Report on the Family Structure of the UK and Changes Within It

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What are the different types of family in the UK and how common are they? Using statistical evidence discuss to what changes are occurring in the structure of families in Britain.

The different types of family in the UK.

Single person household

It represents 29% of all family types in the UK as at 2013.


This is the 21st-century idea of an extended family. Such a family has a long thin structure with each member of the family having strong ties but living apart. Such a family does not have many children but has very strong intergenerational ties, irrespective of how far apart they live from one another (Sociologytwynham, 2016).

Classic extended family

It is made up of an extended family that lives under the same roof.


It represents an unmarried couple living together.

Extended family

It is a family consisting of the nuclear family and relatives. It is among the least common type of families in Britain today.


It is a family made up of a married couple of consisting of the opposite genders having a sexual relationship together. This type is the fastest growing in the UK. Studies also show it to be the most common type of family in the UK.

Modified extended family

It comprises an extended family in communication with one another while living apart. The communication can be via various means, like Skype, email, phone, and so on. Lone parent family: It comprises of a lone parent having dependent children. Kin: It comprises of relatives connected by gene or marriage.

Gay or lesbian family

It composes of same-gender individuals living together with adopted children. Available record shows that, as at 2017, up to 101 of such family exists in the UK.

Symmetrical family

A family in which the division of domestic labor is less pronounced with the home being more central to social identities and social life.

Reconstituted family (blended family)

It is also called a step-family; that is, a family formed out of another relationship.

Nuclear family

A family comprising an adult male and female living together with one or two children. (Sociologytwynham 2016).

Statistical evidence of changes occurring in family structure in the UK

A 1996 Study showed that 55% of parents of dependent children have 1 child each. 13% of single mothers had a minimum of 3 children, while 39% of married couples had one up to 5.8 million individuals between 15 and 34 years of age live with their parents as of 1996. It increased to 6.7 million in 2014 and has stabilized at 6.5 million since 2016. (Office for National Statistics, 2017)

Cohabitation has become the fastest growing type of family over the past 20 years it has increased to 3.3 million in 2017 from 1.5 million in 1996. On the other hand, single parenting has decreased from 2015 to 2017 from 3 million to 2.8 million respectively. There are 12.4 million monogamy families in the UK as at 2015; it represents two-thirds of all the families in Britain. (Office for National Statistics, 2017)

Describe the differences with regards to family amongst ethnic groups. Give possible reasons as to why any differences you find have occurred.

The 2011 population of the UK is classified along the ethnic line as given below: Whites represent 86%, Asian or Asian-British represents 7.5%, Blacks represent 3.3%, Mixed represents 2.2% and others represent 1% (Sociologytwynham, 2016). There had been an increase in the ethnic minorities in the UK since 2001. According to the 2011 census, non-white represents 14% of the population as opposed to 9% in 2001 (Sociologytwynham, 2016).

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Extended family prevalence

The family model of South Asians in the UK in the 1980s is Patriarchal with such families having tight control over women. Most Asian families in Britain are extended social units of a long list of relatives, like uncles, aunts, in-laws, and grandparents. This is basically because the Asian culture believes in keeping everyone together, if possible, in a single physical place to provide mutual support for one another (Sociologytwynham, 2016).

Monogamy prevalence

Recent studies reported in the UK National Statistics had it that Asian households record the highest proportion of married couples under pension age as highlighted below: 51% of Pakistan families, 53% of Indian families and 54% of Bangladeshi families. On the other hand, only 37% of white British families have a married couple. The above statistics indicate that the Brit-Asian communities in the UK place a lot of importance on marriage. Despite that, divorce has increased in recent times among Asian couples (Sociologytwynham, 2016).

Many British Asian women are now better educated and venture into professional careers, which mostly overshadow the importance of marriage. Even at that, divorce is still seen as a shameful thing among them, thereby compelling many to remain in loveless marriages so that they can prevent shame from coming to their families and uphold family honor.

Recent studies also showed that forced marriages are more common among Asian families than any other ethnic group. A 2008 report has it that about 3000 Asian women were forced into marriages.

Lone-parent-family prevalence

Studies show that African-Caribbean families have more single parents than any other ethnic group in the UK. Studies carried out in 2007 revealed that almost half of all the black children in the UK were raised by single parents. The 2007 study about African-Caribbean families in Britain revealed that 36% of black African households had one parent and that 48% of black Caribbean families had one parent. The trend is somewhat different among Asian families with a lone parent as highlighted below: 10% of Indian families, 12% of Bangladeshi families, 13% of Pakistani families and 15% of Chinese families.

Conversely, about 22% of white families in Britain have lone parents. Young black women record more teenage motherhood than virtually all other ethnic groups in the UK. (Sociologytwynham 2016). Furthermore, about 10% of married couples in the UK are from a different ethnic group, according to the Office for National Institute. On the other hand, only 4% of whites ever get married to individuals from another ethnic group in the UK; this is mostly due to the racial inclination of many whites. The same study also revealed that about 85% of individuals from the mixed racial origins are married to people from other ethnic backgrounds.

Compare and contrast the functionalist perspective with Marxism with respect to the family


Functionalism was pioneered by Emile Durkheim and has been propagated over the years by many other notable scholars such as Herbert Spencer, Talcott Parsons and Auguste Comte. Functionalists are of the opinion that a family is a functional unit of the society with the progress or function of the family depending on the functionality of each of the constituents. They are of the opinion that every part of the family interrelates and failure of one part to function will render the entire family dysfunctional (Markedbyteachers, 2015). The functionalists believe that the family is like an organic analogy and its progress depends on every member of the family. Functionalists direct their focus on two major areas in analyzing the family – the functions provided by the family and the functional relationship between the family and the economy or other social systems. (markedbyteachers, 2015).


