Although sociologists agree that social policy can have an important influence on family life, they hold different views about what kinds of effects it has and whether these are desirable. In this essay I will examine a range of different sociological views or perspectives on the impact of social policy on families. The actions and policies of governments can sometimes have profound effects on families and their members. Cross-cultural examples from different societies and historical periods can show us some of the more extreme ways in which the state’s policies can affect family life, this can help us to see the relationship between families and social policies in a new light. One particularly striking attempt by the state to shape family
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Functionalist’s support the welfare state and believe that it benefits those families in need, as well as this the welfare state supports and encourages the family in performing its functions more effectively. In today’s society the functionalists would support the Democrat party. The functionalist view on social policy has been criticised for assuming all members of the family benefit from social policies, whereas the feminists argue that policies often benefit men at the expense of women. Another criticism is that the functionalists assume there is an ‘march of progress’ with social policies steadily making life better and better, whereas Marxists argue that policies can also turn the clock back and reverse progress previously made.
The New Right have had considerable influence on government thinking about social policy and its effects on family. They see the traditional nuclear family, with its division of labour between a male provider and a female home-maker, as self-reliant and capable of caring for its members. In their view, social policies should therefore avoid doing anything that might undermine this ‘natural’ self-reliant family. The New Right criticise many existing government policies for undermining the family. In particular, they argue that governments often weaken the families self-reliance by providing ‘generous’ welfare benefits. These include providing council housing for unmarried teenage mothers