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Family Values in Australia Today

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Family Values in Australia Today

Introduction When family values are invoked, several questions are raised. Does it belong to the right or to the left, in political terms? What is its history? Christian fundamentalists draw on a very particular reading of the Bible and cultural tradition in the West to display their concept of the 'natural family.' Feminist philosophers analyze the symbolic order of Western metaphysics to explain the society’s conception of the family, and the values and expectations the society places on femininity accordingly. Sociologists and other theorists account for the family with reference to social structures and data constantly under review and revision in the West. This paper outlines the current perception of family values. The analysis takes up the question of what the family may (and may not) be today in advanced capitalist countries like Australia, and what might be the political effects of rhetoric of family values.
The Current State of Family Values The 21st century has dawned with evolutions and revolutions in the positions of the family in the society. For a long time, the family has been the basic unit of the society. Through the family, empires, and clans have been established with their presence experienced globally. However, the contemporary generation has mixed views on the position of the family. This is as a result of the ambiguity existing in the definition of family resulting to fight over marriage and sexual rights. For instance, in 2004, there was a sexual panic in USA spurred by President Bush’s union address on marriage. According to Herdit (2004, p. 157), the stage was set for politics of marriage. President Bush viewed marriage between a man and a woman as a symbol of civilization and was supported by religious stakeholders. On the other hand the gay and lesbian couples took to stage by lining up at City Hall insane Francisco to be married. These mentioned cases are instances that characterize the place of a family in the contemporary generation. It seems difficult to have a clear-cut definition of family in the mentioned contexts. This is as a result of the variation in the morals, standards of living, principles of relationship, and ethics in each context. This means that family values in the contemporary generations are diverse. An attempt to define the family in the contemporary setting, more so in Australia, is met with some ambiguities and must therefore be done with the help of sociological theories.
Theories of family values Theories on the family values are sociological explanations on the origin of family values. The theories enable one to understand the reasons behind their birth, their roles in the contemporary setting, and the reasons they exist in given settings. Through the theories, the current state of family values in Australia can be explained. A family in the 21st century generation has a different connotation from the past generations. Given the ambiguous nature of the family in the contemporary generation, different theories have been suggested to give a clear picture of the family constituent and values. The theories differ in explanation because there is hardly a one size fit for all in the approach toward structuring the family. These theories are highlighted below. The earliest theories of families attempted to position family based on the genes. Family members were considered on the premises of their ancestral relationship. This means family values in the earliest context were based on the blood ties. In Australia, family ties are still valuable. According to the information from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2012, par. 2), family ties are valued in Australia and are the basis for awarding a visa to immigrants. Aristotle coined a phrase ‘whole is greater than parts’ that was later expounded by other theorists to form the theory of structural functionalism of a family (Marilyn 2005, p. 12). The theorists in this case led by Parsons Claims that a society consist of various components including schools, homes, churches, and nuclear family settings among many. Based on structural functionalism, a family is visualized in several ways based on their functionality. In Australia, family values are categorized based on social norms, traditions, customs, and institutions under which they are formed. For instance, the Hill Song Church in Australia has become a family characterized by worship of God in music. The values or ethics that characterize the personality of people in a given settings are derived from the practices characterizing that setting. Parsons, who was on the frontline in promoting this theory claims that the most efficient and functional component of a society in the industrial age is a nucleated family. Parsons argues that a nuclear family is an essential component with social values special in every setting. In the nuclear family, the values stipulated define separate roles for men, women, and children. However, this theory has been criticized by various schools of thoughts. The critics claim that the theory does not take into considerations various exceptions in the society. The contemporary society has various families consisting of single parents or consisting of couples of similar sex with adopted children. Also, the theory sidelines women to a particular role. Structural functionalism theory has been received well by some Christian denominations in Australia and the world (Marilyn 2005, p. 15). Christian teachings recognize a family as an important institution instituted by God and consisting of a man, a woman, and children. The Christian family values further states that a man is the head of the house and a woman ought to be subjective. Furthermore, religions abhor families based on ungodly values, such as those consisting of couples of same sex. Family values have also been portrayed through system theory. This theory was developed in 1960s and defines a family as a subset of the society. The theory claims that a family is structured by a unique set of intergenerational