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Principles of Sociology 18
Families
What is the “family”?
• family = cooperative groups organized to
oversee the bearing and raising of children.
– The family is one of the basic social institutions
[Chapter 4] that is a cultural universal [Chapter 3].
• Family relationships are a cultural universal, but
they vary considerably from one culture to
another.
– Throughout the world, there exist many different
types of families.
What is the “family”?
• Regardless of the type of family, each individual
will typically experience certain categories of
family:
 family of orientation = the family you are born into.
 family of procreation = the family we establish when we
leave our family of orientation, often having or adopting
children.
 Some, however, may experience “families we choose”
(EX: gay men and women) or fictive kin (= non-blood
relations accepted as family).
What is the “family”?
• nuclear family (consanguine) = husband, wife, and children as the “nucleus”
from which other family relationships are built.
– This has been regarded as the “traditional” American model of family.
– However, this type of family has decreased from 40% in 1970 to under 20%
today.
• extended family (conjugal) = additional relatives share the same home with
parents and their children.
– This has been a popular model in many cultures, including early European
immigrants to the U.S.
– This model has obvious advantages in terms of resources for survival and
progress.
• families of affinity = people who think of themselves as a family and wish
others to see them that way.
Types of Marriage
 marriage = legal relationship most often involving economic
cooperation, sexual activity, and childbearing.
 monogamy = two people are married only to one another.
 serial monogamy = where a person has several spouses over
their lifetime, but only one spouse at a time.
 polygamy = marriage in which someone has more than one
spouse at the same time.
 2 Types of Polygamy:
 Polygyny = one man has more than one wife.
 Polyandry = one woman has more than one husband.
Polygamy
• There are several things to understand about polygamy:
– It has been acceptable in many cultures for most of history.
– Polygamy was practiced in biblical times, and even required in
certain situations (EX: Levirate marriage).
– In places where it is practiced, polygamy is never common – it is a
mark of status for those who can afford it.
– Polygamy was made illegal in the U.S. in the late 1800s as a way to
hurt the Mormons, who the U.S. government had a conflict with.
– As of 2008, there is no federal U.S. law against polygamy, though all
50 states do have laws against it.
– Polygamy was abandoned by the official Mormon church (LDS) in
1890 and is strictly prohibited today – however, several fringe
groups continue the practice.
– Polyandry (one wife with multiple husbands) is extremely rare, only
existing in two small societies in India.
Polygamy Around the World
Polygamy is becoming
more acceptable to
people due to media
exposure.
Polygamists have
organized and
become activists for
the practice, which
has intensified with
laws allowing same-
sex marriage.
Descent Patterns
• kinship = state of being related to others.
– Social bonds based on common ancestry, marriage, or adoption.
• Kinship patterns are culturally learned, and thus vary from
culture to culture.
• Kinship ties create obligations and bring responsibilities.
• The principle of descent assigns people to kinship groups
according to their relationship to their mother or father.
 Bilateral = both sides of the family are equally important.
 Patrilineal = only the father’s relatives are significant.
 Matrilineal = only the mother’s relatives are significant.
Authority Patterns
• patriarchy = a social framework in which males
dominate (most common).
– Often affects the rights of women.
• matriarchy = a social framework in which the
women dominate (rare).
• egalitarian = spouses are regarded as equals.
– The emerging model in the U.S.
Residential Patterns
• Where married couples live and rules governing
whom one can marry are often connected with
patterns of descent and authority.
• patrilocality = married couple lives with the
husband’s parents.
• matrilocality = married couple lives with the wife’s
parents.
• neolocality = married couple lives in their own
residence.
THEORIES: Structural-Functionalist
• Four Functions of the Family in Industrial Societies:
1. sexual regulation: involves socialization and enforcement of
endogamy and incest taboos.
2. socialization: teaching the children in the family the necessary
knowledge and skills to survive in their society - transmitting norms,
values, and language of the society (recall Chapter 5).
3. material and emotional security: includes providing basic
necessities, as well as warmth, intimacy, and support.
4. social placement: includes ascribed statuses (race, class, religion,
gender) and the opportunities for achieved status and life chances
(recall Chapter 10).
THEORIES: Social-Conflict
• Classical Conflict Theory:
– Families function like a microcosm (miniature version) of the
inequality in the factory, with the men dominating.
