school of thought contests this view and a third argument states that nothing has changed and that the family unit remains largely unchanged (Gillies, 2003). This paper explores the argument that the family is in decline. Firstly, a definition of family will be provided. Secondly, three theoretical perspectives will be presented in regards to the family being in decline. Finally, a conclusion will synthesize the main points raised in this paper, and provide recommendations for future research.
Defining what a family is is a highly contentious issue. In 1949 George Murdock defined a family as a group of people that includes two of both sexes, at least tow of who have a legally sanctioned relationship, and one or more children. This view was upheld by functionalist theorists such as Parsons and Goode (Parsons & Bales 1955, Goode 1963 cited in Levy, Widmer, & Kellerhals, 2002). However, over time the variety of families in industrialised societies has increased dramatically, hence its definition has been modified. Macionis and Plummer (2002) define a family as a social institution that can be found to exist in all societies. The function of the institution being to unite people into a cooperative group, to enable survival and raising of children, socialization of children and a regulation of the sexual activity of the people within the group. The family unit being a social group of two or more people who may be related through blood or marriage, or through adoption or by virtue of cohabitation or family by choice, and so share in the economic and social responsibilities (Macionis & Plummer, 2002).
In 21st globalised society numerous forms of family structure exist: the nuclear family remains, with two parents and children, although the term has been extended to include same sex couples who may not be married; the reconstituted family that combines two one-parent families; single-parent families; and the extended family which may be “vertical” in that