Soc Notes Week 11 - Family

8.) Describe the structure and function of the family unit: i.e., structure-two parents, single parent; function-role of parent, role of child, role of spousesComparing traditional, extended, nuclear, single-parent, and blended familiesIdentifying problems facing families: i.e., abuse, teen pregnancy, poverty, addiction, blended families, care of elderly family members  It is important to define “family” and its members because of inheritance laws, tax laws, immigration laws, zoning laws, welfare regulations, federally funded student loan guidelines.There is a difference between political, societal, and religious.

1.      Family: traditionally defined as a group of kin united by blood, marriage, or adoption, who share a common residence for some part of their lives, and who assume reciprocal rights and obligations with regard to one another.

a.       Today definition changing due to:                                                              

i.      Childless marriages                                                            

 ii.      Step-parents                                                          

iii.      One-parent households                                                          

iv.      Same-sex unions                                                            

v.      Cohabiting couples

b.      Purpose:                                                              

i.      Permanence                                                            

ii.      Offspring                                                          

 iii.      Intergenerational continuity                                                          

iv.      Teaching of next generation                                                            

v.      Support (mental, physical, material, emotional, spiritual)

c.       Conjugal families: include husband and wife [partners] (may or may not include children)

d.      Nuclear families: may or may not include husband and wife [partners]; consists of 2 or more persons related to one another by blood, marriage, or adoption who share a common residence

e.       Family of orientation: The nuclear family into which a person is born and reared.

f.        Family of procreation: When a person marries, a new nuclear (and conjugal) family is formed. This family consists of spouses and biological children. 


h.      Extended family: goes beyond nuclear family to include other nuclear families and relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins

i.         Modified-extended family structure: individual nuclear families retain considerable autonomy and yet maintain connections with other nuclear families through visits, calls, or the exchange of goods, services, or affective greetings.                                                               

i.      This type of family differs from the traditional extended family, in that its members may live in different parts of the country and may choose their occupations independently rather than following the parent’s occupation.

j.         Kinship: the web of relationships among people linked by common ancestry, adoption, or marriage.                                                              

i.      Every society has norms

1.      Who belongs to whom

2.      Who is most important

3.      Who is center of structure

a.       There is a difference in time also                                                                                                                                   

 i.      100 years ago, 20 years ago, today

4.      Who is head of group

5.      Who marries whom

6.      How mates are selected

7.      By whom are children raised


a.       Marriage and number of spouses                                                              

i.      Marital status: single, married, separated, widowed, divorced                                                            

 ii.      Number of spouses: none, one, more than one

b.      Monogamy: one partner married / bound to one other partner

c.       Serial / Sequential monogamy (serial polygamy): married… separated/divorced/death… remarried… et cetera…                                                              

i.      While United States frowns on multiple spouses at one time, it is both legally and socially accepted to have more than one wife or husband as long as it is done sequentially and not simultaneously.

d.      Polygamy: marriage to more than one spouse                                                              

i.      Polygyny: man has more than one wife

1.      Common in Africa, among Muslim groups in the Middle East and Asia, tribal groups in South America

a.       Ibadan, Nigeria: of the 6600 women in 1979, 50% were married to husband with more than one wife among young women and 66% for women 40 and over.

b.      Muslim religion allows men to have up to 4 wives

c.       In US, practiced by Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) fundamentalists living in Utah                                                            

 ii.      Polyandry: woman has more than one husband

1.      Among the Todas, a non-Hindu tribe in India, it is understood that when a woman marries a man, she becomes the wife of his brothers at the same time.                                                          

iii.      Group marriage: several or many men are married to several or many women

1.      Ex: the Oneida Community (in United States), the founding group of Oneida Corporation that is listed on the NYSE. For about 30 years in the mid-1800s, John Humphrey Noyes preached that people were capable of living sinless lives based on a spiritual equality of all persons: materially, socially, and sexually. The outcome of this teaching was a group marriage structure where all adults were recognized as married to each other, all adults were parents to all children, and the total emphasis was on “we” rather than “I.”


