Chapter 1 introduction to the family

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  • I have read (from discussion posts) that many students define family in the following ways: • The traditional family definition: parent, grandparents, siblings, children), • Intimate partners, • Trusted others, • Individuals living in the same household, • Individuals who have daily interactions with one another and those who care for the person in question.
  • A family system functions because it is a unit, and every family member plays a critical, if not unique, role in the system. We will explore this concept further as the semester progresses.
  • Human Ecological Theory The origin of the term ecology comes from the Greek root oikos meaning "home." As a result, the field of home economics, now often called human ecology, has produced much of the contemporary research using this theoretical perspective. Margaret Bubolz and M. Suzanne Sontag (1993) attribute the concept of an ecological approach to the work of Aristotle and Plato, and then to the evolutionary theory of Darwin. They trace the word ecology to Ernest Haeckel, a German zoologist who, in 1869, proposed that the individual was a product of cooperation between the environment and organismal heredity and suggested that a science be developed to study organisms in their environment. Early home economists were major proponents of this theory as their field developed in the early twentieth century applying various disciplines to the study of the family. The theory has since been used by sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and economists. This work continues, with the human ecological framework being a major perspective in research and theory development in the twenty-first century. Human ecology theory is a way of looking at the interactions of humans with their environments and considering this relationship as a system. In this theoretical framework, biological, social, and physical aspects of the organism are considered within the context of their environments. These environments may be the natural world, reality as constructed by humans, and/or the social and cultural milieu in which the organism exists.
  • The family is seen as a system, with boundaries between it and other systems, such as the community and the economic system. Systems have inputs that drive various processes and actions, such as the finite amounts of money or time that families possess. They also have throughputs, which are the transformation processes that occur within the system, such as the exchange of money for the provision of an essential service, such as food, by eating in a restaurant. In addition, systems have outputs, which affect other systems, such the production of waste materials, which are byproducts of activity in the family, being returned to the larger environment. There are feedback loops from the end of the system back to the beginning, to provide both positive and negative comment back into the process and allow the system to adapt to change. In an ecosystem, the parts and the whole are interdependent.Most theorists outline an ecosystem, most particularly a human ecosystem or a family ecosystem, as being composed of three organizing concepts: humans, their environment, and the interactions between them. The humans can be any group of individuals dependent on the environment for their subsistence. The environment includes the natural environment, which is made up of the atmosphere, climate, plants, and microorganisms that support life. Another environment is that built by humans, which includes roads, machines, shelter, and material goods. As Sontag and Bubolz (1996) discuss, embedded in the natural and human-built environments is the social-cultural environment, which includes other human beings; cultural constructs such as language, law, and values; and social and economic institutions such as our market economy and regulatory systems. The ecosystem interacts at the boundaries of these systems as they interface, but also can occur within any part of an ecosystem that causes a change in or acts upon any other part of the system. Change in any part of the system affects the system as a whole and its other subparts, creating the need for adaptation of the entire system, rather than minor attention to only one aspect of it.
  • Important to remember that most people experience life with one or more family types over time. These family types are NOT discreet. Many people belong (or have belonged) to more than one.
  • Married couples account for 52% of U.S. households; 23.5% have children under 18 Median age for women at first marriage was 21 in 1975 and 25 in 1997 Median age for men was 26.5 in 1992 and 26.7 in 1997. The average length of a first marriage ending in divorce ranged from 7.3 years in 1975 to 6.9 years in 1980. More American marriages are likely to reach a 40 th wedding anniversary than ever before!
  • The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world. 45% of US marriages end in divorce 30% of Canadian marriages end in divorce Half of these involve children. At any given time, ¼ of American children and 1/5 of Canadian children live in single parent households 2/3 of divorced parents remarry ½ of these end in a second divorce.
  • Current census data indicate the number of foreign-born residents and children of immigrants has reached the highest level in history – 56 million people (20% of the population).
  • Chapter 1 introduction to the family

