tier code application will be expanded into other education facilities:
“We recognise that colleges, universities and academies are responsible for their own human resources policies. Nonetheless, we recognise that for many providers of contracted services such as cleaning and catering in these institutions similar issues of two tier workforces arises as in other public services. The Government will therefore actively engage with the relevant employers’ organisations and seek to introduce the application of two tier principles, based on the code of practice, in these sectors and within the existing planned resources of the institutions. We will also ensure that the two-tier Code of Practice is rigorously applied and enforced in state maintained schools.”"
The party of the family
Gordon Brown and the family...
Which party is the best for families?CONSERVATIVE PARTY
DAVID CAMERON insisted the modern Conservative party was the party of all families – single parents, divorced parents, widows – and it would be supporting all of them.
So a Conservative Government will give families the support, flexibility and financial help they need.
- Money worries can put a huge strain on relationships – so we will end the couple penalty in the benefits system and recognise marriage in the tax and benefits system
- We will introduce a new system of flexible parental leave which gives mothers and fathers 12 months' leave to split between them
- We will extend the right to request flexible working to all parents with children under the age of 18, and ensure the public sector becomes a world leader in providing flexible working opportunities
As we can see, both parties are for traditional nuclear family.
Conservatives and the family
Conservatives and policy and the family
Focus on the family
Family at the heart...
Yet, on both sides of the Atlantic, there have been loud claims that families are in decline, and there have even been those who welcome the so-called demise of the family, because it is viewed as an oppressive and bankrupt institution.
Nevertheless, family sociology continues to thrive, and is producing a wide range of research that is demythologizing our beliefs about family systems of the past; and expanding our understanding of the diversity of family life, not only between individual nations, but also between various classes, ethnic groups, and regions. More studies are crossing discipline boundaries, looking at the interrelationship of family life and work, and how micro-family relationships are affected by macro-social and economic changes. Family sociology is also incorporating the life-cycle perspective, exploring how families differ at various stages, from early marriage through to old age. Finally, there is an increasing amount of research concerning different family forms, such as lone-parent and reconstituted families; and, inevitably, family sociology has become closely entwined with practical policy concerns.
In recent years there has been a radical reappraisal of the state of the contemporary family and of the desirability of its survival. One strand of this criticism has been to view the family as a bolster for capitalist society (see E. Zaretsky , Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life, 1976).
A second is the view that the conjugal family oppresses and represses individuality (as argued by, for example, R. D. Laing , The Politics of the Family, 1971).
A third line of criticism can be found in the work of feminist authors, ranging from writers like Jessie Bernard and Ann Oakley, who tend to focus on the nature and consequences of current sex-role divisions in the contemporary family, through to the more radical critique of Michelle Barrett and Mary Mclntosh (The Anti-Social Family, 1982), who regard the family as not only oppressive to women but also an anti-social institution.
Historical studies of families have laid to rest some of the myths about family life of the past. For example, it is a mistake to presume that the nuclear family emerged in response to industrialization, replacing a pre-existing extended family system. Research has indicated that, throughout most of Western Europe, the nuclear family type preceded the early formation of capitalism. Moreover, the romantic image of a close and stable family unit in bygone ages proves unfounded, and studies such as Philippe Aries's Centuries of Childhood (1962) make it quite apparent that the emphasis on intimacy in modern family life is relatively new.
Although there is clearly some continuity of family form over time it is wrong to downplay the diversity of family life. Different ethnic and religious groups hold quite different values and beliefs, and these differences affect not only gender-role conceptions, the internal family division of labour and child-rearing, but also attitudes to work and other social institutions. Similar differences emerge for families of different class backgrounds. Working-class families have been associated with more segregated conjugal roles, although even working-class marriages are now claimed to be symmetrical (see Michael Young and and Peter Willmott , The Symmetrical Family, 1973).
Child-raising orientations also vary by social class, with studies by John (Newson) and Elizabeth Newson in England and by Melvin Kohn in America showing that the middle classes tend to emphasize autonomy and the working-class value obedience, in their respective off-spring. Kohn attributes this difference in orientation to the father's occupation, making it clear that family relationships and work roles interconnect.
Families and work have often been conceptualized as separate spheres, with women being linked to the home and men to the workplace. This separation was unfortunately perpetuated by the sociology of the family being conducted as a separate enterprise from the sociology of work and occupations. Clearly, however, the divide makes no sense, and the increased participation of married women in the workplace has highlighted the importance of work and family transactions. Early work by Rhona (Rapoport) and Robert N. Rapoport on dual-career families has expanded into studies exploring the benefits and strains of families with dual-earners.
There are, however, many questions still to be answered concerning the interaction of family and work. For example, how do families affect transitions in and out of the labour-market? How do workplace policies and events affect family life? And how do work-family arrangements differ through the life-cycle?
Research concerned with the life-cycle of families parallels the growing interest in individual life-course analysis. A key concept is family time, which addresses the timing and sequence of transitions such as marriage and parenthood, and how such timings are precipitated both by individual family members and by society at large. The timings of earlier events (such as age of first marriage) are shown to have a great impact on later outcomes (such as divorce). Family transitions also have economic consequences. For example, research in the United States has revealed how women and children face a high risk of poverty following divorce.
The proportion of single-parent families has risen dramatically during the second half of the twentieth century. Social research can play an important role in revealing how society can aid single-parent families to adjust and survive—and not just in financial terms. Many children will at some stage live in a single-parent household and it is damaging to view such families as pathological or deviant. Reconstituted families are also coming under scrutiny and, as yet, many important questions remain unanswered. For example, to what degree does a remarriage terminate the existing child-grandparent relationship, and how does this affect the transfer of equity, inheritance, and family culture across the generations?
Inevitably, in family sociology, the line between social research and policy tends to be blurred. There is a long tradition of excellent family studies that combine both theory and practical concerns (see, for example, P. Townsend , The Family Life of Old People, 1957
, or J. Finch , Family Obligations and Social Change, 1989
). The questions facing family sociologists of the future will undoubtedly be different, as changing circumstances bring new problems to light. However, one thing is clear: regardless of changes in its size, shape, membership, or form, if past experience is any guide then families are here to stay.