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Marriage and Family Week 1: Sociology of the Family

The primary text for this Prezi is Philip N. Cohen's "The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change"

Lori McVay

on 12 September 2018

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Transcript of Marriage and Family Week 1: Sociology of the Family

Sociology of the Family
Who are the people in your legal family?
Who are the people in your personal family?
Have your definitions changed over time?
Describing Family
History of the Family
Your Turn!
Contemporary Theories
Social Structure (according to Nathan Palmer):
Enduring and regular social arrangements that guide or force human behavior
Congratulations! You've just theorized!
Sort of...

Families are what we think they are
Groups of related people, bound by connections that are biological, legal, or emotional
Types of Families
Legal Family
Family Authority
This Week!
Themes of the book
A few sociological basics
Defining "family"
Sociological theories of family
How we think about
the people we think about
as family

Themes of our Text
Social Change

Cohen, p. 4
Cohen, p. 4
"A series of dysfunctional relationships that perpetuates itself through sex"
Informal: Common Practice
Formal: Law
Family relationships:
Expectation of care and/or commitment
Formal and informal social obligations
Authority and consequences
Personal Family
"The people to whom we feel related and who we expect to define us as members of their family
as well."
Cohen, p. 6
"A group of individuals related by birth, marriage or adoption"
Cohen p. 7
Based on individual choice

cultural patterns
Government defines "Legal Family"
Meanings may be contested
These are not used to define families
Institutional Arena:
A social space in which relations between people in common positions are governed by accepted rules of interaction
Family Arena:
The institutional area where people practice intimacy, childbearing and
, and caring work.
Families as
Institutional Arenas
Cohen, p. 11
State Arena:
The institutional arena where, through political means,
behavior is legally regulated, violence is controlled, and resources are redistributed
Market Arena:
The institutional arena where labor for pay, economic exchange, and wealth accumulation take place
Cohen, p. 11
Cohen, p. 12
Cohen, p. 12
Most of us participate in all of these arenas in some form or another.
Show us!
Never ask your therapist husband for a definition.
-Jeff McVay
1. Covenant
2. Grace
3. Empowerment
4. Intimacy
The Balswick's Theological Model:
God in relationship
Who is your favorite fictional family?
What are some of the social forces that shape their individual behaviors?
A way of looking at how society operates
Allows us to look at a single situation and take away multiple meanings
A worldview that researchers put on like a pair of glasses to see in new ways
Sociological theorizing is systematic and builds upon preceding sociological work. (That’s why it’s different from day-to-day, casual theorizing.)
What is theory?
Broad Perspectives
Talcott Parsons, Émile Durkheim
Structural Functionalism

"What are the functions of this? What good is it doing that permits it to survive?"
Example: Breadwinner-homemaker family
Instrumental and Expressive Roles

Critique: rationalizes status quo, serves conservative political agenda, and justifies existing unequal power structures
Usefulness: Nuclear model as a model/ideal
Not very commonly used today
a perspective that projects an image of society as the collective expression of shared norms and values
the view that opposition and conflict define a given society and are necessary for social evolution
Meaningful change only comes through conflict
If my brother gets the last hotdog, I'm going to thrash him. At least then he'll respect me!
We've got it made, son!
Nobody's going to argue with that, Dad!
That's right...
Feed the kids. I'll just stand here and trim this shrub with these very sharp clippers...
Too much focus on opposition/power struggles
Not enough focus on good things families do

Gives us a lens to examine power dynamics and family problems (e.g. child abuse, divorce)
Questions conflict theory asks
about the family:
Who has power and why?
Who has access to the most resources and why?
Who wins arguments and why?
How are inequalities perpetuated in the family?
Source: Schwartz and Scott,
"Marriages and Families: Diversity and Change"
Feminist Theories
Theories that seek
to understand and ultimately reduce inequality based on gender
Social Norms:
“The informal rules, based on values, that guide what people do and how they live.”
(Ritzer: Introduction to Sociology)
If we're smart phones, culture is the apps that make us able to function in society and do useful things.
is how the cultural software is installed on the computer.
Feminist Theories:
Main Themes
Gender inequality is central to family life (socialization)
Family structure is socially constructed
Gender perspectives are not uniform
Intersectionality (gender/race/class/age/ability)
Cohen, pp. 18-20
Cohen, p. 18
Exchange Theory
The theory that individuals or groups with different resources, strengths, and weaknesses enter into mutual relationships to maximize their own gains
Cohen, p. 20
Sees humans as very rational
Assumes we agree to patterns of behavior in which we participate
We bargain for resources we don't have
Feminist Theories, Continued
Critique: Focus on women/gender
Points out differences in experience
Pushes for equality
Critique: Are we really that rational?
Usefulness: Helpful in examining established roles
Symbolic Interaction
"theorists need to study the behavior of individuals in order to understand what things mean to people"
Cohen, p. 20-22
Nathan Palmer:
Social positions you hold in life (frequently these are positions you hold within a social institution like family or work)
Nathan Palmer:
How you are expected to behave given your status
In other words:
Most of what we take for granted about the social world is socially constructed
Over-emphasizes subjectivity
Ignores objective realities of racism, sexism, etc.
Minimizes impact of these phenomena
Inconsistent – Is it a theory, really?
Exists only to “debunk” previous truths
It is helpful in explaining how certain categories (race, sex, gender, etc.) are socially created
Helps us to see beyond arbitrary labels
Source: Schwartz, Scott, "Marriages and Families"
Refers to a specific historical period: eighteenth-century Enlightenment–present
Cohen, pp. 22-23
A theory of the historical emergence of the individual as an actor in society and how individuality changed personal and institutional relations
In regard to family studies, the focus is on the social construction of individuality, individualism, and the emergence of the individual as a social actor at this time period.
For the first time, personal taste and choice have become institutionalized and are expected of individuals
State arena: the “modern” individual is socially constructed as a “citizen” with personal rights

Market arena: the individual becomes a worker and a consumer

Family arena: the individual becomes a social actor with free will and the ability to make choices about family relations and family life
Arenas and Modernity:
Diversity of families became recognized
Family wage no longer seen as necessary
Fragmentation of family identities
Giddens: This leads to "pure relationships"
A few important points about modernity:
Cohen, pp. 22-23
Family Systems Theory
Therapists/Sociologists: shift in focus from individuals to families and broader systems
Holistic – every part of family life related to the whole family
Family Development Theory
Looks at the family through developmental stages
Sees the family as dynamic rather than static (family-systems)
Each stage requires the completion of certain developmental tasks
All families are unique, so none of them move through the stages exactly the same
Source: Balswick and Balswick "The Family"
Source: Balswick and Balswick, "The Family"
Balswicks' Integrated Theory:
Both Structure and Flexibility are necessary for a healthy, strong family
Family should determine what works best for them in their circumstances
What’s best for individuals AND the whole?
Mutual agreement – not arbitrary roles
Effectual families have flexibility within the boundaries of systems, but generational/age boundaries must be kept in mind
Source: Balswick and Balswick, "The Family"
Pulling it All Together
A few sociological basics
Family is the biggest source of our socialization
What is a "normal" family?
Not mine...
"The study of ancestry and family history."
Cohen, p. 3
Personal Family
The people to whom we feel related and who we expect to define us as members of their family as well.
A group of individuals related by birth, marriage, or adoption
Cohen, p. 7
Cohen, p. 6
Why is this important to us?
Full transcript