TAKE HOME EXAM Essay Example

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TOPIC 11: 3. The nuclear family might be perceived as a social and cultural construct that serve particular interests and purposes. Explain some of the factors that contributed to the emergence of the nuclear family and discuss whether it is an outdated family model.

The nuclear family is defined as one that consists of a heterosexual couple living in a home together with their children (Beaugard et al 2009). The concept of nuclear family is a Western construct having emerged in that part of the world during the industrial period although there are some studies that refuted this theory. Prior to this period, the Western world shared many characteristics of their families with the rest of the world. Prior to this, the common family structure of the Western world and the rest of the world were found in main rural societies dependent largely on agriculture with work activities carried out at home rather than in a workplace outside the home. Called the extended family structure, this type of family that dominated the pre-industrial period, was large, self-sufficient, patriarchal household involving many generations (Popenoe 1988).

The nuclear family supposedly emerged as a result of industrialization and modernization. The shift from the extended family structure, which was the dominant family structure around the late 19th century to the Middle Ages, to the nuclear form in Western countries, as theorised by Talcott Parsons (cited in Ruggles 1994), was allegedly made to adapt to macro-economic and social changes brought about by the Industrialisation Period. However, other historians have debunked this theory and insisted that the nuclear family structure had always been dominant although it has transitioned to modern nuclear family system in response to the changing times. The modern nuclear family, according to sociologist Ernest Burgess, emerged in response to “urbanization, increased individualism, and secularism and the emancipation of women” (Bengtson 2001, p 3).

The concept of nuclear families is becoming outdated, particularly in Western countries, and it has become a hindrance to the responsiveness, equality and fairness of the legal systems of countries. According to Bartlett (1984), the concept of nuclear family has failed as evidenced by the increasing number of children living outside of their homes outside of the ‘traditional nuclear families.’ This is true in the United States, for example, where the number of parents divorcing is ever increasing resulting in single-parent families or step-families. The Australian context mirrors the reality of developments in family structures in other Western countries. A marked decrease in the number of nuclear families and an increase in single parent families have been observed in Australia in the late 20th century. Couple-only – that is, families where there are no dependent children living — families are also rising (Tugarabeci et al 2007). As a result, family law, which is heavily anchored on the concept of nuclear family, has become unresponsive and inadequate to the needs of children who are living outside of traditional nuclear families. On the other hand, Beauregard et al (2009) have pointed out that the incompatibilities between the traditional concept of nuclear family and actual contemporary family structures is posing a disadvantage to persons coming from non-traditional families. This is because employment laws and labour policies are usually based on the concept of the traditional nuclear family. When employment legislation conceptualises the concept of family in a narrow manner, such as basing it exclusively of the concept of nuclear family, results in the privileging certain groups whilst disadvantaging others (Beauregard et al 2009).


Bartlett, K 1984, ‘Rethinking parenthood as an exclusive status: The need for legal alternatives when the premise of nuclear family has failed,’ Virginia Law Review, vol. 70, pp879- 963.

Beauregard, TA, Ozbilgin, M and Bell, M 2009, ‘Revisiting the social construction of family in the context of work,’ Journal of Managerial Psychology, vol. 24, no. 1, pp46-65.

Bengtson, V 2001, ‘Beyond the nuclear family: The increasing importance of multigenerational bonds,’ Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 63, pp1-16.

Popenoe, D 1988, Disturbing the Nest: Family Change and Decline in Modern Societies, Transaction Publishers.

Ruggles, S 1994, ‘The Transformation of American Family Structure,’ American Historical Review, pp103-128.

Turagabeci, AR, Nakamura, K, Kizuki, M and Takano, T 2007, ‘Family structure and health, how companionship acts as a buffer against health,’ Health and Quality of Life
Outcomes, vol. 5, pp61.

TOPIC 12 6.When the scientific evidence is so clear, why is there still resistance to climate change reduction strategies? Provide an example of resistance and explain what social factors contribute to its emergence. Think about the risks of change when formulating your answer.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC stated that evidence for climate change caused by human activities has become ‘unequivocal.’ Despite this, however, resistance to climate change reduction strategies continue to exist. In Australia, 10% of the public surveyed in public opinion polls believed that climate change is not significantly changing the environment or impacting the way people live. In the UK, the figure was even higher at 25%. Many also believed that even if climate change is true human activities are not causing it, but is due to natural cycles (Hobson and Niemeyer 2012). The latter view is predominant in the Australian context where most of those who accepted the existence of climate change believed that it is caused “solely by natural fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature” (Leviston and Walker 2012) and not by human activities.

The resistance to climate change reduction strategies and movement to discredit its evidence are usually traced to neoliberal and conservative movements. Neo-liberalism emerged as a concept in response to the economic and political crises of the 1970s. It gained a foothold as an economic and social concept with the elections of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US. The goal of neo-liberalists was to free market forces campaigning for deregulation, privatization, welfare cuts and reduced taxation. Neoliberals believed that everything will be better off if things are left to fend off for themselves and anything that departs from that philosophy is ‘anti-business and intrusive.’ This philosophy is mirrored in the resistance towards climate change strategies (Antonio and Brulle 2011).

The anti-environmentalism posturing that has often characterised neo-liberalism discourse heightened with the emergence of the climate change issue. Neo-liberalists campaigned to discredit climate change beginning with the publication in 2009 by the Marshall Institute of a report refuting the existence of climate change. They fear that the issue of climate change will be used as a tool to interfere with just about every aspect of environmental, economic, political and social life. A survey in the period between 2007 and 2009 mirrored the success of neoliberalists as more people were observed to lose belief in the evidence of climate change. The public believed that climate change strategies will diminish job opportunities and cause the reduction of energy supply. The recent economic crisis also relegated the issue to the background as chief efforts were directed towards growth restoration and debt reduction (Antonio and Brulle 2011).

The conservative movement, particularly in the US, has also contributed to the resistance to climate change reduction policies. It particularly opposed the idea of anthropogenic global warming or AGW, which blames global warning and climate change to human activities. Together with the fossil fuels industry, it organised a campaign to deny AGW and climate change and caused the publication of 108 climate change denial books. The campaign called ‘environmental scepticism’ zeroed in on manufacturing uncertainty as its chief argument stressing that evidence of climate change is not enough for regulatory action. Even with the subsequent withdrawal of fossil fuel corporations from the movement, the conservatives pushed through and created the Cooler Heads Coalition – a group of conservative think tanks, such as the CATO Institute, the Marshall Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute (Dunlap and Jacques 2013).


Antonio, R and Brulle, R 2011, ‘The unbearable lightness of politics: Climate change denial and political polarization,’ The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 52, pp195-202.

Dunlap, R and Jacques, P 2013, ‘Climate change denial books and conservative think tanks: Exploring the connection,’ American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 20, no. 10, pp1-33.

Hobson, K and Niemeyer, S 2012, ‘»What sceptics believe»: The effects of information and deliberation on climate change scepticism,’ Public Understanding of Science, pp1-17.

Leviston, Z and Walker, I 2012, ‘Beliefs and denials about climate change: An Australian perspective,’ Ecopsychology, vol. 4, no. 4, pp277-286.