SOC208 2019 Tut 4 Mon 1130 – 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?

S208UOW19 #Tut4 #Mon1130

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

12 Comments on SOC208 2019 Tut 4 Mon 1130 – The Transformation of Intimacy – Changes in sexuality and family structure

Meaad Alqahtani said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

there are differences between the 1950s and 2019 in the family structure. i think yes the family structure has been changed from establishment to relationships. nowadays, people think to find a good partner and make supportive relationship. also, I think childless families is going up due to several reasons such as both men and women work, the women depend on themselves. women now have to finish school and find a job. having kids cost you much money, support and care. I do believe that each family is different, but I do not think that nuclear family now is the same in the 1950s.

Braden Clark (@Braden67683942) said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

It is true that there has been a noticeable change in family structure during recent times. A contributing factor has been described by Therborn (2004) as a detraditionalising of families in the west - more open and intimate, less bound to tradition. This is a trend that has been evident since the 1950s and is sure to continue the progression of an evolving household. Because of this, I also agree with what Giddens states about leaving traditional norms in what he describes as the 'transformation of intimacy'. Parts of what Giddens has written about has come from analysis of demographic data though this may not always reflect the true nature of a trend as other circumstantial factors could have been unaccounted for.

Charles Lenarduzzi said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

There is a clear difference in the change of intimacy between 1950 to current date.The shifting ideologies of people from a traditional approach to marriage is clearly evident with decreased birth rate and increased divorce rate. The desire for a nuclear family is slowly dying out and being replaced with the goal of having a 'pure relationship', which is explained by Giddens (1992) as a relationship where two individuals enter a relationship disregarding external criteria and both parties deliver mutual satisfaction to one another. As an example, the female of the relationship may not be a good cook, or the male may want to be a stay at home Father and so roles may be reversed entirely depending on what bring satisfaction to the participants of the relationship. There is a shift towards the 'pure relationship' in modern society because it allows for change in traditional relationship roles.

Hallie Churchill said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

The change in intimacy and family relationships from the early 1950's to the current time is quite evident. Through the multiple social movements that have occurred through time have paved the way for such changes. The typical nuclear family is not as enforced today as certain movements such as the feminist movement have influenced allowing both man and woman to freely leave a marriage without direct consequence and in often cases have equal access to the couples goods. There are also different structures and arrangements of marriage that are able to take place in today's society, it is possible to marry; a person of the same sex, an inanimate object or even a family member. The households of families have also dramatically changed and this is to accomodate for the changing forms of family.

Holly Kemp said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

Its funny to think about the future in regards to what we spoke about in the lecture when it comes to families (and family structures) these days loving big expensive houses and still being attached to the dream of the suburban nuclear family which was clear wasn't meant to last and is sure to continue to phase out over time. Then the questions are to be asked if this is the case where will we raise these families then? Going back to our first tutorial are cities the real place to be raising families as the questions of commuting times as well as the traffic come back into the equation again and long working hours to pay for these more expensive houses and how much is to much? I found an article written by Lia Karasten in 2003 which perfectly highlights how working in cities can be ideal but is it really a place to grow a family and the implications involved in this. Many questions in regards to the shift in family structures have been raised over the years when it comes to living arrangements and I have no doubt that more are yet to come as the years go by.

Brendon Fishwick said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

As clearly stated in the lecture, I completely agree that it has become abundantly clear that the concept of the nuclear family was never truly to last, and this is especially clear when considering today’s current society. The image that of a typical family that many dream of, the husband, wife and 3 kids is simply becoming far less common. There have been many factors contributing to this drastic change, as the Abbott reading states, some of which include falling fertility rates, increasing divorce rates and patterns of migrations. All of these factors are leading to a simple fact, and that is that the nuclear family, especially in Australia, is no longer the most common family form, with recent census data backing this up. In 2016, it was revealed that it is one-parent families with dependent children now compromising around 8% of all Australian families. This is not only the case in Australia, as the Abbott reading also suggests that “lone-parent families (originating from separation and divorce, from birth outside of marriage) have become increasingly common across many Western countries (Abbott 2005)”.

