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Families and Intimate Relationships

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Kirstin Morris

on 29 March 2015

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Transcript of Families and Intimate Relationships

Families and Intimate Relationships
SOC7008 Winter 2015
Families in Global Perspective
What is a family?
Families in Global Perspective
Thank you!
Theoretical Perspectives on Families
sociology of family
- the subdiscipline of sociology that attempts to describe and explain patterns of family life and variations in family structure
Transitions and Problems in Families
families are central to our existence
the reality of family life is far more complicated than the idealized image found in media and in political discussions
Diversity in Families
Developing Intimate Relationships and Establishing Families
Child-Related Family Issues and Parenting
Transitions and Problems in Families
Diversity in Families
Theoretical Perspectives on Families
Families We Choose
social arrangements that include intimate relationships between couples and close familial relationships with other couples and with other adults and children
Different groups will define their family lives in unique ways, depending on a number of factors:
socioeconomic background
immigrant status
religious beliefs
cultural practices and traditions
families - relationships in which people live together with commitment, form an economic unit, care for any young, and consider their identity to be significantly attached to the group
Family Structure and Characteristics
the primary form of social organization in pre-industrial societies = kinship ties
- a social network of people based on common ancestry, marriage, or adoption
Through kinship ties, people cooperate to acquire the basic necessities of life
Through these ties, property is transferred, goods are produced and distributed, and power is allocated
in industrialized societies, social institutions fulfill some of the functions taken care of by the kinship network
in industrial societies, families serve fewer and more specialized purposes
regulating sexual activity
socializing children
providing affection and companionship
Families of
Orientation and Procreation
many of us will be members of 2 different types of families
the family into which a person is born and in which early socialization usually takes place
the family that a person forms by having or adopting children
legal and blood ties
legal and blood ties
Extended and Nuclear Families
based on the number of generations that live within a household
extended family
- a family unit composed of relatives in addition to parents and children who live in the same household
nuclear family
- a family composed of 1 or 2 parents and their dependent children, all of whom live apart from other relatives
in horticultural and agricultural societies, extended families are important
contribute to food production
essential for survival
today, extended families are becoming more common (North America and the UK)
economic reasons
increase in immigration from countries where extended families are the norm
in 2006, 41% of all households = couples with children < 18
57% in 1981
43% of all households = couples with no children at home
childless couples
couples whose children are no longer at home
Marriage Patterns
- a legally recognized and/or socially approved arrangement between two or more individuals that carries certain rights and obligations and usually involves sexual activity
In Canada,
(marriage to 1 person at a time) is the only legally sanctioned marriage
serial monogamy
- the concurrent marriage of a person of one sex with two or more members of the opposite sex
- the concurrent marriage of one man with two or more women
the most common form of polygamy
Islamic societies
contemporary Africa and southern Russia
- the concurrent marriage of one woman with two or more men
very rare
found in societies where men greatly outnumber women
wherever polyandry occurs, polygyny occurs
Patterns of Descent and Inheritance
systems of descent establish kinship and inheritance rights
in pre-industrial societies, kinship is traced through 1 parent (unilineally)
most common pattern:
patrilineal descent
- a system of tracing descent through the father's side of the family
matrilineal descent
- a system of tracing descent through the mother's side of the family
in some systems, women may not control property
industrial societies trace kinship through both parents (bilineally)
bilateral descent
- a system of tracing descent through both the mother's and father's side of the family
in Canada, children typically take the father's last name
Power and Authority in Families
descent and inheritance intricately linked with patterns of power and authority
patriarchal family
- a family structure in which authority is held by the eldest male (usually the father)
male authority figure acts as head of the household
holds power and authority over women, children, and other males

