Skip to main content

Unit information: Changing Families and the State in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Changing Families and the State
Unit code SPOL21008
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Watson
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This course is designed to examine and explore theoretically ‘the family’ and the ways in which social policies construct and reinforce specific family forms. It explores the policy implications of interventions by ‘the state’ into the familial and domestic arenas and considers the gendered nature of these interventions. In particular the unit will address:

  • Families and family policy in Britain: Examining the ways in which families have changed over time, historical and recent trends in policies.
  • Kith, kin and support for families through statutory services and friendship networks: the changing expectations of support from family members and kin through the life cycle, and alternatives to the conjugal heterosexual family.
  • State interventions: gender and age inequalities and state interventions into abuses of power within families in relation to domestic violence and child abuse. * Theorising ‘the family’: looking at theories which attempt to explain the development of the family, and family policy.
  • Discourses utilised in policy making arenas that construct ideas of risk, vulnerability and deviance of family forms.
  • The diversity of contemporary families and policy responses to these.
  • Notion of parenthood and how this is understood for mothers, fathers, siblings, kinship carers.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students will have acquired a critical knowledge of:

  • The diversity of family forms and what is meant by family policy;
  • Families and family policy in the UK in historical and contemporary contexts;
  • Kith, kin and support for families;
  • State interventions into family life;
  • Theories of the family;
  • Discourses evident in policy and policy processes related to the family;
  • Welfare systems for families and critiques

Teaching details

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Details

Second year students- Final assessment will be a 3,000 word essay

Third year students- Final assessment for this unit will comprise a 3-hour exam in the January exam period.

Reading and References

    • Davis, A. (2012) Modern motherhood :women and family in England, c. 1945-2000 Manchester ; New York : Manchester University Press.
    • Lewis, J. (2006) Children, changing families and welfare states, Cheltenham : Edward Elgar.
    • Nilsen, A., Brannen, J. & Lewis, S. (2011) Transitions to parenthood in Europe :a comparative life course perspective, Bristol : Policy Press.
    • Power, A., Willmot, H. & Davidson, R. (2011) Family Futures, Policy Press.
    • Skinner, Q. (2011) Families and states in Western Europe, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
    • Smyth, L. (2012) The demands of motherhood :agents, roles and recognition, Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan