1.1 Introducing ‘family meanings’

Wendy: What's important about being in a family?

Juliet: I've got mixed feelings in a way, cause I sometimes feel they are over-rated … You don't have to be suffocated in a two parents and a couple of kids situation. To me that is not the be all and end all.

Fred: … it's the natural flow of family life isn't it. You know that you get old
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the concept of ’ (knowledge and understanding);

  • Engage with and review debates about selected key concepts relevant to the study of families and personal relationships;

  • Identify connections between concepts and the themes they raise for research and for social policy;

  • Understand some of the social processes underlying research around family issue
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Introduction

In this unit you will encounter many different voices and views of ‘family’, and sometimes you will also be invited to reflect on your own views and assumptions. So, we welcome you to the fascinating study of family meanings. By putting ‘meanings’ at centre stage, and using this as a framework to examine families and relationships, this unit will give you an opportunity to explore the shifting and subtle ways in which people themselves, researchers, policy-makers and professionals mak
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References

Arnett, P. et al. (1998) Flash! Associated Press Covers the World, New York, Harry N. Abrams.
Barley, N. (1983) The Innocent Anthropologist, London, Penguin.
Becker, H.S. (1985) ‘Do photographs tell the truth?’ in Cook, T.D. and Reichardt, C.S. (eds) Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Evaluation Research, London, Sage.
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Looking at the family: the 1950s

Activity 4

3.2 Looking at the family

Activity 3

The 1990s wedding photograph

Figure 3
Figure 3: Wedding group in 1997.

Now let us look at the 1990s image. This too depicts a wedding. What makes it different from that of
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2.4 Looking closely at photographs for social data

Activity 2

Look at the photographs of a wedding group in Figures 2 a
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2.2 Theories, documents and knowledge

Documentary evidence is often messy and inconsistent, and even where it seems to be ‘factual’ (for example in the form of official records) its precise meaning in terms of wider social processes is far from clear. There is uncertainty about what it means, as well as the representation of uncertainty and diversity in the images. In every case, the meaning of the evidence is dependent on interpretation, that is, the part of the theory we employ to understand what is going on.
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1.4 The context of photographs

When this picture first appeared in newspapers and magazines in 1972, it was to be found next to a caption and in many cases a supporting article as well. The caption text might have been simply descriptive (in most cases, probably taken from the agency caption supplied with the photograph). Where there was also an article, this would have been a text that placed the image in context, either in terms of the specific event of which the photograph is a direct record, or in terms of a wider acco
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1.3 Nick Ut's 1972 Vietnam war photograph

Figure 1 Huynh Cong (Nick) Ut, 1972.
Figure 1: Huynh Cong (Nick) Ut, 1972: ‘Phan Thi Kim Phuc, centre, her burning cl
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4.2 Structure and agency in the explanation of the crime problem

The social sciences are both united and divided by the debate over structure and agency. That debate turns on the degree to which people are either free to act as they choose or are constrained by forces beyond their control and possibly beyond their perceptions.

Structural explanations of human behaviour argue that an unrestrained freedom of action is an illusion. Human behaviour is neither random nor purely self-determined. There is always a range of constraints, rules, pressures, es
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3.5 Evaluating claims, using evidence

Where does this exploration of evidence lead us? Can we decisively confirm or refute the common-sense stories of the crime problem in the UK?

Through an investigation of quantitative statistical evidence we certainly have some support for the claim that crime has risen considerably. But there are also doubts. The official statistics do not reflect unrecorded crime, and as one probes more deeply into the statistics we find that only certain types of crime have been on the rise. In any ca
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3.1 Claims about crime

Definitions beg questions. So do social narratives and stories. Again, we need, as social scientists, to begin with an analytical task. What are the key claims that are being made in the common-sense story of the problem of crime? What are the core arguments that hold the whole thing together? There are a number of these, but two seem to be particularly important.

Claim 1: UK society in the immediate
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2.2 A society frightened by crime?

We do not have to look too far to find someone saying that the UK is a society gripped by rising levels of crime, anti-social behaviour and incivility; or that disorder threatens social stability. The criminologist Robert Reiner suggests that ‘in the last 40 years, we have got used to thinking of crime, like the weather and pop music, as something that is always getting worse’ (Reiner, 1996, p. 3). So who is telling this story?

Most of us will have heard older family members and fri
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Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • give a definition of crime (in terms of society);

  • state the steps and factors that lead from a crime to conviction;

  • illustrate how society views crime ‘with fear and fascination’;

  • give examples of the relationship between crime rates and the evidence to support these claims.


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4 Conclusion

  • Since its invention, modern sport has been closely linked to the mass media as a central part of popular culture.

  • The media have expanded the reach of sports audiences and helped populate and enrich professional sport.

  • Sport provides exciting content for the media through comprehensible narratives and modern heroes and celebrities.

  • The media are selective in their coverage of sport, demonstrating inequaliti
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3 Personal agency, participation and refusal: gathering evidence

While it is difficult to exaggerate the impact of this construction of ‘welfare dependency’, particularly in the USA, this construction does not go unchallenged. A very wide range of groups of people who are poor or who are subject to discrimination succeed in shaping welfare arrangements by evading, refusing or resisting policies. Historically, there are numerous examples of collective agency in resisting and reshaping welfare policies. In the USA, Fox Piven and Cloward (1977) trace the
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Introduction

This unit is an adapted extract from the course Personal lives and social policy (DD305)


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4.3 Reconstituting older people's personal lives in uncertain times

The multiplicity of different ‘work-endings’ at the close of the twentieth century, combined with the increasing mobilisation of older people through pensioner and ‘third age’ movements, effectively destabilised the institution of retirement and the associated orthodoxy that older age began at the age of 60 or 65 years.

However, voices from within the pensioner movement were marginalised in the process of reconstitution that ensued. A neo-liberal redrawing of the boundari
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