Thesis: Families in a Global Context: Australia

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Families in a Global Context: Australia and Swaziland

The modern family is in a process of change and transition, with some experts predicting the demise of the traditional family structure. Globalization and the economic interconnectedness of all countries are exerting unique pressures for change in the modern family. Developed counties like Australia and the United States have been involved in changing patterns of family relations; which includes the change from the extended to the nuclear family as well as the important issue of gender roles within the family. On the other hand, developing countries with more traditional family structures are also facing severe challenges. In the case of Swaziland the challenges take the form of problems relating to gender roles in a conservative family structure as well as health issues such as HIV / AIDS that poses a threat the continuance of the family. In both these counties the role of the family is in the process of change and social and economic factors will determine the future shape and form of the family.

Outline

1. The difference between developed and developing countries.

2. The meaning of the family in this context.

3. The central issues and challenges pertaining to the family in Australia. This includes the changing gender roles which affect the structure and functioning of the family

4. The traditional family in Swaziland and the various challenges that it faces. This is discussed in the light of the challenges and demands made on developing counties by globalization.

5. The heath issues that face Swaziland and the impact that this has on the family

6. A comparison and summation of the main points and the way that these countries face challenges that are related to the future existence of the family.

1. Introduction

Throughout the world the family is in the process of change and metamorphosis. Some pundits even predict the demise of the family as an institution in modern societies. Various social and economic facts, including the significance of the phenomenon of globalization, have tended to influence the shape of the family structure and functions in most countries and regions of the world. However, at the same time that the family is subject to universal pressure and changes each country and region has different traditional and cultural histories with regard to the family and this means that they respond to the challenges of the modern era differently.

Another factor is that not all countries in the world are at the same level of development. This means that in relation to social and economic factors, such as relative affluence, various cultures have different needs and are affected differently in terms of global economic and political factors.

Therefore, before we can compare two countries with regard to their family structure and functions, we first have to clearly define concepts that influence this comparison. The first is the concept of the family and the second is the general differences between developed and developing countries.

In essence the family is a partner support system of cooperation which is aimed at reproducing society by breeding, feeding, housing and educating the next generation. However, this system of cooperation is complex and elements such as gender and class inequalities influence the structure and shape of the family in a particular country. This also refers to the aspect of challenge and change that faces the modern family. "…because the family partnership is changing, so too must change the work-family partnership and the nature of community links to both family and the workplace" (Edgar, 1997, p. 149).

Developed countries are contrasted and compared to developing countries in terms of wealth and relative advances in technology and socio-economic influence. However, there are a number of general differences that also have to be taken into account. In less developed countries in general it is found that due to the lower levels of economic affluence there is often an emphasis on family size and the number of children as an indicator of status. Therefore, families in many developing counties tend to be much larger and more complex than families in developing countries. Developed countries like the United Sates tend to have much smaller families and a much lower birth rate; for example in Japan where there is a declining or negative birth rate. As will be discussed in the following section, this means that developing counties like South Africa and Swaziland face very different challenges in terms of family structure in comparison to developed countries.

It is also significant to note that in geographical terms more than three-quarters of people on earth live in developing countries (Kintu ). It is also a generally accepted fact that. "Almost all the developing countries possess high population growth potential characterised by high birth rate and high but declining death rate" and that "Death rates in developing countries have fallen, compared to the past, due to improved health conditions and control of major infectious diseases" (Kintu ). However, the differences in terms of health issues between developed and developing countries will be focus of discussion the following comparison. This paper will compare the family in Swaziland and Australia in relation to their developed and developing country status.

2. Australia

The family structure and characteristics in Australia are modeled after norms of contemporary western and European society. This refers to the nuclear family and the decrease in extended family ties and dependences that has occurred over the last century. As will be discussed, this family structure differs considerably when the compared to the extended family structure in African countries, like Swaziland.

Another characteristic of Australian society that is similar to most other developed countries is the 'disintegration' of the family. This refers to the loss of family coherence and importance in many respects. "The countries in these parts of the world experience disintegration of a family as soon as the kids complete their education and start earning" (Smith, 2009).

This tendency towards the decline or dissolution of the family structure and its importance in society is consistent with many trends in developed countries. This is in contrast to many developing countries where there is still a strong sense of family ties and where much of the social class and other societal structures are intimately linked to extended family norms and structure. As one pundit notes,

In other parts of the world, the situation is not same. In some parts of the world the family units are as important to people living in those areas as they were a few decades back. These countries include many Asian and African countries… most of these countries are underdeveloped or developing countries (Smith, 2009).

The historical development of Australia and other developed Western countries is an important causative factor for the present structure of the family in these areas. The following quotation briefly outlines this aspect.

….western societies have undergone profound changes in family structures and processes over the past two decades. From a post-War rush to almost universal marriage and child-bearing, which consolidated in actuality the ideal of the breadwinner-housewife model of marriage and the family, we moved toward a much more diverse and complex array of family formation and reformation (Edgar, 1997, p. 147).

This presents a set of challenges for the Australian family that are very different in some regards to those faced by the family in less developed and developing countries. Gender issues and the role of male and female in marriage and family structure is a central area of concern and contention in this country. This refers to the changing relationship between the family, gender roles and the workplace and to the way this issue will be resolved in the future. This is in direct contrast to the more traditional view of gender roles in the family, where the male is the breadwinner and the female the homemaker. This is situation that is still prevalent in many countries such as Swaziland. As one expert states of Australian society: "Neither work policies nor family policies can be based any longer on this so-called traditional concept of men as the sole breadwinners and women as the sole caretakers of the children" (Edgar, 1997, p. 147).

There is a movement in the Australian family towards a more balanced and equal sharing of roles and responsibilities between male and female. Another characteristic that is typical of most developed counties is that "People marry later, have fewer children later, so the childbearing period is shorter and less of a restriction on opportunities" (Edgar, 1997, p. 148).

These changes in the structure of the family present certain challenges. In more traditional cultures the family has the responsibility of looking after the elderly. This however only works well in the extended family model. This is the still the case in countries like Swaziland. However, in Australia the extended family is no longer viable in a democratic economy and the care of the elder has shifted to the state and institutions. In short, there are many aspects of the family structure and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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