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Sociological Theories of the Family

1. Defining the Family

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about what we mean when we talk about 'family', focusing in particular on: (i) the different people (and animals) that we might include in our 'family'; (ii) the extent to which our 'family' changes over the course of our lives; (iii) the concept of the nuclear family; (iv) the extent to which patterns of family life in the UK are becoming increasingly diverse, and potential alternatives to the term 'family', e.g. 'household', 'personal life', etc.; and (v) the advantages of continuing to use the word 'family'.


In this course, Dr Vicki Harman (University of Surrey) explores the sociology of the family. In the first module, we think about the different ways in which we might define the word 'family', as well as considering some of the alternative concepts that have found currency in recent sociological research, e.g. 'household', 'personal life'. In the following three modules, we explore functionalist, Marxist, and feminist approaches to the family, before turning in the fifth module to consider how the nature of the family and of family life has changed over time. In the sixth and final module, we think about the concepts of 'family practices' and 'family display', including the work of David Morgan and Janet Finch.


Dr Vicki Harman is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Surrey. Her research interests include family life, motherhood and gender. She is co-editor of Feeding Children Inside and Outside the Home (2019) and Mothering, Mixed Families and Racialised Boundaries (2015), and author of The Sexual Politics of Ballroom Dancing (2018).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Harman, V. (2021, August 23). Sociological Theories of the Family - Defining the Family [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Harman, V. "Sociological Theories of the Family – Defining the Family." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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