Family: Personal Life Perspective Resources

Whatever your particular view of the Personal Life perspective in relation to families and households (as an exciting, contemporary, forward-looking development in our understanding of family dynamics, a slightly-cynical attempt to breathe new life into tired old social action / interactionist perspectives by rebranding them as something “new, exciting and cutting-edge” or merely another attempt to confuse the hell out of teachers and their students), if it’s on the Spec. – as either a semi-autonomous section, a la AQA, or folded into broader ideas about family diversity, roles and relationships – then, like it or lump it, it’s got to be covered.

By-and-large this general perspective, as befits its social action antecedents, generally focuses (at least in textbooks) on inclusive forms of family definition that, following Goldthorpe (1987), argue we should define and understand family groups and structures as “complex relational networks” rather than as a specific set of clearly-definable:

  • attributes, such as “common residence” coupled with “economic co-operation”, or
  • relationships, such as “parents and their children”.
  • Contemporary families, in other words, represent a fluid set of social relationships and processes based around relationships that involve labels, such as mother, father, aunt and uncle, values, such as the belief dual parenting is superior to single parenting, norms, such as living together through marriage or cohabitation and functions, such as primary socialisation.

    This latter idea – that something called “a family” can be structurally defined in terms of the specific functions it performs – is something that’s important not to lose sight of when evaluating “personal life” perspectives. This is particularly pertinent when some textbooks over-differentiate concepts of “structure” and “action” when trying to show how “contemporary personal life perspectives” are different to “classic structural approaches”. Social actions, however you want to define them, always relate to some sort of structure…

    Keeping this in mind, I’ve managed to cobble together unearth a few resources you might find helpful when teaching this particular topic:


    A couple of simple Presentations may help you introduce some of the main themes of this perspective:

    Personal Life is a neat little set of slides that look as though they’ve been based on the Napier Press text – although I could, of course, be wrong.

    Personal Life Perspective is a similarly neat, if even shorter, set of slides that introduce some of the key ideas around this perspective.


    If you want some general notes on the topic this resource might come in handy:

    The Sociology of Personal Life

    Mind Maps

    If you want to introduce a visual representations of the topic:

    Personal Life Perspective

    Online Lectures

    Some helpful overviews of the Personal Life perspective you can use as Introductions / Flipped Learning resources:

    Personal Life Perspective view on the Family

    The Sociology of Personal Life

    Personal Life Perspective | A Level Sociology

    Theories of the Family (Feminism and the Personal Life Perspective starts at 9.30)

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