– The subordination of women is reinforced through their
unpaid and devalued labor.
– Upper class exploitation of lower class families contributes to
family instability.
• Feminist Theory:
– Focuses on patriarchy rather than class, since male
domination over women has preexisted capitalism.
THEORIES: Symbolic Interactionist
• Most interested in micro-level aspects:
– The effects of male role models (or their absence) on children.
– Differences between cohabitating couples and long-term
married couples.
– Various dynamics related to step-parents raising the children
of their spouse.
– Opportunities for sharing activities help build emotional
bonds.
– As children approach adulthood, kinship ties typically open up
to include sharing confidences with greater intimacy.
Marriage & Family
• Courtship methods vary from culture to culture, and even
within cultures.
• In many societies, courtship is governed by rules:
endogamy = the practice of marrying within one’s own group.
 Because this is done to preserve group cohesiveness, the
boundaries will vary according to how a group is defined (EX:
class, race, religion).
exogamy = the practice of marrying outside one’s own group.
Remember Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? This
famous play is basically a story about two lovers
who are breaking their society’s endogamy rules.
Marriage & Family
• incest taboo = social norm prohibiting sexual contact
between people of certain relationships.
– That such boundaries are drawn is a cultural universal.
– Where those boundaries are drawn differs from one culture to
another.
– In most cultures, including the U.S., second-cousins are
considered legally valid marriage partners.
• homogamy = your tendency to select a mate with
characteristics similar to yourself.
– May be conscious or unconscious.
Incestuous marriages were
practiced throughout the
ancient world, and even
sometimes preferred as
they thought it would keep
their lineage “pure.” The
earliest such relationships,
however, existed out of
necessity. Examples
include: biblical
relationships (Sarah was
Abraham’s half-sister),
Ancient Egypt, the lineages
of Roman emperors (often
brother-sister marriages),
etc.
In our culture, “love” is treated
like some kind of mist that “just
happens” – we often speak of
“falling in love” or “falling out of
love.”
In other words, we speak of
“love” as something that happens
to us rather than as something we
do.
We approach marriage on the
basis of romantic feelings rather
than contractual vows – most
today do not live by “for better or
worse,” but simply get divorced.
Both parties often set themselves
up for disaster when they come
into marriage older and full of
individualistic expectations.
This may explain our 50% divorce rate today. People marry for individual happiness based on how they feel
about their partner at the moment.
But life is hard, full of struggle and times of suffering.
When we admire older couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, we must look at the differences for
insight.
We often “wait until” we are older and have set up our individual lives just how we want it and then come
together with the idea that we have found a partner who “fits” into the world we have created – if we find out
otherwise, we just divorce and try again.
In stark contrast, past generations got married much younger and – don’t miss this – they built their lives
together as a family. Divorce rates were much lower then. Perhaps the family that addresses the bad times
together stays together? Maybe past generations took “for better or for worse” more seriously?
Marriage & Family
• Other cultures practice arranged marriages in which the bride and groom may
have never known each other socially at all.
• Arranged marriages are alliances between two extended families of similar
social standing usually involve an exchange of children and wealth.
• Many westerners frown on arranged marriages, often stereotyping all such
marriages as forced and without any choice (not as true today).
• However, there are three important points:
– Arranged marriages are statistically happier and stronger, hardly ever ending in
divorce.
– Arranged marriages take place in cultures and subcultures where family ties are
strong and people marry young – i.e., who better to pick your spouse than your
parents who know you better than you know yourself at that stage of life?
– Many in the U.S. today are basically paying strangers to arrange their relationships
based on algorithms – surely having your family arrange a marriage isn’t that odd!
Family Life Today
• Child Rearing:
– Industrialization transformed children from assets to liabilities.
– There is a trend toward smaller families.
– About half of U.S. families would like more time to parent.
– One recent pattern is that of extended parenthood, as adult children
continue live at home after college.
– Our contemporary economy requires parents to work outside the home.
• Dual-Income Families (both parents work):
– Have risen dramatically in the U.S., due to: economic need, declining
birthrate, more women with college degrees, the shift from manufacturing
to service industries, and the feminist movement.
Family Life Today
• Marriage itself has decreased significantly in the last
40 years, today comprising under half of all U.S.
households.
