Chapter 14 Review: Family Futures and Social Policies
Salient Themes Revisited
Social Inequalities and Gender Stratification
It is a key underlying theme that families major problems are largely, but not exclusively, created by economic,
ethnic, and gender inequalities. Gender inequalities cut across ethnic and class divides.
The gender revolution, as England (2010) puts it, has stalled in many domains and kin-keeping is one of them. As a
result, when social structures fail to meet the needs of fragile families, mothers can be blames as a political tool.
Furthermore, social inequalities based on gender stratification mean that women are paid less than men for equivalent
work. As well, women often channel themselves into part-time work and less well-paid jobs (with no benefits)
because of the unequal household division of labour. This double factor contributes to keeping a large proportion of
mother-headed families at or under the poverty level. As well, the types of jobs and the structure of the jobs to which
women have access reinforce inequality at home. Indeed, compared with other social systems (corporations, army,
and political parties, for instance), it is understood and deprived of resources.
Diversity of Families
The theme of family diversity is well captured by social constructionism and its links with inequalities: not all
diversity is well captured by culturally acceptable and treated equally.
On the basis of available research, two conclusions have been reached with respect to family diversity. First, so long
as certain types of families exist and do a good job at loving and raising their children, it becomes functional for
society as a whole to support them. Second, because of current socioeconomic conditions, certain types of family
structures namely single parent and, to some extent, blended and cohabiting structures are less well equipped than
others to invest in childrens well-being and future. At this point in time, a child in a stable parental marriage is the
context that is the most favourable to that childs development and adult well-being. Overall, there is a great deal of
similarity among diverse types of families because families, as defined in this text, are institutions centered on
filiation, reproduction, socialization, nurturance, and the expression of emotions. They are similar in the functions
A Surfeit of Family Functions
The third theme arose from the recurring observation that the family has not lost its functions but, rather has acquired
new ones in great part because a lack of effective social policies is expanding the range of family care and duties.
Accordingly, we have seen that families are burdened with responsibilities imposed by the deficits of the social
structure and the poverty of the political culture. Further, documenting the multiplicity of functions fulfilled by
families has led us to question what is often defined as the decline of the family in some circles. The new social
structure based on the market economy, technology, and cutbacks to helpful policies has bestowed upon the family a
new set of responsibilities. Thus, too great a proportion of families are ill equipped o fulfill their functions. It is only
in this sense that one could think of a decline of the family. This inability of too many nuclear families to care for
their members, protect them, and maintain them within a normative life course stems from five major causes.
First, at the juncture of the personal and societal levels of analysis is the absence of an effective community
surrounding families. A second cause resides in the lack of social and political support that would provide more
resources to parents, children, and other family members with special needs. A third cause, also systemic, refers to
those countless families that are forgotten by society and relegated to segregated enclaves. The fourth source of
individual families inability to fulfill their functions is related to the previous ones: too many families are headed by
parents, often young and single, who do not have the financial, educational, and maturity resources to raise children.
Finally, at the personal level, parents often become so burdened by their own dramas and the need to make a living for
their fractured family that their children are not sufficiently supported, even of only for a brief but crucial period of
time. Other families are too burdened with simply making ends meet. Negative consequences can be lifelong,
particularly within the context of so many social inequalities.
The Effective Community
An effective community links parents and teachers together and prevents them from being isolated and unaware of
childrens activities. In turn, within such a context, what children learn at home is reinforced at their friends homes or
in schools. Adolescents then realize that other parents and teachers have expectations similar to theirs. This
collectivity lends an aura of legitimacy to their parents teachings and example and adds credibility to the parenting
efforts in childrens eyes. Furthermore, within the shelter of this effective community and information social control, there are fewer opportunities for non-normative behaviours that would take adolescents off the path of prosocial
The past decades have seen the erosion of the community as a result of urbanization, individualism, dependency on
expert knowledge, interest groups, and the technological market economy. As a result, too many problems
experienced by families and their children are so intractable.
The Cultural Context
The net effect is that perhaps much of the nastiness, aggressiveness, lack of compliance, and at times lack of morality
that is now encountered among some children, adolescents, and even young adults may in great part originate from
the media. Parental roles become far more difficult to fulfill within such a cultural climate a conclusion that
reinforces the previous theme of families inability to fulfill their functions adequately and to raise their children
according to their values and not those of a consumerist and competitive society.
The theme of cultural context was also reflected in the recourse to social constructionism as an explanatory
framework. It is the sociocultural context that defines what is proper behaviour and what are masculine and feminine
What Does the Future Hold?
We live in a technology-driven rather that a socially or morally driven world. The pace of technology is rapidly
distancing humanitys ability to control it, plan for it, and adjust to it. The family is immersed in a global economy
buffeted by the winds of speculation, where profits are paramount, and where the less educated become a surplus
population. Under such circumstances, there is not a great deal of rules; therefore, predictions of the distant future are
Age Distribution and Fertility
As more seniors live longer and are in better health, they will constitute a large proportion of the population, because
their growing numbers are not accompanied by similar numbers of births at the other end of the age structure. As it
the case in many other countries with a low fertility rate, the Canadian population is aging, except for that of the
Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The group that is increasing the fastest is the 85-and-over age bracket. Because of
longevity, some families will include more generations than in the past. However, some families will include more
generations than in the past. However, low fertility means that the family takes the vertical or bean-pole form:
great-grandparents, grandparents, one or two middle-aged children, and a few great-grandchildren. Children will have
few uncles, aunts, and cousins. The extended family network will be much less extensive. Thus, a key source of
familial support is decreasing.
Unless governments quickly adopt policies more favourable to youths and young families, on can predict that young
families will continue having few children and perhaps more couples will choose to remain childless. The Canadian
fertility rate, currently standing at 1.66 was even lower a few years back and could dip again, especially if
environmental pollutants and various lifestyle activities reduce mens fertility and womens ability to conceive and
bring to term a viable fetus. Fertility rates also depend on stable marital unions and on the age at first marriage.
Or, yet, fertility could increase slightly if structural conditions that could reduce the cost of having children were put
in place. A substantial change in social policies that would provide financial compensation for middle-class and low-
income parents might serve as an incentive. Adjustment in work hours and the entire production system may be key.
Under such circumstances, the interests of adults would compete less with those of children, and parents would fins
their situation more equitable, especially women, than is currently the case.
It is interesting to note that Torr and Short (2004) have found higher fertility rates among both couples who are
traditional in terms of the division of labour at home and those who are the most egalitarian. This probably reflects
that, when spouses agree on this issue, they are more likely to be satisfied and add another child. In contrast, when
one spouse is egalitarian but the other is not, they are less likely to risk another child at least, the woman will be.
But it would be unrealistic to expect a