a.   Neolocal: the couple lives alone wherever they wish.                                                              

i.      Common in U.S., but rare in the rest of the world                                                            

ii.      Only about 10% of world accepts this norm

b.      Patrilocal: the newlywed couple lived not just in the groom’s community, but usually in his parents’ home or compound                                                              

i.      ¾ of world practices                                                            

ii.      Common in polygamous hunting-and-gathering societies throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America.                                                          

iii.      In US, the Amish community practices

c.       Matrilocal: newly married couple lives with the wife’s family                                                              

i.      15% of societies practiced                                                            

ii.      Generally found where women held title to the land

1.      Some Native American communities


a.       Patrilineal: kinship is traced through the male kin, the father’s lineage.

b.      Matrilineal: descent and inheritance are traced through the mother’s line.                                                              

 i.      Trobriand Islanders (200 miles from New Guinea)

c.       Bilateral Lineage: The norm is to assign influence, wealth, and power to both sides of the family.                                                              

i.      In United States                                                            

ii.      Kinship lines are traced equally through the biological relatives of both mother and father.                                                          

iii.      Inheritance is passed equally among offspring


a.       Patriarchal: men have the power and authority and are dominant                                                              

i.      Ex: in Iran, Thailand, Japan, the male position of dominance is even reflected in the law

b.      Matriarchal: authority rests with the females, especially wives and mothers                                                              

i.      Ex: Matriarchial system are rare, even among matrilineal societies such as the Trobriand Islanders, where the wives do not have authority over their husbands

c.       Egalitarian: decisions are equally divided between husband and wife                                                              

 i.      Least common pattern of authority                                                            

ii.      Some have argued that the US is egalitarian?

1.      Is it???? Jobs? Pay? Religion? Location to live? Family events and holidays?


a.       Every society has norms concerning the appropriateness or unacceptability of some types of marriage partners                                                              

i.      Exogamy: people must marry outside of their own group                                                            

ii.      Endogamy: people must marry inside of their own group

1.      Race

2.      Religious orientation

3.      Family rituals

4.      Region

5.      Socioeconomic status??? (sometimes exogamy)

6.     Although the norms of endogamy – and what determines being in the same social group – vary among and within societies such as the U.S., all societies foster suspicion and dislike of groups whose values, behaviors, and customs are unfamiliar or seen strange.                                                          

iii.      Incest: sexual relations or marriage with close relatives

1.      Forbidden in almost every society

2.     Taboo

3.      Isolated exceptions existed among Egyptian and Inca royalty

4.      Most societies forbid marriage to first cousins

5.      Danger of “inbreeding”                                                          

 iv.      Heterosexual: spouse of different sex                                                            

v.      Homosexual: spouse of same sex

1.      Gay

2.      Lesbian


a.       SOCIALIZATION                                                                      

 i.      Family is one of the most important agents of socialization because it teaches its members the rules and expectations for behavior in society.                                                            

ii.      All family members learn from each other                                                          

iii.      The function of the family is primarily to socialize children so that they can become true members of the society they were born in

b.      AFFECTION AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT                                                              

i.      A second function of the family is the stabilization of the adult personalities of the society                                                            

ii.      This function is often ignored                                                          

iii.      People need to care, show affection, share joys and sorrows, and give and receive support in times of need1.      Remember Marlow’s monkey studies


d.      REPRODUCTON                                                              

i.      Principle of legitimacy: every society has a rule that every child should have a legitimate father to act as the child’s protector, guardian, and representative in society                                                            

ii.      Legitimate: born within a “bound” family                                                          

iii.      Illegitimate: born outside “bound” of family                                                          

iv.      Blended families: families composed of at least one formerly married spouse, the children of the previous marriage or marriages, and new offspring

1.      Step-parents

e.       SOCIAL PLACEMENT                                                              

i.      Involves determining what roles and statuses the child will occupy in society

1.      Ascribed Status:a.       At birth: age, sex, social class positionb.      Children generally assume the legal, religious, and political status of their family

2.      Achieved Status: a.       Marriage, occupation, education

f.        ECONOMIC




j.         RELIGIOUS                                                              

i.      Ex: Hebrew law stated that if a man had sexual relations with an unbetrothed (not contracted for marriage) virgin, he was required to marry her and to pay her father the bride price.


a.      Exchange perspective                                                              

 i.      Social exchange theory assumes that people weigh rewards and costs in their social interactions. If the exchange is unequal or is perceived as unequal, one person will be at a disadvantage, and the other will control the relationship. If people in a relationship give a great deal and receive little in return, they will perceive the relationship as unsatisfactory.