• Families Later in Life:
– empty nest syndrome = children are all grown and out of
the house, necessitating transitions for parents.
– There are more middle-age families caring for both
children and aging parents.
– Single parents often experience new loneliness.
Alternative Forms of Family
• Single Parent Families:
– In 2014, a single parent headed significant
percentages of households within nearly all racial
groups.
– Over 82% of all single parents in the U.S. are
mothers.
– Consequences:
• Increases a woman’s risk of poverty.
• Limits work and education.
• Puts children at a disadvantage.
Alternative Forms of Family
• cohabitation = couples who live together without
getting married.
– Working couples are twice as likely to cohabitate than college
students.
– Tends to appeal to more independent-minded individuals as
well as those who favor gender equality.
• Remaining Single :
– Capacity for economic independence is contributing to more
and more people remaining single for longer periods of time.
Alternative Forms of Family
• Marriage Without Children:
– There has been a modest increase in the number of women choosing not
to have children.
• Lesbian & Gay Relationships:
– The lifestyles of lesbians and gay men are varied and not stereotypical.
– The trend in public opinion is toward greater support for homosexual
relationships.
– Domestic partnerships were pursued by many same-sex couples (civil
unions) prior to recent federal legislation allowing same-sex marriage.
Divorce
• In the U.S., 9/10 marry, 5/10 divorce. Why?
–Rising individualism
–Subsiding romantic love
–Less female dependence on men
–More stressful marriages
–Higher socially acceptable of divorce
–More easily acquired divorce
Divorce & Remarriage
• Remaking Families:
– Increasing divorce rates have led to increased rates of
remarriage, which have in turn led to more step-
family relationships.
– About 63% of all divorced persons in the U.S. have
remarried.
– Remarriage often creates blended families.
– Blended families offer both young and old the chance
to relax rigid family roles.
Family Violence
• Violence Against Women:
– Women are more likely to be injured by a family member than
to be mugged or raped by a stranger or hurt in an automobile
accident.
– All states have marital rape laws; half have “stalking laws.”
– Harm from violence can be both physical and psychological.
• Violence Against Children:
– Child abuse and neglect are most common among the
youngest and most vulnerable children.
– Abusers are more likely to be women than men.
– Many abusers experienced childhood abuse themselves.

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Week 10: Families

  • 2. What is the “family”? • family = cooperative groups organized to oversee the bearing and raising of children. – The family is one of the basic social institutions [Chapter 4] that is a cultural universal [Chapter 3]. • Family relationships are a cultural universal, but they vary considerably from one culture to another. – Throughout the world, there exist many different types of families.
  • 3. What is the “family”? • Regardless of the type of family, each individual will typically experience certain categories of family:  family of orientation = the family you are born into.  family of procreation = the family we establish when we leave our family of orientation, often having or adopting children.  Some, however, may experience “families we choose” (EX: gay men and women) or fictive kin (= non-blood relations accepted as family).
  • 4. What is the “family”? • nuclear family (consanguine) = husband, wife, and children as the “nucleus” from which other family relationships are built. – This has been regarded as the “traditional” American model of family. – However, this type of family has decreased from 40% in 1970 to under 20% today. • extended family (conjugal) = additional relatives share the same home with parents and their children. – This has been a popular model in many cultures, including early European immigrants to the U.S. – This model has obvious advantages in terms of resources for survival and progress. • families of affinity = people who think of themselves as a family and wish others to see them that way.
  • 5. Types of Marriage  marriage = legal relationship most often involving economic cooperation, sexual activity, and childbearing.  monogamy = two people are married only to one another.  serial monogamy = where a person has several spouses over their lifetime, but only one spouse at a time.  polygamy = marriage in which someone has more than one spouse at the same time.  2 Types of Polygamy:  Polygyny = one man has more than one wife.  Polyandry = one woman has more than one husband.