    1. 1. Introduction to the Family HDFS 444: Spring, 2011
    2. 2. What is Family? <ul><li>Our text defines family as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ networks of people who share their lives over long periods of time bound by ties of marriage, blood, law, or commitment, legal or otherwise, who consider themselves as family and who share a significant history and anticipated future of functioning in a family relationship.” </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. How Do You Define Family?
    4. 4. Common Definitions <ul><li>A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children. </li></ul><ul><li>Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place. </li></ul><ul><li>All the members of a household under one roof. </li></ul><ul><li>A group of persons sharing common ancestry. </li></ul>
    5. 5. Other Definitions of Family <ul><li>Wamboldt and Reiss (1989) developed a process definition of family as “a group of intimates who generate a sense of home and group identity; complete with strong ties of loyalty and emotion, and experience history and future.” </li></ul>
    6. 6. Other Definitions of Family <ul><li>In her essay on redefining families, Martha Minow (1998) argues that it is not important whether a group fits a formal legal definition; instead what is important is “whether the group of people function as a family: do they share affection and resources, think of one another as family members, and present themselves as such to neighbors and others?” </li></ul>
    7. 7. The “Whole” Picture <ul><li>In this course we will be examining aspects of family and relationships from an ecosystems perspective . </li></ul>
    8. 8. What’s an Ecosystem? <ul><li>American Heritage Dictionary: </li></ul><ul><li>Ecosystem: a collection of living things and the environment in which they live. </li></ul>
    9. 10. Family & Ecosystems <ul><li>The concept of family can't be explained by a single definition or idea - but rather by a complex system. </li></ul>
    10. 11. So - why is theory important? <ul><li>Theories of human interaction should provide a way of making sense of events that have happened in the past, and then allow us to make predictions about what may happen in the future. </li></ul>
    11. 12. Human Ecological Theory <ul><li>Bubolz & Sontag (1993) </li></ul><ul><li>“ A human ecosystem includes human beings existing in interaction with the total environment.” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Bubolz, Eichler & Sontag, 1979)) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Biological, social, and physical aspects of the organism are considered within the context of their environments. </li></ul>
    12. 13. Human Ecological Theory Natural Physical-Biological Environment
    13. 14. The Family as a System <ul><li>The family is seen as a system, with boundaries between it and other systems, such as the community, and the economic system. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Inputs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Throughputs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Outputs </li></ul></ul>
    14. 15. The Family as a System <ul><li>Families are semi-open, goal directed, dynamic, adaptive systems. They can respond, change, develop, act on and modify their environment. Adaptation is a continuing process in family ecosystems. </li></ul><ul><li>The family interacts with more than one environment since it comes in contact and resides in multiple environments. </li></ul>
    15. 16. Important to Remember…. <ul><li>The environment is actually a network of social institutions and events. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Important to recognize the “chains” of relationships that bind everyone together. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reveals connections that might otherwise go unnoticed. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We will explore this concept more as the semester progresses. </li></ul>
    16. 17. Family Types <ul><li>Two-parent biological family </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Parents and their biological children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defining factors: blood ties and marriage </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This “Leave It to Beaver” family is no longer the norm. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only 12% of families fit this stereotype. </li></ul></ul>
    17. 18. Family Types <ul><li>Single-parent family </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One parent and one or more children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No involvement of other parent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Death, abandonment, single-parent adoption </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Primary parent family </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More than one parent takes responsibility for child(ren),although usually unequal. </li></ul></ul>
    18. 19. Family Types <ul><li>Blended family </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stepfamily </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adoptive family </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Extended family </li></ul><ul><li>Intentional (or voluntaristic) family </li></ul><ul><li>Committed partners </li></ul>
    19. 20. Changing Demographics <ul><li>Americans continue to marry. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>52% of households are married couples </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Median age: 25 years </li></ul></ul>
    20. 21. Changing Demographics <ul><li>Divorce rate is stabilizing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>43% of first marriages end within15 years. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Remarriage rates are dropping </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5 out of 6 men and 3 out of 4 women eventually remarry after a first divorce. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The mean length of time between divorce and remarriage is four years. </li></ul></ul>
    21. 22. Changing Demographics <ul><li>Stepfamilies continue to increase through remarriage and cohabitation. </li></ul><ul><li>One out of every three Americans is now a step parent, a stepchild, a step sibling, or some other member of a step family. </li></ul>
    22. 23. Changing Demographics <ul><li>The number of single-parent families continues to increase. </li></ul><ul><li>Families continue to be constructed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>through adoption. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>scientific technologies </li></ul></ul>
    23. 24. Changing Demographics <ul><li>More adult children are living at home. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1 in 5 men and 1 in 8 women in their late 20s live at home </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will you? Why or why not? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The number of cohabitating partners is rising. </li></ul>
    24. 25. Changing Demographics <ul><li>Families of lesbians and gay males are increasing. </li></ul><ul><li>Extended families continue to flourish. </li></ul><ul><li>Families increasingly represent four or five generations. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why? Life expectancy is greater. </li></ul></ul>
    25. 26. Economic Issues <ul><li>Two income couples are becoming the norm. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Yet 70% of all parents do not feel they spend enough time with their children (Families and Work Institute, 1998). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Over 70% of single mothers are working. </li></ul>
    26. 27. Economic Issues <ul><li>Children have replaced seniors as the poorest segment of the population. </li></ul><ul><li>1/3 of the homeless are families w/children . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Although a large number of poor families contain two parents, the female single parent is 5X more likely to live in poverty than two-parent family (Coontz and Folbre, 2002). </li></ul></ul>
    27. 28. Ethnic Issues <ul><li>Ethnic heritage has a long term effect on family functioning </li></ul><ul><li>Unequal impact of poverty across racial and ethnic groups </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnic composition of U.S. families is changing. </li></ul>
    28. 29. Remember….. <ul><li>Everyone comes to this course with some understanding (and opinions) of how families function and interact. However, no two people have the same familial experiences! </li></ul><ul><li>Each person has something to offer AND something to learn. </li></ul>

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