Marxism completely disagrees with the promise of meritocracy and value consensus promoted in functionalism. Marxism was founded by Karl Marx. He came up with the idea that the working class (proletariat) must overthrow the ruling class (bourgeoisie) before the country can become communist (markedbyteachers, 2015). Marxism holds firm the opinion that the society is originally meant to operates for the benefit of everybody – an idea that has been altered by the introduction of family structure which makes the rich get richer while the poor get poorer because it facilitates the process of the rich transferring everything they own to their children instead of using it for the benefit of the overall society. In Marxism, the family is seen as the prop of capitalism since it is saddled with the responsibility of maintaining the position of the ruling class

Functionalism and Marxism in Comparison

Functionalism is based on consensus, whereas Marxism is a conflict of perspective. Functionalists believe that a modern society has what it takes to resolve its own problem, while Marxists do not believe in capitalists ability to improve the society. Functionalists are of the opinion that the structure of the society is determined by societal norms, while Marxists hold firmly that economic factors influence societal norms (Jacqueline, 2013). Both of them see individuals as controlled and passive; both theories are deterministic. Both believe that the society is maintained by prevailing beliefs and ideas, which makes both ideas to be ideological. Both theories also counter the place of importance of socialization in society maintenance. Both equally believe that people are shaped by the structure of society and not the other way round. Both theories focus on the entire society, which makes them macro-perspectives (Jacqueline, 2013). According to Friedrich Engel, the nuclear family could have only emerged with capitalism because before the emergence of capitalism, traditional societies used to operate under classless standards and there were streaks of primitive communism through which there were no private properties.

He emphasized that the family system is not good for the overall members of the society but the wealthy few. Marxists argue that the concept of marriage is the capitalist’s agenda to continue producing inequality in the society because through monogamous marriages, one is sure of who his own children are and can easily will his properties to such children but in a contradicting opinion, Some functionalists such as George Peter Murdock (1949) came up with theories that suggest that the nuclear family is a universal social unit. Although he defined the family as a social group that is characterized by common residence, reproduction and economic cooperation, it is not without emphasis that the society is better functional with family as unit structure.

Discuss the sociological explanation for divorce rates in Britain and then analyze the impact family breakdown has on families and children

Sociological explanation for divorce rates in Britain

In the course of few decades, there has been significant increase in the rate of divorce in the UK due to the seemingly continues dynamism in the overall perception of marriage and family. In 1911, 859 divorce petitions were filed out of which 75% were granted. In 2004, the number of divorce cases rose to 167,100 and not less than 70% were granted (Markedbyteachers, 2015). This represents a very sharp increase in divorce cases. According to Edward Leach (1967), divorce can be seen as a legal termination of marriage. This increase is attributable to societal changes and new laws, seeking to enhance freedom of association, some of which are particularly targeted towards women emancipation. This claim is backed by a report by a report by the British Social Attitude Survey (2001), as captured by National Centre for Social Research (2003), which emphasizes that while some couples see marriage beyond just a piece of paper, others rely largely on social influence to decide how much longer they can stay in their marriages.

This social influence is partly as a result of the Marxists campaign that the world is better off should the concept of marriage be completely abolished for the adoption of cohabitation as a viable alternative. They insist that nuclear family has continued to suffer emotional overload, which translates to more conflicts in marital relationship (Leach 1967). Consequently, this notion has made the society more permissive to divorce because a lot of young adults now see marriage as being old-fashioned and some of those who are already in it seek ways to leave even in the absence of conflict. And although functionalist in line of opposing views, the impact of the law and campaigns for woman emancipation have remained strong factors that may likely continue to influence the increasing rate of divorce in the UK. For instance, and as studies reveal, about 75% of divorce cases are filed by women today and over 70% of such divorce petitions are granted.

Effects of divorce on families and children

In a sharp contrast to the Marxists’ ideology, the results of several extensively conducted studies as recorded by Amato & Keith (1991) have revealed that children who grew up, living with both of their biological parents have better emotional, physical and academic well-being that those that grow up with lone-parents. Single parenthood can significantly contribute to the increased rate of the following negative societal occurrences: Juvenile delinquencies, teenage pregnancy (Gordon Berlin, 2004) and increased rate of school dropout (Gordon Berlin, 2004). Children from broken homes have the tendencies of viewing family life differently and often negatively (Amato and Keith 1991), which distances their perception about family and marriage in general from that of those that grew up with their parents.

Under such circumstance, it is more likely that such children will grow up to detest the concept of marriage or fear going into it because of the possible trauma that followed being separated from either of their parents at a tender age. Adults from lone parents may not think twice before divorcing their spouses since they are more likely to see it as a norm. They may also lack the love and joy of a family life, which may prevent them from loving others, especially their spouses when they eventually get married (Berlin 2004).

In some cases, divorce leaves one of the parties largely traumatized. He or she may suffer from mental, emotional or psychological breakdown, slide into consumption of excessive alcohol or do one crazy thing that could trigger law enforcement officers against him, which may possibly lead to being jailed (Berlin 2004). As a child, watching one’s parent pass through such trauma as an aftermath of a failed marriage can completely alter his or her perception of the society and marriage in particular.

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