  • 6. Polygamy • There are several things to understand about polygamy: – It has been acceptable in many cultures for most of history. – Polygamy was practiced in biblical times, and even required in certain situations (EX: Levirate marriage). – In places where it is practiced, polygamy is never common – it is a mark of status for those who can afford it. – Polygamy was made illegal in the U.S. in the late 1800s as a way to hurt the Mormons, who the U.S. government had a conflict with. – As of 2008, there is no federal U.S. law against polygamy, though all 50 states do have laws against it. – Polygamy was abandoned by the official Mormon church (LDS) in 1890 and is strictly prohibited today – however, several fringe groups continue the practice. – Polyandry (one wife with multiple husbands) is extremely rare, only existing in two small societies in India.
  • 8. Polygamy is becoming more acceptable to people due to media exposure. Polygamists have organized and become activists for the practice, which has intensified with laws allowing same- sex marriage.
  • 9. Descent Patterns • kinship = state of being related to others. – Social bonds based on common ancestry, marriage, or adoption. • Kinship patterns are culturally learned, and thus vary from culture to culture. • Kinship ties create obligations and bring responsibilities. • The principle of descent assigns people to kinship groups according to their relationship to their mother or father.  Bilateral = both sides of the family are equally important.  Patrilineal = only the father’s relatives are significant.  Matrilineal = only the mother’s relatives are significant.
  • 10. Authority Patterns • patriarchy = a social framework in which males dominate (most common). – Often affects the rights of women. • matriarchy = a social framework in which the women dominate (rare). • egalitarian = spouses are regarded as equals. – The emerging model in the U.S.
  • 11. Residential Patterns • Where married couples live and rules governing whom one can marry are often connected with patterns of descent and authority. • patrilocality = married couple lives with the husband’s parents. • matrilocality = married couple lives with the wife’s parents. • neolocality = married couple lives in their own residence.
  • 12. THEORIES: Structural-Functionalist • Four Functions of the Family in Industrial Societies: 1. sexual regulation: involves socialization and enforcement of endogamy and incest taboos. 2. socialization: teaching the children in the family the necessary knowledge and skills to survive in their society - transmitting norms, values, and language of the society (recall Chapter 5). 3. material and emotional security: includes providing basic necessities, as well as warmth, intimacy, and support. 4. social placement: includes ascribed statuses (race, class, religion, gender) and the opportunities for achieved status and life chances (recall Chapter 10).
  • 13. THEORIES: Social-Conflict • Classical Conflict Theory: – Families function like a microcosm (miniature version) of the inequality in the factory, with the men dominating. – The subordination of women is reinforced through their unpaid and devalued labor. – Upper class exploitation of lower class families contributes to family instability. • Feminist Theory: – Focuses on patriarchy rather than class, since male domination over women has preexisted capitalism.
  • 14. THEORIES: Symbolic Interactionist • Most interested in micro-level aspects: – The effects of male role models (or their absence) on children. – Differences between cohabitating couples and long-term married couples. – Various dynamics related to step-parents raising the children of their spouse. – Opportunities for sharing activities help build emotional bonds. – As children approach adulthood, kinship ties typically open up to include sharing confidences with greater intimacy.
  • 15. Marriage & Family • Courtship methods vary from culture to culture, and even within cultures. • In many societies, courtship is governed by rules: endogamy = the practice of marrying within one’s own group.  Because this is done to preserve group cohesiveness, the boundaries will vary according to how a group is defined (EX: class, race, religion). exogamy = the practice of marrying outside one’s own group.
  • 16. Remember Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? This famous play is basically a story about two lovers who are breaking their society’s endogamy rules.
  • 17. Marriage & Family • incest taboo = social norm prohibiting sexual contact between people of certain relationships. – That such boundaries are drawn is a cultural universal. – Where those boundaries are drawn differs from one culture to another. – In most cultures, including the U.S., second-cousins are considered legally valid marriage partners. • homogamy = your tendency to select a mate with characteristics similar to yourself. – May be conscious or unconscious.
  • 18. Incestuous marriages were practiced throughout the ancient world, and even sometimes preferred as they thought it would keep their lineage “pure.” The earliest such relationships, however, existed out of necessity. Examples include: biblical relationships (Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister), Ancient Egypt, the lineages of Roman emperors (often brother-sister marriages), etc.
  • 19.
  • 20. In our culture, “love” is treated like some kind of mist that “just happens” – we often speak of “falling in love” or “falling out of love.” In other words, we speak of “love” as something that happens to us rather than as something we do. We approach marriage on the basis of romantic feelings rather than contractual vows – most today do not live by “for better or worse,” but simply get divorced. Both parties often set themselves up for disaster when they come into marriage older and full of individualistic expectations.
