There are many different laws and policies that the government put in place which will affect various social issues; in this case the family. Some sociologists believe that this social policy the government enforces can make the family far more diverse; whilst others disagree. An example of this social policy can be in China there is a ‘one-child policy’, which limits families from having more than one child and in the instance that they do have more the government can inflict a series of penalties, this policy is in place to control the population of China; ‘For a prosperous, powerful nation and a happy family, please use birth planning’.
In the following item I intend to discuss how social policies and laws in the UK may have affect the nature and extent of family diversity. One way in which families in the UK have become more diverse is through an increase of same-sex marriages and families; when lesbian or gay couples live together with children. This can be linked to social policy in 1967 which legalised homosexuality in the UK and as a result made homosexuality more socially accepted and also allowed homosexuals to start their own families.
Another social policy which has allowed same-sex couples who are starting a family to be more socially accepted was in 2002 when UK Adoption law was changed to allow for homosexual couples to adopt children rather than have to rely upon surrogate mother willing to carry and give birth to a baby for them or any other reproductive technology alike. Furthermore, in 2004 the Civil Partnership Act allowed homosexuals to now be legally married allowing them to be in a far more ‘stable’ family relationship and it was as if it was a commitment to the family and any dependant children.
All of these changes in social policy can be linked to the growth in same-sex families and couples. Some sociologists believe these changes to be for the best; e. g. Feminists. These feminists believe that society in general is too patriarchal, meaning that it is dominated by males who exploit females as being inferior. They also suggest that many, existing, laws in our society are unequal and oppressive towards women; and as a result campaign strongly for these laws to be changed so that both males and females have equal rights.
Before the introduction of the 2004 Civil Partnership Act, homosexual females were being denied equal rights with heterosexual women and thus showing the existence of patriarchy in society where females are being oppressed. However, changes in social policies like the Civil Partnership Act and the 2002 Adoption Law have provided women with a more equal platform in which they can form committed relationships and a family free of patriarchy exploitation; something which may appeal to those radical feminists.
However, some sociologists are very unhappy with these changes; New Right sociologists argue that the Nuclear Family is essential for sufficient socialisation of the young; they argue that a child requires both a male and a female role model in order to become ‘functional adults’. These sociologists even believe that these different family types; such as same-sex families, would damage a child’s upbringing, views which are often heavily criticised by other sociologists as being ‘sexist’ and ‘outdated’ by insinuating that women should be responsible for staying at home and be responsible for any childcare.
New Right are opposed to family diversity, suggesting that any single-parent families create underclass in society. They believe this because figures show that most single-parent families are headed by the female and are welfare dependant, and therefore the children lack a male role model, resulting ultimately in irresponsible and anti-social children, often males, that do not intend on being a family breadwinner in the future. New Right Sociologists believe that this pattern will then be passed from generation-to-generation if nothing is done to prevent it.
However, Feminist Sociologists remain heavily critical of these views and deem them as being ‘sexist’ as they are suggesting that women are incapable of bringing up a child who is free of patriarchy. They argue that through the benefits that women receive as being single-parents they can help the child avoid any domestic violence and abusive relationships and therefore a single-parent living environment could be a better place, in terms of the child, than a nuclear family in which domestic violence is present at the hands of mean because the relationship is being ‘forced’.
In contrast to all of the arguments above, some sociologists have suggested that changes in social policies encourage the nuclear family and discourage any diversity of the family and its structure. For example, marriage laws in the UK only allow people to marry one person at any given time, thus encouraging the nuclear family, and furthermore, the coalition government intend to introduce a married person tax allowance to encourage the idea of marriage and therefore the idea of the nuclear family; a family group onsisting of a father and mother and their children, who live together. Similarly, the government has recently announced changes to the Child Benefit System, which appears to penalise single-parent families, due to the fact there is a Conservative New Right ruling government in power of the coalition government.
The changes mean that any single-parent who earns in excess of ?44,000 a year will no longer be entitled to receive Child Benefit whereas couples who earn up to ?80,000 a year will still receive child benefit. In short, even though some recent changes in social policy have tried to encourage the idea of the nuclear family or cereal packet family the majority of recent changes have had an adverse affect in that they in fact promote and cause further diversity of the family.