Family Life Essay

2302 words - 10 pages

“The normative assumptions about families that are embedded in family policy have contributed to the production of policy that fails to adequately address some problematic areas of family life.” Discuss.

This assignment will discuss how legislation has developed historically and culminated in the family policies of present day and how they have impacted upon some of the problematic areas of family life, namely domestic violence and child abuse. Within the assignment the discursive formation of the ‘ideal’ family will be discussed and how from the late 18th and early 19th centuries these constructions continue to inform and influence family policies.

Prior to the 18th century ...view middle of the document...

This family form did not require state intervention as all their needs could allegedly be met from within. However, the family is not a homogeneous unit, family forms have varied historically, socially and culturally (Muncie, et al., 1995, quoted in Saraga, 2001, p. 193). There is “a diversity of household arrangement in which people live” (Saraga, 2001, pp. 193-194).

The roots of social welfare can be traced back to the enactment of the Poor Laws. At this time the dominant economic discourse was that of laissez-faire’ indicating minimal government involvement (McCoy, 2001, p. 108). Poverty was regarded as being a natural condition of society. The problems of the poor were articulated as an expression of class ideology. The inadequacies of the poor working-class women were articulated in a general concern for both the health and morals of the working-class family (Mooney, 2001, p. 67).

Gordon (1989) stated that the powerful ideology of what constitutes a normal family had been so taken-for-granted that acts of violence and abuse within families were rendered ‘invisible’ (Gordon, 1989, p. 269 quoted in Saraga, 2001, p. 196), as opposed to visible crime, i.e. street crime. The home was therefore considered to be a ‘safe place’.

‘Family violence’ is a term that encompasses the various forms of violence that can take place between family members. The term ‘abuse’ can be used synonymously for both domestic violence and child abuse, including all forms of aggressive or unwanted physical and sexual contact. Sexual violence along with non-physical abuse such as verbal, psychological or emotional, including threats, neglect and harassment. Domestic violence is a term that has historically been used to refer to different forms of intra-familial violence, such as spouse abuse, child abuse, sibling abuse and elder abuse. It is the abuse of a person by any person with whom the victim is living, has lived, or with whom a significant relationship exists.

In the 19th century political and public concern regarding child abuse were centered on issues of social order and delinquency. May (1978) states that there was a “universal belief in the sanctity of parental rights” including the right to use ‘reasonable chastisement’ (May, 1978 quoted in Saraga, 2001, p. 199). In 1889 organisational and legislative measures were enacted following concerns about increasing levels of violence, particularly within ‘working-class’ families, with the foundation of ‘The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’, and ‘The Prevention of Cruelty to, and Better Protection of Children Act. Cruelty and neglect of children became a ‘criminal’ issue (Parton, 1985 quoted in Saraga, 2001, p. 200). In 1885 ‘The Criminal Law Amendment Act’ was introduced raising the age of consent to the age of 16 years, but it was not until 1908 that ‘The Punishment of Incest Act’ was placed in statute, criminalising sexual acts within families, however, women...

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