Overview of Family Types in Britain

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About this sample


Words: 1791 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Words: 1791|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

In this essay, I will be exploring how the structure of family changed in Britain in over the last hundred years and the implications it has had on the education system. I will be looking into industrial revolution, post war Britain, different types of family structures in todays society and how they have all taken an impact on the education system throughout.

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The definition of a family today is ‘a group consisting of two parents and their children living together in a unit’. To start off with, I will be focussing on the 18th and 19th centuries and looking into the industrial revolution, and the construction of families and how the education system was formed during this time. Industrial revolution was “the process of change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by the industry and machine manufacturing.” 1 During this time, the number of factories in Britain ricocheted as well as the number of jobs. This led to the migration of people from the rural areas, to the city. This impacted families as housing started to become congested, affecting the lives of the families. Men would be at work, acting the role of a breadwinner, whereas women would have to annunciate their housewife roles and skills. Women had to look after their children, where according to Anderson (1990, 28)5, 6 was the average number in an average marriage, as well as the elderly grandparents. Families had no time for each other, due to the constant work. Prior to the revolution, children were more liberated as they were able to play with no responsibilities. However, this changed as after the revolution, they were expected to join factories with their fathers to help with their financial situation. Children’s physique was also considered, as their small bodies would be able to get into confined spaces. Industrial revolution

During this period, poor children got their form of education through Sunday schools as schools were not a common thing. Education was not compulsory, and the education system was not set yet. Sunday school was the only thing working class children could attend, and even then, some could not attend due to their lack of suitable clothing. The rich were able to afford schooling for their children and did not have to worry about their financial status. Due to this situation, the government slowly started to introduce free education system through these Sunday schools and began to develop an education system. During the early 18th century, 2 hours of schooling became compulsory for children, who worked at factories. Charities started to help schools because government started funding them. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Education Act was introduced, and it became a compulsory thing. Children had to attend school until the age of 11. Post war education system

Moving onto a post war childhood and family structure. Before the first world war, a lot of opportunities and independence was given to women such as going work and making money just like their partner. However, post second world war, this change abruptly, and they had to return to their role as a housewife, looking after the household and their children. There was a lot of changes and transitions during post war Britain. The number of divorces increased. “in the late 1930s, there were only 7500 divorces a year. The number shot up to 60,000 a year in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, fell in the 1950s and then began an apparently inexorable rise, from 32,000 in 1961 to 74,000 in 1971.” (2006, 3) 2 The typical ideology of family had changed, and society was slowly getting used to it. Women began fighting for their rights and their independence, which they eventually got. After the WWII, the UK had a labour shortage due the newly formed National Health Service (NHS)4 .The cities were destroyed by all the bombing and they need workers to help the country out leading to immigrant coming to the country from various parts of the countries such as West Indies, South Asia and Cyprus, Caribbean and Trinidad. . Due to the sudden change and lack in communication, British people did not take this accordingly and acted out. They became racist and discriminatory towards the immigrants. Sources state that “black children were much more likely to be living in a lone parent family”, which effected the definition of a nuclear family. Their migration also took a positive effect on the education system. Post war family

Post war Britain resulted in the Education Act 1994, which was when education became compulsory until the age of 15. I feel as though this act personally helped a lot of families, as their children’s future was set until the age of 15. Previously, after the age of 11, children would immediately have to go into employment or some remained at home, meaning that the mother had to act a childminder as well as being a housewife. This act responded well with single mothers, alongside the increase in divorce, as they also had one less responsibility. This led to a change into the national curriculum where they introduced citizenship classes – a way to educate the students about nationalities, language and religions. If they became understanding of the new changes, they would adhere to the change and accept it without being harsh and discriminatory. Post war education

Furthermore, I will be looking into family structure in these times. The definition of a family has changed from a traditional nuclear family to a having many definitions due to there being different types. The term for a nuclear family meant “a family consisting of two parents and their children, but not including aunts, uncles, grandparents etc.” 3 The different types of families consists of divorced, separated, gay, lesbian, adoption, single parents, step families. Family structures as well as family values were completely different to a 100 years ago. Family were all about interaction and the complexity has changed. Insert quote about modern family structure.

One type of family we will be focussing on today is divorced families. I spoke about the increase of divorces briefly during post war Britain however, today from demographical data, we can see a solid increase in the level of divorces after 1960. This has resulted in single parent families, which majority of the time it is the mother who looks afters the child. There is a percentage of men who are single parents, as widowers or have legal guardianship over their children from a divorce, and there is also a percentage where both parents co parent and distribute the time they have with the children equally. Regardless of who the single parent is, they then have the responsibility to provide for the child financially; for basic necessities such as school, food, clothes and emotionally; they need to be able to support them, and be there for them as well as becoming a sole breadwinner to provide for the family itself. The consequence of this structure of a family can be unemployment and part time jobs which can barely cover the cost of everything. Modern family structure – divorce

Being in a divorced/single parent family does take effect on education. It effects the child’s achievements and grades. Sources show that “Children of divorced parents are also more likely to be held back a grade and have a lower grade” (2000, 88)6 It is found that children are affected emotionally as an outcome of a divorce, which leads to them losing motivation at school, increase in truancy and behavioural problems. The effects of not having both their parents and feeling segregated from their friends who have a “normal” family, or not having their parent there all the time e.g. attending school meetings, performances, could affect them mentally. “Research on the effect of divorce on children has focused primarily on such problems as childhood psychological and social adjustment, delinquency, school behaviour and achievement and adolescent achievement motivation.” (1988, 797)7 In terms of materials, living within a single parent, often means that that the mother is working part time or unemployed, having to rely on benefits. This categorises the family as working class. Children would be living in a council flat, with not much space or resources to complete their homework or revision, which also implicates their education. This is a disadvantage towards their education. Their lack of money may even lead to the mother having to do manual jobs such as a cleaner, retail worker or school cooks. This could also lead to the child babysitting any siblings he/she may have, which could also put them back in terms of their grades.

Another type of family in the modern society is cohabitation and marriage out of wedlock. “A living arrangement whereby a couple who is not married or a couple who is in a civil partnership live together in the same household. The term can apply to opposite sex or same-sex couples.”8 As family structures continue to evolve, this family structure is completely unlike a typical nuclear family. Paola Scommegna, the writer of an article on Increased Cohabitation Changing Children’s Family Settings believes that 40% of children today are growing up with unmarried parents, who are a couple but live together.9 This is different to the past as before, it was a norm to be married and have a child, but having a child out of wedlock was a taboo thing but it has now become normalised too. One reason for the change in the structure of a family could also be due to secularisation. People are not as religious as the people in Britain during the `8th and 19th century. They have more freedom and not as restricted by religion, hence why they cohabit and have children before. Some may also not believe in marriage and may believe that a married couple is not essential to start a family. A family is those who you love, and marriage may potentially not define that.

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In comparison to children who live in a divorced family structure with only one parent, I believe that children who live with their cohabitant parents, are more likely to do well in school with their education. They have support from both parents, financially and emotionally. If one of their parents is working, then the other is there to attend all school related things, which will give them the encouragement they need. They have both the parents there to give time and think ahead about the higher education such as university, future careers and be a role a model to them. Also, there is no factual evidence as “little is known about how living in such families affects children’s academic success” (2005, 144)10 Therefore, we cannot make a full judgement on how education is implicated through this family structure.  

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Overview of Family Types In Britain. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“Overview of Family Types In Britain.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
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