  • 21. This may explain our 50% divorce rate today. People marry for individual happiness based on how they feel about their partner at the moment. But life is hard, full of struggle and times of suffering. When we admire older couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, we must look at the differences for insight. We often “wait until” we are older and have set up our individual lives just how we want it and then come together with the idea that we have found a partner who “fits” into the world we have created – if we find out otherwise, we just divorce and try again. In stark contrast, past generations got married much younger and – don’t miss this – they built their lives together as a family. Divorce rates were much lower then. Perhaps the family that addresses the bad times together stays together? Maybe past generations took “for better or for worse” more seriously?
  • 22. Marriage & Family • Other cultures practice arranged marriages in which the bride and groom may have never known each other socially at all. • Arranged marriages are alliances between two extended families of similar social standing usually involve an exchange of children and wealth. • Many westerners frown on arranged marriages, often stereotyping all such marriages as forced and without any choice (not as true today). • However, there are three important points: – Arranged marriages are statistically happier and stronger, hardly ever ending in divorce. – Arranged marriages take place in cultures and subcultures where family ties are strong and people marry young – i.e., who better to pick your spouse than your parents who know you better than you know yourself at that stage of life? – Many in the U.S. today are basically paying strangers to arrange their relationships based on algorithms – surely having your family arrange a marriage isn’t that odd!
  • 23.
  • 24. Family Life Today • Child Rearing: – Industrialization transformed children from assets to liabilities. – There is a trend toward smaller families. – About half of U.S. families would like more time to parent. – One recent pattern is that of extended parenthood, as adult children continue live at home after college. – Our contemporary economy requires parents to work outside the home. • Dual-Income Families (both parents work): – Have risen dramatically in the U.S., due to: economic need, declining birthrate, more women with college degrees, the shift from manufacturing to service industries, and the feminist movement.
  • 25. Family Life Today • Marriage itself has decreased significantly in the last 40 years, today comprising under half of all U.S. households. • Families Later in Life: – empty nest syndrome = children are all grown and out of the house, necessitating transitions for parents. – There are more middle-age families caring for both children and aging parents. – Single parents often experience new loneliness.
  • 26. Alternative Forms of Family • Single Parent Families: – In 2014, a single parent headed significant percentages of households within nearly all racial groups. – Over 82% of all single parents in the U.S. are mothers. – Consequences: • Increases a woman’s risk of poverty. • Limits work and education. • Puts children at a disadvantage.
  • 27. Alternative Forms of Family • cohabitation = couples who live together without getting married. – Working couples are twice as likely to cohabitate than college students. – Tends to appeal to more independent-minded individuals as well as those who favor gender equality. • Remaining Single : – Capacity for economic independence is contributing to more and more people remaining single for longer periods of time.
  • 28. Alternative Forms of Family • Marriage Without Children: – There has been a modest increase in the number of women choosing not to have children. • Lesbian & Gay Relationships: – The lifestyles of lesbians and gay men are varied and not stereotypical. – The trend in public opinion is toward greater support for homosexual relationships. – Domestic partnerships were pursued by many same-sex couples (civil unions) prior to recent federal legislation allowing same-sex marriage.
  • 29. Divorce • In the U.S., 9/10 marry, 5/10 divorce. Why? –Rising individualism –Subsiding romantic love –Less female dependence on men –More stressful marriages –Higher socially acceptable of divorce –More easily acquired divorce
  • 30. Divorce & Remarriage • Remaking Families: – Increasing divorce rates have led to increased rates of remarriage, which have in turn led to more step- family relationships. – About 63% of all divorced persons in the U.S. have remarried. – Remarriage often creates blended families. – Blended families offer both young and old the chance to relax rigid family roles.
  • 31. Family Violence • Violence Against Women: – Women are more likely to be injured by a family member than to be mugged or raped by a stranger or hurt in an automobile accident. – All states have marital rape laws; half have “stalking laws.” – Harm from violence can be both physical and psychological. • Violence Against Children: – Child abuse and neglect are most common among the youngest and most vulnerable children. – Abusers are more likely to be women than men. – Many abusers experienced childhood abuse themselves.