and inter-gender relationships. Subsequent to system theory is the materialist theory. This theory was coined on Marist view of the society during the industrial period of 1970s. This theory views a family as a two-sided production unit. The first side is the production of human beings and is termed as reproduction function whereas the second side is the production of wealth and is termed as capitalistic side. In view of this theory, a family is seen as a unit of the society concerned with multiplying and acquiring material goods for their welfare. In Australia, there are some renowned families in quest for wealth. They include, the Pratt family, the Forrest family, the Palmer family, and the Lowy family among many. According to King (2012, par. 5), these families are displaying their influence and values through wealth. In the 21st century, a family is no longer a constant unit with a catholic definition. The place of a nuclear family in today’s society is quickly eroding away and one defines a family based on his or her convenient context. The position of the family is viewed in modernist theories (Marilyn 2005, p. 17).
The Current Family Values in Australia Australia is an example of a mixed society in several aspects. Families exist in various forms and patterns. In the first place, there is a popular modern class whose life is mediated by the media. According to the research done by Irvine (2011, par. 3), Soap Operas have defined the contemporary lives of Australians. The research by Irvine reports on the tales of Australians who have been influenced by the highly commercialized soap opera termed as the Bold and the Beautiful. The families in the soap operas have set a standard in their lives that is admired by majority of the contemporary generations in Australian. According to Irvine (2011, par. 5), majority of the Australians consider the Forest Family, which is the main actors in the soap opera the Bold and the Beautiful, as an ideal family life worth living. The current generation is struggling to live as an ideal and modern family as predicted by the modernists theory. According to Cheal (1991, p. 147), families whose lifestyles are mediated by the media can be described as the television set families. Living a television life is not ideal way of family lives because everything is done in pretense. The fact a television set switches off as soon as power goes off means that such lives cannot stand the test of time. At the same time, the values of families struggling to simulated life on television cannot last for long because there are breakups and shifting in the styles of living to suit the environment. The Australian community has further devised a democratic form of life in the family values. According to Vera (2011, p. 19), the government of Australia reviewed the Family Act of 1975 in 2009 to give equal platform to same sex couple as in the case of heterosexual couples. As a result the country has seen a public leaving of gay and lesbian couples into a private cleavage as married or cohabiting couples. At the same time, women liberation movement that begun way back in 1970s has given women more powers to obtain a right standing in the society as being capable of raising families on their own. This has seen the surfacing of single parent families in Australia. According to the survey carried out in 2007 by Australian Social Trends (2008, p. 17), it was discovered that 15% of families in Australia consist of single parent by choice. At the same time, the research discovered that 31% of children born every year were from single mothers. Religion plays a big role in shaping family values in Australia. In the story by Lohrey (2006, p. 14), a teenage Australian girl explains the stand of the church on sex. According to the information given, it is evident that the church in Australia advocates for sex after marriage. It is further evident that the church is fighting to retain Christian values in the family. The family setting in Australia is therefore varied in values and is a portrayal of modernist’s theories on family values (The Australian 2012, par. 8).
A family is an essential unit of the society. It is remains the basic block of building the society and the country. For a long time, a family has traced its origin around a male member of the society and also from ancestral ties. People have been named and behaved based on their lineage. As results, family values have been based on the practices of their ancestral ties. Although an ancestral tie remains of significant value to the family, the contemporary society has no fixed definition of family values. Environment and time has dictated the concept of the family values. In a capitalistic society like Australia, values in the family do not follow one channel. Amidst the ambiguity, a nuclear family remains the ideal benchmark unit of family with ethical values prevailing in the same being valued and justified.

List of References

Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2012, fact sheet 32 - family stream migration: other family, retrieved from the Australian Government, 30 September 2012, <>

Australian Social Trends 2008, One-parent families, retrieved from Australian Social Trends, 26 September 2012,
Cheal, D 1991, Family and the state of theory, University of Toronto press: Toronto
Herdt, G 2004, Moral panics, sex panics fear and the fight over sexual rights, New York University press: New York.
Irvine, J 2011, Young Australia’s choice: royal soap opera or republic, retrieved from The Punch, 26 September 2012, <>
King, M, 2012, Who are the richest Australians, retrieved from The Big Pond Money, 30 September 2012, <>
Lohrey, A 2006, voting for Jesus: Christian and politics in Australia, Quarterly essay Journal, vol. 22, pp. 1-14.
Marilyn, P 2005, Understanding the Family: Ideals and Realities’ in Family: Changing families, Changing times, Allen & Unwin press: Crow’s Nest, NSW.
The Australian 2012, Thousands rally in support of same-sex marriage, retrieved from The Australian, 26 September 2012,
Vera, B 2011, Laurie Ferguson alone in same-sex support, Macarthur Chronicle press: Werriwa

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