Bytheway, William Robert (1973) The dynamics of family structures: a study of life histories in the British peerage 1800 to 1970. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Abstract

An alternative approach to the study of family dynamics is presented. This is based upon family structures which are rigorously defined both with regard to membership and temporal location. Four kinds of family structure are investigated which together cover most significant aspects of family dynamics. The concept of career is reviewed, specified and employed along with the notion of an aware observer. This conceptual framework is established in Chapters 2 to 4.
Chapter 5 defines the statistical concept of a representative sample and reviews the problems of obtaining such samples of family structures. The primary source of data for the locution and description of these samples is Burke’s Peerage. The information available from this source is critically assessed. It is found to have remarkably 10 apparent error rates.
Chapters 6 to 9 offer statistical description, in the context of the prepared conceptual framework, of the four kinds of family structure. Chapter 6 begins with the elementary structure of the single individual. This approach is valuable in that it enables means of statistical description to be developed in respect to a simple structure and to provide the foundation for the definition and description of more complex structures. In particular, Chapter 6 includes the definition of the statistical concept of the modal range and relates this to the social-psychological problem of the perception of likely outcomes. Uncertainty about the course of future events, it is argued, causes the aware observer or family member to engage in attempts to assess the most likely outcomes of the careers of certain kinds of structures. Chapter 6 concludes with an analysis of a cross-generational dyad.
There follows in Chapter 7 a study of structures created by marriage links. The literature concerned with mate selection is reviewed and an alternative perspective presented drawing upon the dynamics of courtship procedures. Evidence is produced which points to the existence of a minor focus in courtship activity (which although minor is nevertheless a focus) concerning primarily the middle aged and created by a significant number of married persons becoming prematurely bereaved. The structural relationship between this minor focus and the major focus - dominated by never-married persons in early adulthood - is considered. This would appear to be of major significance in the interpretation of historical trends of marital patterns.
In the following chapter, the nuclear family is revisited conceived to be not the consequence of modern industrialised society upon the kinship system, but quite simply a particular kind of family structure. It is argued that temporal complexity has led to ideal typifications of the development of the nuclear family being given undue emphasis. The process by which members leave the nuclear family structure is analysed and this demonstrates that, at least in early twentieth century Peerage families, there is no dominant pattern of dissolution. Temporal suspects of birth and family building are reviewed. In Chapter 9 the fourth kind of family structure is reviewed. This is not orientated to any particular generation and thereby provides a means of studying demographic aspects of grandparenthood and great-grandparenthood. The significance of family dynamics for sociological perspectives on age is considered. The consequences of one particular inheritance system are analysed in detail and related to population growth.
The final chapter draws one or two conclusions from the proceeding chapters. It is argued that probability theory could make a considerable contribution to the scientific study of personal perception and interaction: uncertainty in respect to the future development of significant social structures is a key aspect to individual awareness. The possibility of proposed population policies leading to radical alterations in family dynamics is illustrated and briefly considered.
The thesis is concluded with two methodological appendices and a bibliography.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Science and Public Policy
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2019 15:35
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2019 15:35
URI: http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/5970

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