Assess the view that Industrialisation led to the nuclear family replacing the Extended family as the main form of family structure. Some have argued that as industrialisation and modernisation continue to shape our society, the 'classic' (or is it? -Laslett) extended family is breaking and kin-ship based society becoming increasingly rare. In its place is the privatised nuclear family form. Parsons claims 'the isolated nuclear family' has taken over. The nuclear family places no emphasis on a wider system of kinship relationships hence it is structurally isolated. This means it can be geographically mobile whereas in pre-industrial times kinship links within the family meant it was designated to a particular area.
Parsons also notes how the family has ceased to be an economic unit of production, more suited to needs of modern society, and in Marxist perspective, suited to needs of capitalism. The media portrays a 'cereal packet' family which many families feel inclined to achieve - buy kids latest toys, clothes etc. This shows how the family has changed from producing to consuming. Consuming has become the 'norm' especially with the evolution of institutions which take over many functions of the family. In pre-industrial times the family helped with medical, financial aid etc.
Now, institutes of society have taken functions such as schools, hospitals, police force etc. Parsons calls this structural differentiation. Goode agrees that geographical mobility, social mobility and functions once performed by the family being taken over by outside agencies all weaken wider family ties. Goode also talks of 'role bargaining' - the nuclear family has more freedom to chose which extended family members they want to keep in contact with.
Usually this is because they can somehow benefit from being in contact with them. However, Peter Laslett claims the extended family was not the classic family form in pre-industrial society, that in fact only 10% of families contained kin beyond the nuclear family. He argues the common pre-industrial nuclear family provided favourable conditions for industrialisation and helped cause industrialisation. This is a complete reverse, but Laslett small scale research may not be entirely accurate. Michael Anderson found 23% of families did contain kin beyond the nuclear family - much more than Laslett suggests. His research found most extended families occurred among the poor.
Mutual aid provided benefits and reason for upholding extended family links. However Elizabeth Bott found working class women also gave much help and support to people outside of the family, and that help was given not just because they would receive help in return but also because of duty and affection. Therefore Mutual aid did not necessarily govern extended family relationships. In concluding, there are two sides to the argument. Parsons and Goode agree that the nuclear family evolved with Industrialisation, undermining the functions and existence of the extended family. Laslett turns this argument around claiming that the extended family was not the classic family form in pre-industrial times anyway and Anderson suggests that the extended family is still common as ever today, especially in working class areas.
I feel that in a multi-ethnic society, it is impossible not to have a variety of family forms that will keep changing and keep evolving.