Households and Families
This introductory chapter deals with the micro-level of households and families. Families and households are the smallest social units in a society, apart from individuals. Macro-social changes are seen as the framework and causal factors for changes in household and family. Here, households and families are seen as adaptive social units rather than innovative and active ones (‘external approach’: see Hoffmann-Nowotny, 1996; Kaufmann, 1995). According to the external approach, impetus for change can come from technological innovations, from a change in the system of production, or from changes in the legal system. Several theoretical approaches try to explain family change: (1) economic theories take the primacy of technology and economic rationality for granted. Accordingly, social changes are seen as being caused by technological innovations that modify the economic system and ultimately exert essential influence on the family structure and the legal system. (2) A more sociological tradition emphasizes ideational factors of culture or ideas and hypothesizes that values and behavioural patterns change and therefore influence changes in the family structure. (3) A third line of theory hypothesizes that autonomous changes in the legal system lead to social and familial change. The economic approach, however, postulates that the legal system only plays a reactive role. (4) The functional differentiation approach (Durkheim, Parsons, Smelser) postulates that with the differentiation of society in the general process of modernization, households became more homogeneous. Since institutions in traditional societies were less differentiated, households were subject to a much stronger functional differentiation.
KeywordsNineteenth Century Nuclear Family Fertility Decline Large Household Family Household
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