Essay: The UK family has undergone considerable changes since 1945; using three Social Science disciplines explain the causes of these changes


One of the social institutions that has gone through some significant changes especially in 1945 is the UK family, where a huge deal of past events took place. A family is either a cohabiting or married couple, with or without married children and could also include lone parents or divorced parents (Sherratt and Hughes, 2004, p.50). The family is a clear separation of responsibilities centred on sexual differences as seen as the normal and God-given way of controlling our lives as argued by the conservative thinkers. The aim of this essay is to look at the changes in the UK family since the previous years by applying three social disciplines such as: political science, history and sociology to examine the changes in the UK family with some changes in the family like lone parenting, inequality between men and women in order words power and also divorce rate.

The changes in the family now compared to that of the previous years is quite vivid knowing that the common type of traditional families in the 90s was the couple family household because the idea of marriage then was a lifelong contract and was seen a sacred act then in the 90s (social trends, 2010). However, for the past few decades, changes in behavioural patterns and living lifestyles have led to new structures and features of households and families. More people devote their time to living alone, whether before or after marriage, or instead of marriage or cohabitation, which means they prefer not to go into any sort of agreement, since marriages in the 9o’s was based on lifelong courtship no matter the consequences and problems that may arise in their the union. The concept of the UK family in the 1940 was based on patriarchy (A system of uneven power dealings between men and women where men exercise power over women) where the male character is the overriding head of the family (Sherratt and Hughes 2004). The features of the 1950s family also referred to as “the golden age” as referred to was like a term used to portray what happened after the world war two that apart from the marriage being a permanent agreement the husband was responsible for the well-being of the family that being his wife and children, and also the wife’s duty was to care for the children and the home while the husband does the manual labor (Sherratt and Hughes, 2004).According to other sources the UK family has undergone significant changes since the 1950s.

Lone parent families today are a common family type. There are well over one-and-a-half million lone parents in Britain today and around one in four children now live in a lone parent family (department of social security, 2000). In 1999, the typical age for lone parents was 35. In the past years divorces have gone up from 16,000 per year in 1945 to over 117,000 per year now. The number of marriages in England and Wales fell for the third time in year 2007 to around 231,500 There were around 128,500 divorces in England and Wales in 2007, a fall of 3 per cent linked with 2006 (social trends, 2010). The increase in lone parenting now is because it is easier to opt in and out of marriages than in the 90s because then marriage was a sanctified act. There has been a substantial increase in the proportion of families controlled by a lone mother since 1971, when 7 per cent of families with dependent children in Great Britain were lone mother families, compared with 20 per cent in 2007. The marital status of the so-called lone parents has changed strikingly over this time. Meaning that the rate at which the marital status of the lone parents be it mothers or fathers has increased drastically. In 1971, only 1 per cent of families with dependent children were single (never-married) lone mothers, but by 2007 this proportion had risen to 10 per cent, this been that the remaining 99 per cent were married women who left their marriages at some point (office for national statistics, 2013). The proportion of separated lone mothers increased (from 2 per cent to 4 per cent) while, Lone father families with dependent children accounted for 3 per cent of all families with dependent children in 2007. It is evident that lone father families are not that common being that the women get the responsibility for the children for proper care especially when they are still young.

As said by (Sherratt and Hughes, 2004, p.60) that the key to a healthy society and family is to order, hierarchy and stability. That is the need for stability in families rose after the world war two and also due to the unceasing change in family structure and customs. The former belief that men should only work and women should take care of the family and children was averted when the economy was very bad and women needed to join the working force and this actually marked the evident beginning of the gender gap in the UK, while the conservatives debated that the constant changes in the labour market, the increased rate of women’s contribution in job opportunities and also their involvement of the welfare state intimidates the male’s governance in the society (Hughes and Sherratt, 2004, p.61).

As the feminists argue that due to women participation in work areas especially low-paid and part-time work that inequality stills exists both at home and in the work place, whereby the women that are also working full time have the responsibility of caring for the home and the children (Sherratt and Hughes, 2004, p.65). In another term whereby women become workers under the welfare state on a large scale highly paid work considered by both low pay and low status and also do the same jobs at home (Sherratt and Hughes, 2004, p.65). The welfare state was created initially to help the citizens especially the lone parents, married parents and dependent children who are not financially and economically okay and depend on the government for help and support. This paragraph is trying to explain the possible existence of inequalities both at home and in the place of work and that the inequality still exists and the feminist argument there explains the fight for equality between men and women both at home and at the work place, because it was almost impossible to get jobs as women in the “golden age” whereas now though women still get jobs but might fall under the low or under paid category of workers.
Divorce is the legal separation between two married couples and the possible end of their commitment. The stigma associated with divorce in the “golden days” was that marriage was a commitment you make once and not leave till death do them part however, couples in marriages of lengthy period face encounters such as nurturing children, dullness with the relationship, and gradually separating interests and attitudes that vary from those of persons in marriages of short duration. Definitely, studies have shown that wedded duration is linked with long-term failures in marital happiness. The number of divorced parents have increased over the years from 1950 because now divorce is said to be morally okay. In 2007 more than half that is 55 per cent of adults aged 30 and over were married while the remaining 45 per cent were divorced (social trends, 2013). That is the proportion of married people aged 30 and over in 2007 was over the normal average of 50 per cent.

In conclusion, we have seen how the three social science disciplines: sociology, political science and history convey the changes in the UK families since post world war two in aspects like lone parent marriage, divorce rate, and power in the family. It is evident that the changes in the families have affected the lives of the people either in a positive or negative way as the feminist thinkers argued that the traditions of the post-world war period was old-fashioned and the idea of patriarchy, brought a lot of inequality between men and women in both the work place and also at home being that the man was the head at everything and the women were just left to obey any rule the men make whether good or bad their job was just to obey without complaining.
Sherratt N, Hughes G 2004. Work: from certainty to flexibility? Cited from ordering lives: family, work and welfare p.60. Routledge in association with the Open University. Second edition.
Palgrave Macmillan, Social Trends, 2010. Households and families. last accessed 11/04/2014.
Families and households, released 31/2013 Last accessed 10/04/2014.
Sherratt N, Hughes G 2004. Work: from certainty to flexibility? Cited from ordering lives: family, work and welfare p.61. Routledge in association with the Open University. Second edition.
Fergusson R, Hughes G 2004. Work: from certainty to flexibility? Cited from ordering lives: family, work and welfare p.65. Routledge in association with the Open University. Second edition.

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