limits people's choices in employment
remained largely unchanged even as familial responsibilities have undergone dramatic transformation
matriarchal family
- a family structure in which authority is held by the eldest female (usually the mother)
no historical evidence to indicate that true matriarchies existed
egalitarian family
- a family structure in which both partners share power and authority equally
a worldwide trend toward more egalitarian relationships
Developing Intimate Relationships and Establishing Families, pg. 291 - 296
Child-Related Family Issues and Parenting, pg. 296 - 298
Family Issues in the Future, pg. 305 - 306
Family Violence
spousal abuse
- the violence or mistreatment that a woman or man experiences at the hands of a marital, common-law, or same-sex partner
the legal process of dissolving a marriage that allows the former spouses to remarry if they so choose
child abuse
- physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect by a parent or caregiver
women are more likely to be victims of violence perpetrated by intimate partners
5x more likely than men to experience this type of violence (Ogrodnik, 2008)
prevalence may be higher than data indicate
until recently, individuals and law-enforcement followed a policy of
strong reluctance to interfere with family business
women's movement changed perception of domestic violence
Pre-1968: difficult to get a divorce in Canada - only granted for adultery
1985 - Divorce Act introduced the 'no fault' provisions - martial breakdown
35% - 40% of marriages will end in divorce (Ambert, 2005)
Causes of Divorce
sociologists look at correlations (relationships between 2 variables)
Macrolevel factors:
changes in social institutions
religion, family, legal system
Microlevel factors:
youthful marriage
low incomes and poverty
rapid upward social mobility
cohabitation prior to marriage
parents who are divorced or have unhappy marriages
low religiosity
the presence of children
interrelationships of these and other factors are complicated
Consequences of Divorce
may have a dramatic economic and emotional impact on family members
Joint custody is awarded for some divorcing couples
benefits for children when it is voluntary and motivated to make it work
create unique problems
adjust to living in 2 homes
Gay and Lesbian Families
until recently, discussion of gay and lesbian relationships and families have been excluded from discussions of the family
considered threatening to the traditional family
- an attitude in which heterosexuality is considered the only valid form of sexual behaviour, and gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals are inferior to heterosexual people
Canadian law grants particular rights, benefits, and privileges only to heterosexual relationships, especially legally married partners
until recently gay and lesbian couples have been prohibited from jointly adopting children, sponsoring their partner's immigration to Canada, obtaining custody of their children, or receiving spousal benefits and survivor's pensions
stereotypes of same-sex relationships:
short term
non committed
long lasting
breakup rate is equal to heterosexual couples
more egalitarian
In 2006, +45,000 couples identified as same-sex married or common-law couples
lesbian mothers and gay fathers may have children from a previous marriage and/or relationship
alternative insemination
(sexual relations) or artificial insemination are 2 ways in which lesbian mothers can become pregnant
adoption or fostering are also other means through which lesbian mothers and gay fathers can form families
gay and lesbian families always have a nonbiological parent
these nonbiological parents may not be granted admission to parent-teacher interviews or may be denied permission to make important medical decisions for their children if the biological parent is unavailable
research has confirmed that children of lesbian and gay parents are as well adjusted as children who grow up in heterosexual households
Diversity Among Singles
now, many more adults are remaining single
1971 - ~50% of Canadians aged 20 - 24 were already married
2007 - ~90% of Canadians in the same age group were single
~25% of households are single-person households - includes people who are divorced, widowed, and never married
~10% of people will remain single throughout their lives
more opportunity for a career (especially for women)
the availability of sexual partners without marriage
the belief that the single lifestyle is full of excitement
the desire for self-sufficiency and freedom to change and experiment
value friends and personal growth over marriage and children
remain single out of economic necessity
Aboriginal Families
difficult to discuss - not a homogenous group
many distinct nations with different histories, cultures, economic bases, and languages
extended family seen as central to the individual and the community
concept of the family was defined very broadly
Ojibwa - family = individuals who worked as a unit and were bound together by responsibility and friendship as well as kinship ties
average family size = 20 - 25 persons
Aboriginal children = 40% of children placed in care
spousal abuse = 5x higher than the national average
suicide rate = double the rate of the general population
family life profoundly changed as a result of interventionist strategies employed by the Canadian church and state
many Aboriginal communities are striving to return to the practices and values that traditionally nourished Aboriginal family life:
respect for women and children
mutual responsibility
the general creed of sharing and caring
Functionalist Perspectives