Liam O'Neill said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

I do agree with Giddens that there has been a transformation in intimacy, but I do not agree that we have more independence from the constraints of the traditional family and gender roles, no matter how much these conformities are recognized in society we will continue to depend on them to give us meaning. Of course, in late modernity people are now not just marrying and having children because it is expected of them but more because they want to but this idea that nuclear family is the ‘natural’ family structure is still present in contemporary Australian society. The Australian suburban nuclear family dream is definitely not too strong to die and with the recent legalization of gay marriage in Australia we will likely see more of these ‘non-traditional’ family structures begin to emerge to shape society and reshape what it means to be a part of a family.

Madison Ashton said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

I feel as though the Australian suburban nuclear family dream will start to become less important for people in this society in comparison to the 1950s. This is because of the changing ideals of family life and changes in society that impacts our family types. As noted from the lecture, there is more contraception now and the ability for people to ‘family plan’ about bringing children into the world which has caused the average Australian household to decrease in size. I do not think the suburban nuclear dream will die as for most people it is seen as a comfortable way of life. Giddens notes in today’s society there is the ‘pure relationship’ which is categorised by people seeking satisfaction, appreciating each other’s qualities and trust (Jamieson 1999). People today are exploring the creative forms of sexuality we have (which Giddens calls ‘plastic sexuality’) which has caused a decline of marriage and more defacto households. If following Giddens idea of intimacy with more of an individualised focus then it is only going to continue in the future as we would expect to see more childless couples and lone person households.

Joy derksen said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

The characteristics of the “Late modern” period within Australia naturally differ from those of the 1950’s, perhaps most noticeably within the notion of intimacy and all that is associated with such. The rise of the sexual revolution and the use of contraception by women has allowed them to maintain greater control over their lives, specifically with regards to child bearing and marriage. Although this movement away from early marriage and the typical “nuclear family” within Australia, may have been the result of this increased individualised behaviour as is described by Anthony Giddens, this does not mean the end of the Australian suburban dream. This is because although more freedom in decision making has been given to society, this does not inherently mean that Australians will choose to follow global trends typical of people with such freedoms. Thus, even when applying the freedom of choice, many Australians are still choosing to live in their own version of a “suburban dream”irrelevant of what they believe society would find ideal. And because of the revolutions of the past, they are free to do so.

Samantha Jones said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

I do believe that one day the 'Australian Suburban Nuclear Family Dream' is quite weak in todays society. A better relationship dynamic is Lynn Jamieson's 'Pure Relationship', the pure relationship is common and exists exclusively to satisfy your partners needs and known to continue as long as it thrives. These days many couoples stay together when they are not happy for the sake of their children as they have obvious responsibilities for them. the 'pure relationship' means couples will stay together based on love, happiness and sexual attraction. Jamieson states that the pure relationship involves opening up to each other's unique qualities and sustaining trust through mutual disclosure (Jamieson, L 1999). My personal experiences taught me that trust is one of the most important factors in any relationship. Jamieson suggests that a successful pure relationship recreates psychological stability and basic trust with others which is developed in a trauma-free and successful childhood which derives from trust placed by the child in their caretakers, (Jamieson, L 1999). The pure relationship means enjoying each others qualities. E.g. not all women can cook and some men prefer to be stay at home dads, thus allowing for a more flexible and free intimate relationship and a better family dynamic.

Emily Axam said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

I feel as though a huge contributing reason that childless families are on the rise while single parent families and single person households are not is due to the fact that the cost of living has become too much. People are deciding to wait until they are ‘financially ready’ to have kids, which realistically is almost never. Families with children don’t want to divide because they would rather deal with their homelife than the cost of supporting a family alone or simply living alone. I don’t think the ‘Australian suburban nuclear family’ is too strong to die (because positive things are happening with the LGBTQ community and such), but I do believe that many Australians are probably afraid of massive change. My question is, where does this stem from?

Rhiannon Mackie (@Soc208RhiannonM) said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

The differences are profound and ever changing from the 1950's to 2019, sexualities have changed and grown from being able to identify in public, have relationships and be same sex parents which was never the case in the 1950's. Divorce has been rising, which has caused single parents to rise as well in statistics. Australia is behind say, the US with their numbers of same-sex parents this could be due to the delayed same-sex marriage laws or our acceptance of same-sex couples as a country. House holds are now super diverse, with aunts and grandmothers caring for children versus the nuclear family of a mother, father and two children scenario. Each household is individualised and different to the next, but it is changing, it may be slower then other countries but we are growing as a country.

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