What is the relationship between families and social policies?
1 One way in which social policies might affect roles within families is that they might make it easier for women to break away from the expressive role. For example, state-subsidised nursery places have made it possible for women to work while their children are at a nursery.
A second way is that men might be encouraged to take a greater role in the upbringing of their children, for example improved paternity leave provisions give the message that the father’s place is at home as well as at work.
Note: the inclusion of specific examples can help make it clear what you mean.
2 The Labour government introduced civil partnerships, giving much greater rights and recognition to homosexual couples who chose to enter a partnership. This recognised that more same-sex couples were choosing to live together but did not until then have rights similar to those of heterosexual couples.
A second Labour policy was that parents were able to ask for flexible working hours; this recognised that in many families both father and mother were sharing the roles and were sometimes finding it difficult to balance work and childcare commitments.
3 One policy that can be seen as promoting the traditional nuclear family is the Child Support Agency’s role in ensuring that absent fathers contribute financially to their children’s upbringing, thus fulfilling part of their instrumental role even when not physically present.
Another policy is the setting of school opening hours which do not recognise that both parents may be working full time and are unable to take their children to school or pick them up.
Note: for this question, your answers do not have to be current policies, and you do not need to know details (for example how much the tax allowance might be), although these can be helpful in demonstrating your sociological knowledge. It might be tempting to add a sentence that makes an opposing point (e.g. for the second point, ‘However, more schools now offer breakfast clubs and after-school care...’) but this does not help you answer the question and so will not gain you marks.
4 Note: this is not an exam-style question. Use it to test your knowledge of the origins of ‘moral panics’ and related family social policy, and your understanding and correct use of relevant terms.
Points that you could make include:
Examples of moral panics: teenage mothers, lone parent families being unable to socialise male children adequately.
Make sure that for your examples you have included the resulting social policies as well as the focus of the moral panic.
Include and explain the terms ‘folk devil’, ‘deviancy amplification’ and ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ if appropriate.
Explain that moral panics involve media reporting that is exaggerated and predicts growing problems.
Show how media reporting influences politicians and others in authority, putting them under pressure to be seen to be doing something.
Show how moral panics can often be related to ideological concerns, such as those of the New Right.