Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Families, communities and social change: then and now

an article by Nickie Charles (Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Warwick) published in The Sociological Review (Special Issue: Community re-studies and social change) Volume 60 Issue 3 (August 2012)


At the beginning of the 1960s, Colin Rosser and Chris Harris worked together on a community study in Swansea, south Wales, UK. It explored how families, in particular extended families, had been affected by social change since the early years of the 20th century.

The re-study, which began in 2001, investigated the nature of social change and how it had affected extended families in the four decades since 1960. Research that is framed in terms of contemporary sociological theory asks different questions from those that were asked in the 1950s when structural functionalism was the dominant paradigm.

The re-study, which replicated (as far as possible) the methodology of the original study, asked similar questions to those that had been asked in 1960. This meant that, inadvertently, it relied on a Durkheimian conception of society and social change.

In this article I explore some of the methodological implications of asking the same research questions 40 years apart and reflect on how the two studies differ in the way they address issues of ‘race’/ethnicity, gender and social class.

I suggest that asking the same questions allows an appreciation of the continuities as well as changes in how family and community are experienced.

No comments: