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June 25, 2013 / C H Thompson

Challenges to Parson’s Isolated Nuclear Family

Some other academics have challenged Parsons view that industrialisation led to the development of the nuclear family.

Laslett (1977) historical research found only 10% of households met the criteria of the classic extended family. This being due to people in the pre-industrial period marrying late and dying relatively young therefore there was only a few years between people marrying and their parents dying.

Therefore Laslett’s (1984) position is the nuclear family was far more commonplace that Parsons realised meaning the nuclear family (along with other social and political changes) assisted the arrival of the industrial era.

However Laslett’s position was challenged by Michael Anderson’s (1977) research into the family structures. His study of the 1851 census of Preston found 23% of poorer households contained kin other than the nuclear family – contradicting Laslett.

Preston’s substantial cotton industry meant many families lives were fraught with hardships such as periods of high unemployment, low wages and overcrowded housing. With no welfare state large kinships built around grandparents provided networks of mutual support.

Return to Parsons isolated nuclear family.


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