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The concept of nuclear family in Australia has undergone dramatic changes since colonialism to present day. Structural forces such as industrialisation, technology, feminist movement, marriage and multiculturalism have modified the nuclear family to its present state. Institutional forces such as government (legislative), church and education have followed this metamorphosis by incorporating and embracing these changes to its modality. Thus changing structural forces in Australian society have compelled institutional forces to make modifications accordingly.
The nuclear family is the "traditional" concept of a family it consisted of father, mother and their children with the mother not being in paid employment and the father being the sole breadwinner. The family or the household is one of the main institutions in society. It is here that almost all the consumption in society takes place. The make-up of the family is not as "cut and dry" as it once was. Social forces have modified the nuclear family, the structural and institutional forces such as multiculturalism, the feminist movement, education, the church and the government alter the notion of the nuclear family. The nuclear family is as it was, is dead, and what has replaced it has put all old theories about the family to the test.
In the 19th century, there was a prevalent argument amongst scientists that the more primitive the society, the more extended were its family systems; or the more developed it was, the more the family system followed the nuclear pattern. The broad conclusion was drawn and held that the extended family had been a victim of the industrial revolution (Ogburn and Tibbits 1963). These arguments were refined by the structural-functional sociologists of the 1950s. These writers referred to the process of differentiation (societal units becoming more specialised) in modernising societies - that is, as a society modernises, its units become increasingly more specialised. They saw the modern, nuclear family as better structured to accommodate this process of differentiation. The family they were referring was the nuclear family. Being smaller, this family form was seen as better equipped than other family forms to operate in the modern economy which revolves around individual achievement and social and geographic mobility (Parsons and Bales 1955).
It was predicted that as all world cultures moved towards industrialisation, their family systems would approach some variant of the nuclear type (Goode 1963). Thus, up to the 1960s, progression from extended to nuclear families via the industrial revolution was the prevailing perception of the history of Western family systems. At this time, however, careful reconstructions of past populations in England and other countries in western and northern Europe revealed the predominance of the nuclear family household well before the onset of the industrial revolution (Laslett and Wall 1972). This has been confirmed frequently in subsequent studies, and, indeed, it is now postulated by this school of thought that the nuclear family household in England has its origins as far back as the Christian revolution in the 4th century (Goldthorpe 1987). It was from about that time that the Church forces introduced restrictions upon marriage and inheritance, which had the effect of increasing its own wealth while weakening links in the wider kin network. It promoted a change in land tenure from 'folkland' or land held in customary tenure by a kin group to 'bookland' or land held under a written title deed and subject to the written will of the land holder. Strategies of kin groups to retain their lands. Hence nuclear family power was severely limited by the restrictions imposed by the Church (Goody 1983)
A similar battle for supremacy is being played out today in many developing countries between the emerging nation state and the powerful kin groups or lineages in the society. In many of these instances, however, it is the kin grouping which prevails by gaining control over the functioning of the state. If industrialisation had any impact on family structure it was to increase the extent of extended family households among working people in towns and cities where there was a housing shortage (Anderson 1971). By the late 19th century, however, with the extension of credit to working class families and the growth of worker's cottages, these poor, urban extended families declined in significance (Anderson 1980). The evidence shows clearly that before and after the industrial revolution young couples in were expected to set up their own separate households and, indeed, that the aged were also expected very largely to live separately from their children (Laslett 1989).
With this historical background and as the predominant cultural forms in Australia have their origins in English systems, we could expect to find that Anglo-Australian family households have also always been nuclear
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Anderson, Ogburn, Finch, Berwick, Goode, Bales, Willmott, Tibbits, Ehrenreich, Burggraf, Anglo-Australian, d'Abbs,
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Family Court, dominant group,
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Australians, England, Lincoln, northern Europe, Melbourne,
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nuclear family, extended family, family systems, australian, family life, society, Family Law, this family, industrial revolution, social force, family relationships, Family Court, Family Matters, nuclear families, extended families, child care, structural, industrialisation, institutional, breadwinner, feminist movement, individual, historical research, idealised, Australian studies, traditional, Australian states, child support, child protection, land tenure, working people, show, liberation movement, real people, gender inequality, Western societies, fertility rate, emerging nation, world cultures, model, group, northern europe, social security, a new perspective, colonial life, conventional wisdom, moral values, Living Standards, service provider, cultural links,