1.      Arranged marriages: factors of exchange include money, prestige, family position, power

2.      Self chosen: factors looked for include love, affection, emotional support, beauty, fulfillment of needs, prestige, personality

3.      Complementary needs: though mates tend to resemble each other in race, age, religion, ethnic origin, SES, education, they are usually complementary in respect to needs, psychic fulfillment, individual motivation, personality

b.     Interactionist perspective                                                              

i.      Marriage exemplifies all the ideas central to symbolic interaction: shared meanings, significant others, role expectations, role taking, definitions of situations, symbolic communication                                                            

ii.      Marriage is dynamic – the needs of the married individuals and their role relationships change frequently.                                                          

iii.      Spouses have reciprocal influence on each other                                                          

iv.      Social reciprocity                                                            

v.      Flexibility                                                           

vi.      Diversity                                                        

vii.      Shared definitions, meanings, perceptions                                                      

viii.      Important / non-important issues

1.      Ex: if the wife likes football but her husband does not, the situation will not lead to conflict if the husband defines football as important to his wife and accepts her behavior

c.      Developmental perspective                                                              

i.      Families pass through a family life cycle:

1.      Family life cycle: a series of different responsibilities and tasks

a.       Pass earlier tasks to move to later with more ease

b.      If earlier tasks are not passed… later tasks will be extremely difficult… if even passable.

c.       Most of the stages revolve around age of oldest child

2.      Stage 1: begins at marriage and extends to birth of first child

a.       Defining the marital relationship

b.      Learning to communicate effectively

c.       Conflict resolution skills

d.      Working out mutually satisfying and realistic systems for getting and spending the family income

e.       Deciding about parenthood

f.        Typically focuses on the married couple and their adjustment to life as a married pair

3.      Stage 2: preschool families or families with children 2 – 6 years old

a.       Changes from dyad of spouse-spouse to triad of parents-offspring

b.      Adjusting to parenthood

c.       Dealing with needs and development of infant and young child(ren)

d.      Relating to parents and in-laws who are grandparents now

e.       Assuming and managing the additional housing and space needs

f.        Continuing the communicative, sexual, and financial responsibilities of Stage 1

4.      Stage 3: oldest child begins school until oldest child reaches teens

a.       When child(ren) enter school, both parents and child(ren) face new relationships and responsibilities

b.      Families focus on education and socialization of child(ren)

c.       Significance of peer relationships for child(ren)d.      Child(ren)s changing interests and activities

e.       Management of parent-child conflicts

f.        Ongoing marital, work, other responsibilities

g.       Stress: 2nd or 3rd child / loss of job / dissolution of marriage

5.      Stage 4: family with adolescents or teenagers

a.       Family often undergoes economic problems                                                                                                                                      

i.      medical and dental costs                                                                                                                                    

ii.      transportation                                                                                                                                  

iii.      entertainment                                                                                                                                  

iv.      education                                                                                                                                    

v.      other expenses strain the budget

b.      Social strains and problems such as drinking, drugs, smoking, sex

c.       Adolescent culture: new types of dance, music, dress, and jargon

d.      Families begin to prepare their teenager to be launched from the home

6.      Stage 5: oldest child leaves home

a.       Called the “launching stage

b.      Child leaves for college, military, marriage, job

c.       Significant transitions for parents and child

d.      Stage’s brevity depends on how many children at home                                                                                                                                      

i.      If only one… stage is short                                                                                                                                    

 ii.      If many children… stage is long

e.       When children are launched, family returns to original two-person conjugal unit, however, it may expand to include sons- or daughters-in-law and grandchildren

7.      Stage 6: children have left homea.       Called the “empty nest stage

b.      Starts with departure of last child from the homec.       Continues until retirement or death of one spouse

8.      Stage 7: begins with retirement and extends until the marriage ends with death of a spouse.

a.       Women often live longer and are married younger than men, they outlive husband


a.       Marriage rates

b.      Age of

c.       Family size

d.      Divorce                                                              

i.      Custody                                                            

ii.      Alimony                                                          

 iii.      Child support


a.       Nonmarital Cohabitation: living together

b.      Childless Marriage

c.       Teen pregnancy

d.      One parent families

e.       Dual career marriages