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Examine the ways in which laws and social policies affect family life
Some sociologists suggest that laws and social policies create a more diverse family, while others disagree. Social policies are the actions, plans and programmes which the government have brought in to aim to deal with a problem or to achieve a goal, for example raising levels of education. These social policies are usually based on laws, which provide the framework for agencies to operate.
The functionalists see society as built on harmony and shared values, and free from major conflicts. They see the state as acting in the interest of society as a whole and its social policies as being for the good of all. Functionalists see policies as helping families to perform their functions more effectively and make life better for them. They argue that health, education and housing policies have led to the development of the welfare state which supports the family effectively. For example with the National Health Service, the family is able to take care of its members when they are sick. This especially benefits the working class as they would, otherwise, not be able to afford healthcare, therefore getting themselves in a lot of debt or even dying.
Also the functionalists are in favour of minimum wage as it means that there is a smaller chance of exploitation, especially to the working class. No employer is allowed to pay anyone under minimum wage. Minimum wage can be claimed to increase the living standards of the workers, therefore reducing poverty, which means it has a positive effect on family life. However other sociologists, such as Marxists, may suggest that it hasn’t reduced inequalities in society as the working class are still getting poorer paid jobs than the middle class, therefore resulting in material deprivation and cultural deprivation for working class children. For feminists, maternity leave can benefit women, but they also reinforce patriarchy in family as maternity leave is much more generous than paternity leave. Furthermore policies such as the Child Protection Act, which helps with the safety of children, helps create a harmonious family and society as the children are not unhappy or abused. Maternity and Paternity Leave is also favoured by the functionalists as it helps gain equality between the two genders as the father also gets some time off with his new born too. This creates a less diverse household as it gives the couple more choice what to do after their child is born. However Marxists believe that this policy is still giving the woman the caregiver role and the man the breadwinner role. This is because the women have longer time off work than the men to care for the child.
Breakfast clubs and Homework clubs are affect family in a positive way (especially the working class) as the parents can work extra hours as they know that their children will be in a safe environment, therefore able to earn some more money. This helps with poverty and increases living standards of many working class families. However Marxists may suggest that because the parent is able to have longer working hours, they spend more time serving capitalism, mainly benefiting big businesses. This creates inequality in our society
On the other hand, Feminists see society as patriarchal, benefiting men at women’s expense. They suggest that states and policies help maintain women’s lower position and the unequal division of labour in the family. Social policies often assume that the ideal family is the patriarchal nuclear family with a male breadwinner, female homemaker and two dependent children (‘cereal packet’). This norm of what the family should look like affects the kind of policies governing family life. For example, tax and benefits policies assume that the family is s ‘cereal packet’. Since it is expected that the male the husbands will provide, this reinforces women dependence on their husbands. Also in courts many women win custody in divorce as they are seen as the female caregiver. Similarly, child tax benefit is normally paid to the mother, even though this gives her a source of income that does not depend on the father, it assumes that the child’s welfare is primarily the mother’s responsibility.
However feminists agree with some policies such as divorce laws. This gives more freedom to women to escape marriage which is seen as a ‘prison’ for them. It removes the oppression of women which feminists agree with. They also approve of the Civil Right Partnership as they believe that it isn’t compulsory to marry a man. It is better for women to be independent than to be dependent on a man. It creates equality as same sex couples are allowed the same rights as any other couple. Moreover they see abortion law as a good thing as it gives women power over men to decide whether they want a child or not. This is seen as a march of progress for women.
On top, they see part time jobs as cheap labour for women as it is low pay. It only draws women in as they have to be the caregiver also; therefore it reinforces the patriarchal system which the members of society are living in.
Marxists, however see society as based on class conflict between capitalists and workers. In capitalist society, all institutions- such as education, media and religion- help maintain class inequality. Marxists do not see social policies as benefiting everyone in society equally. They see that the state makes the family serve to capitalist society for example reproducing labour for the workforce. That’s what they see marriage as, a way to produce children which is used for a capitalist workforce. They argue that there is an improvement for the working class, such as a pension or free healthcare, have often only been won through class struggle to extract privileges from the capitalist ruling class.
On top, they see part- time jobs as cheap labour for women as it is low pay. It only draws women in as they have to be the caregiver which reinforces the patriarchal society which we live in (which Feminists also suggest). Part- time jobs allows the capitalists make a profit as they pay the workers less than the value of what they produce. This creates inequality in this society and creates a greater divide between classes. This affects the family in a negative way as it means you are producing labour for the capitalists to exploit.
In conclusion it seems that functionalist suggest that policies affect the family positively as it creates harmony and equality, such as the National Health Service, allowing working class families some benefits middle class families are able to have. Feminists believe that even though policies are beneficial for families, it reinforces the patriarchal (male-dominated society) that we live in. finally Marxists believe that policies may seem to help families, but they are only helping to produce labour for the capitalists. It, therefore, creates a greater divide in class. The working class are less able to give their families a head start unlike the middle class. It means that the working class children are more likely to be working for capitalists, creating inequality.…...

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