emphasize importance of family in maintaining the stability of society and the well-being of individuals
Conflict Perspectives
view functionalist perspectives as idealized and inadequate
Feminist Perspectives
view functionalist perspectives as idealized an inadequate
Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives
early interactionists viewed the communication process in families as integral to the roles that different family members play
Postmodern Perspectives
disparage the idea that a universal theory can be developed to explain social life
Emile Durkheim
marriage is a microcosmic replica of the larger society
both involve a mental and moral fusion of physically distinct individuals (Lehmann, 1949)
a division of labour contributed to greater efficiency in all areas of life
including marriages and families
imposed significant limitations on some people
Talcott Parsons (1955)
key figure in developing a functionalist model of the family
husband/father fulfills the
instrumental role
meeting the family's economic needs
making important decisions
providing leadership
wife/mother fulfills the
expressive role
running the household
caring for children
meeting the emotional needs of family members
Contemporary Functionalist Perspectives
derive their foundation from Durkheim and Parsons
divisions of labour make it possible for families to fulfill a number of functions that no other institution can perform as effectively
in advanced industrial societies, families serve 4 key functions:
1. sexual regulation
regulate sexual activity of their members
control reproduction so that it occurs within specific boundaries
incest taboos prohibit sexual contact/marriage between certain relatives
2. socialization
smallness and intimacy of families make them best suited for providing children with initial learning and support
3. economic and psychological support
4. provision of social status
confer social status and reputation on their members
ascribed statuses
family's class position and the opportunities resulting from that position
families are sources of social inequality and conflict over values, goals and access to resources and power (Benokraitis, 2002)
Friedrich Engels (1972/1884) - the family is a capitalist society is an exploitative social institution that oppresses women
families in capitalist economies ≈ to workers in a factory
women are dominated by men in the home = workers are dominated by capitalists and managers in factories
childbearing and childcare contribute to capitalism, these activities also reinforce the subordination of women through unpaid (and often devalued) labour
= husbands (like capitalists) enjoy more power and privilege in the family
predicted that oppression of women would end when women moved into the paid work-force
so far, women's oppression has not disappeared due to women in the workforce (see Chapter 10)
in many ways, it has become more prevalent as women struggle with issues of gender inequality in pay and benefits, job advancement, and balancing career and home responsibilities
contributions have resulted in radical changes in the sociological study of families
primarily responsible for redefining the concept of 'the family,' focusing on the diversity of family arrangements
reject the monolithic model of the family - the idealization of 1 family form (the nuclear family)
roles within families are culturally constructed not biologically determined
focus on the problems of dominance and subordination inherent in relationships
acknowledge the dark side of the family
focus on
a hierarchical system of social organization in which cultural, political, and economic structures are controlled by men
men's domination over women existed long before private ownership of property and capitalism (Mann, 1994)
division of labour appears equal, but women are giving much but receiving less in return
what people think, as well as what they say and do = important in understanding family dynamics
Peter Berger and Hansfried Kellner (1964)
interaction between marital partners contributes to a shared reality
development of a shared reality is a continuous process, taking in the family and any group in which the couple participates
divorce = the reverse of this process - couples start with a shared reality and, in the process of uncoupling, gradually develop separate realities
explain family relationships in terms of the subjective meanings and everyday interpretations people give to their lives
men and women experience marriage differently:
his marriage and her marriage
may provide insights on the question: "How is family life different in the Information Age?"
David Elkind (1995) - the postmodern family is
- capable of being diffused or invaded in such a manner that an entity's original purpose is modified or changed
nuclear family = age of modernity
permeable family = the postmodern assumptions of difference, particularity, and irregularity
difference: nuclear family now only 1 of many family forms
romantic love given way to the idea of consensual love
individuals agree to have sexual relations with others whom they have no intention of marrying, or
they do not see the marriage as having permanence
maternal love given way to shared parenting
urbanity - another characteristic of the postmodern family
boundaries between public and private spheres more open and flexible
Jean Baudrillard
the simulation of reality may come to be viewed as 'reality' by some people
can be applied to family interactions in the Information Age
Does the ability to contact someone anywhere and anytime provide greater happiness and stability in families?
Or are we losing face time due to this development?
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