Eric D. Widmer

Detlev, L., Widmer, E.D., Cesnuitytè, V. (2017). Conclusion: Changes and Continuities in European Family Life. In: Cesnuitytè, V., Detlev, L., Widmer, E.D. (eds). Family Continuity and Change. Palgrave Macmillan, London. pp. 317-331.



The family, and changes in the family, have been a subject of political and public debate and an topic of scientific research since the very inception of the social sciences. Changes in the family have been interpreted very differently according to time and place (Harris 2008). In all cases, several of the main paradigmatic approaches to sociology have taken up an immanent normative standpoint with regard to the features of the family and the direction and meaning of family changes. For instance, the nuclear family—and its establishment as the standard private living arrangement—played a major role as a characteristic of modern society in Talcott Parson’s structural–functional theory (Parsons and Bales 1955). Correspondingly, the decline of the nuclear family and the pluralization of forms of private living became an indication of individualization or of other late-modern social diagnoses by some influential scholars in the late twentieth century to which partially negative and partially positive connotations were attached (e.g., Beck 1992; Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995; Baumann 2003; Giddens 1991, 1992; Van de Kaa 1987).
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