SOC208 2019 Tut 4 Fri 1230 – The Transformation of Intimacy – Changes in sexuality and family structure

Whilst we often hold up the suburban nuclear family as ‘typical’ of Australian society, it is becoming increasingly clear that this form of co-habitation was a ‘special’ constellation that characterised the era of the 1950s and 1960s. Several trends mark its evident decline. The average Australian household is shrinking and ageing, and while specific historical factors are often held up to explain this shift – the sexual revolution, the advent of contraception and the rise in family planning – a broader social movement towards greater ‘individualisation’ plays a great part in this story.

The British sociologist Anthony Giddens describes the ‘transformation of intimacy’ in the later 20th century ‘late modern’ period, which continues today. We have so much more independence now from the constraints of traditional family and gender roles, that we can (and do) seek emotionally driven, egalitarian ‘pure relationships’ over traditional bonds such as marriage. This can be seen in the decline in marriage rates in Australia, and in the rising proportion of defacto couples.

Giddens’ theory goes further than marriage. It implies that human relations have become so individualised that we have lost (or can afford to lose) interest in traditional forms of cohabitation – such as the nuclear family – of any kind. This is evidenced in media concerns about the rise in childless couples, single parent families, and in particular, lone person households. However, a close examination of ABS statistics reveals a more complex picture.

The proportion of single parents, childless couples, and lone-person households in Australia increased substantially up to just past the turn of the millennium, but then slowed to almost no change. Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies shows that while the proportion of childless couple families is projected to overtake child couple families by 2036, there is almost no projected increase in the proportion of single parent families. ABS data also shows only a very small increase in lone-person households to 2036, which is much lower than the large increases seen in countries overseas, particularly in Scandinavia and Western Europe. So too, has the sale in Australian high-rise apartments dropped off, as house prices drop and the pendulum seemingly swings back towards suburbia.

Evidently, Giddens’ transformation is taking place to some degree, but seemingly at a lesser rate in Australia than in other countries. Perhaps that raises the question – what makes our families and us so special? Is the ‘Australian Suburban Nuclear Family Dream’ too strong to die?

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Posted in SOC208 - Cities, Communities and Families, UOW.

3 Comments on SOC208 2019 Tut 4 Fri 1230 – The Transformation of Intimacy – Changes in sexuality and family structure

Addie Isedale said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

It is clearly evident that there is an ever going change among society and the ‘social norm’. As shown, during the 1950-60’s the nuclear family was most prominent among society where as in comparison to current times, the nuclear family is now only one of many different styles of families. With a constant arise of social movements, diversity among communities is growing at a rapid pace, same sex marriages, divorce rates increasing resulting in more single person households are becoming more common as well as accepted. Today, the stereotype of the mother staying home looking after the children and taking care of the household duties while the father goes out to work for income is no longer the case. Yes it is still common but now both parents are able to work while having equal roles among the family. In my opinion, I don’t think the suburban nuclear family dream will die as it is still the majority in most countries, although I believe we will see more individuals and families breaking the cycle of the term ‘nuclear family’ structure which will create a new ideology of family. Ultimately, it’s the love the individuals within the family create a family, not necessarily their sexual identity or the amount of individuals in the household.

Karissa said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

There has been a huge change in intimacy, family structure and sexuality since the 1950s to today. The ideas of traditional marriage and the nuclear family have shifted. Divorce rates have increased and the goal to have a ‘pure’ relationship is beginning to form which Giddens explained ad a relationship where two individuals enter a relationship disregarding external criteria and both parties deliver mutual satisfaction to one another. This allows traditional stereotypical roles of a man and woman to change for example a stay at home dad and a working mum is acceptable in the relationship unlike previous traditional roles of the mother being a housewife and father working. The legalising of gay marriage has also changed the traditional ideologies in society and the idea of a nuclear family and sexuality by allowing more diverse families to be accepted. There is more of a push for this pure relationship in today’s society and clearly we are moving away from traditional roles and ideologies that were once followed.

Nicholas Michell said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

It is undoubtedly evident that there has been a major increase in the amount of divorces and a sudden drop in marriage rates across the population since the 1950’s. This is a collateral after-effect of social movements allowing more freedom within marriages and relationships. Giddens exhibits the idea of the ‘transformation of intimacy’ and that modern relationships rely upon equality between individuals in order to succeed. However, Giddens fails to demonstrate the value of many basic ideas in his theory of ‘the pure relationship’ such as love and care. These basic sentiments are often seen as mechanisms as well as solutions to many of the modern issues faced by modern partners. Furthermore, the crucial ideas of basic love and care that Giddens is failing to address are repeatedly seen to invigorate a sense of commitment to a partner within a relationship. What seems to be the main factor in the drop marriage rates and major increase in the amount of divorces is the fact that the nuclear family is now far less desirable than it was in the past.

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