Brenda ALMOND (University of Hull), Conflicting Ideologies of the Family: Is the Family Just a Social Construct?, English/20 pages, November 2006.


The traditional family is fragmenting in many parts of the world. The reasons for this are diverse. They include shifting interpretations of .family・, the practical consequences of the new reproductive technologies, changing views of the role of women in society, the impact of legal and fiscal change, and a shift in the concept of marriage, its durability and its status. The biological family provides the genetic link between generations, but .family・ is now a contested concept in which even such fundamental relationships as those of mother and father may be regarded as mere social and legal conventions. In an increasing number of jurisdictions, this social constructivist view is being introduced into legislation. Both partnering and parenting are being reinterpreted in a gender-neutral way, and in some cases, references to .natural・ or .biological・ parents are being replaced with the term  .legal parent.・ Scientific advances in the reproductive field have created a further gulf between biological and social reality by making it physically possible to separate genetic connectedness from parenthood. While research shows that children thrive best when brought up by their two biological parents, linked by formal marriage, these developments, combined with anti-family strands in some feminist thinking, has helped to promote the notion of .new families・.  The three steps that have led to the current situation this new ideology are: the weakening of the contractual aspect of marriage; the separation of partnering from parenthood; and the re-writing of parenthood as simply a legal and social convention.