The Meaning of Marriage and the Family

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The Meaning of Marriage and the Family

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The Meaning of Marriage and the Family

Chapter 1



The Meaning of Marriage and Family

As we study family patterns and issues, we need to understand that our attitudes and beliefs about families both affect and distort views.Experience versus ExpertiseOngoing Social Controversy



Marriage in the United States



What is Marriage?

A marriage is a legally recognized union between two peoplegenerally a man and a womanunited sexuallycooperate economicallymay give birth to, adopt, or rear children. The union is assumed to be permanent may be dissolved by separation or divorceAs simple as such a definition may make marriage seem, it differs among cultures and has changed considerably in our society.



Shared Features of Marriage

Despite cultural and historical variation, the following characteristics seem to be shared among all marriages:The establishment of rights and obligations connected to gender, sexuality, relationships with kin and in-laws, and legitimacy of children.The establishment of specific roles within the wider community and society. The orderly transfer of wealth and property from one generation to the next.The assignment of the responsibility for caring for and socializing children to the spouses or their relatives



Who May Marry?

Same sex marriage is now legal in the United States but as of mid-2009 only in: MassachusettsConnecticutIowaVermontNew HampshireMaine.



The Rights and Benefits of Marriage

The rights and benefits of marriage include but are not limited to:Legal status with partner’s childrenPartner medical decisionsRight to inherit propertyAward of child custody in divorce proceedingsControl, division, acquisition, and disposition of community propertyDivision of property after dissolution of marriagePayment of worker’s compensation benefits after deathPublic assistance from the Department of Human Service



Forms of Marriage

MonogamyThe only legal form of marriage in the U.S.PolygamyThe preferred marital arrangement worldwidePolygyny - the practice of having two or more wivesPolyandry - the practice of having two or more husbands



Defining Family

Census Definitions:Family“a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together in a household”Household“one or more people—everyone living in a housing unit makes up a household”




Household Composition


Defining Family

In individuals’ perceptions of their own life experiences, family has a less precise definitionaffiliated kinbest friend, lover, priest, boyfriend, minister, rabbi, girlfriend, neighbor, teacher, godchild, petThere are also ethnic differences as to what constitutes family.



Four Functions of the Family

Provision of intimacy.Formation of a cooperative economic unit.Reproduction and socialization.Assignment of social roles and status.



Types of Families

Family of orientation or Family of originthe family in which we grow upFamily of procreationthe family formed through marriage and childbearingFamily of cohabitationthe family formed through living or cohabiting with another person



Why Live in Families?

Continuity as a result of emotional attachments, rights, and obligations.Close proximity.Intimate awareness of others.Economic benefits.



Extended Families and Kinship

Extended FamilyConsists of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws. May be formed through marriage or birth.Kinship SystemKin can be affiliated, as when a nonrelated person is considered “as kin.”A relative may fulfill a different kin role, such as a grandmother’s taking the role of a child’s mother.



The Major Themes of This Text

Families Are DynamicThe family is a dynamic social institution that has undergone considerable change in its structure and functions



The Major Themes of This Text

Families Are DiverseNot all families experience things the same wayOutside InfluencesOutside forces shape family experiences



Studying Marriages and Families

Chapter 2



How Do We Know?

Social research is one way we can learn about things. However, most of what we “know” about the social world we have “learned” elsewhere through other less systematic meansTraditionAuthority



How Popular Culture Misrepresents Family Life

As of 2008, more than 98% of U.S. households had television sets. During the third quarter of 2008, the average person watched television four hours and 45 minutes per dayThe average household was tuned in for eight hours and 18 minutes per day



Popular Culture

Cumulatively, television, popular music, the Internet, magazines, newspapers, and movies help shape our attitudes and beliefs about the world in which we live.



Daytime Television

The combined portrayal of family life on daytime television that results from soap operas and talk shows is unrealistic and highly negative.



Primetime Television

Prime-time television, in both dramas and situation comedies, unrealistically depicts married life.“Reality Television” highlights extreme cases or introduces artificial circumstances and/or competitive goals, making these shows no more representative of familial reality than the daytime talk shows.



Researching the Family

The Importance of Objectivitysuspend the beliefs, biases, stereo types or prejudices we have about a subject until we understand what is being saidObjective statements vs. Value judgmentsValue judgments usually includes words that mean “should” and imply that our way is the correct way




Fallacies are errors in reasoningEgocentric fallacybelief that everyone has the same experiences and values that we have and therefore should think as we doEthnocentric fallacybelief that our ethnic group, nation, or culture is innately superior to others



Concepts and Theories

Theoriessets of general principles or concepts used to explain a phenomenon and to make predictions that may be tested and verified experimentallyConcepts abstract ideas that we use to represent the reality in which we are interested.



Conceptualization and Operationalization

Conceptualizationthe specification and definition of concepts used by the researcherOperationalizationthe identification and/or development of research strategies to observe or measure concepts



Theoretical Perspectives on Families

Macro-level theoriesfocus on the family as a social institution.Micro-level theories Emphasize what happens within families, looking at everyday behavior, interaction between family members, patterns of communication, and so on.



Family Ecology Theory

The emphasis of family ecology theory is on how families are influenced by and in turn influence the wider environment.The core concepts in ecological theory include environment and adaptation. Initially used to refer to the adaptation of plant and animal species to their physical environments, these concepts were later extended to humans and their physical, social, cultural, and economic environments



Family Ecology Theory

Critiques of Family Ecology Theorynot always clear which system best accounts for the behavior we attempt to explain or how the different systems influence each other.has been more effectively applied to individual or familial development and growththe theory may not apply as well to a range of diverse, especially nontraditional, families



Structural Functionalism Theory

When structural functionalists study the family, they look at three aspects: What functions the family as an institution serves for societyWhat functional requirements family members perform for the familyWhat needs the family meets for its individual membersStructural functionalism treats society as if it were a living organism, like a person, animal, or tree.



Structural Functionalism Theory

Critiques of Structural Functionalism TheoryHow do we know which family functions are vital?Looks at the family abstractly and views the family in terms of functions and roles.It is not always clear what function a particular structure serves



Conflict Theory

Conflict theory holds that life involves discord and competition.Sources of Conflict in FamiliesMarriages and families are composed of individuals with different personalities, ideas, values, tastes, and goals.Sources of PowerFamily members have different resources and amounts of power. There are four important sources of power: legitimacy,Moneyphysical coercionlove.



Conflict Theory

Critiques of Conflict TheoryConflict theory derives from politics and economics, in which self-interest, egotism, and competition are dominant elements.Conflict theorists do not often talk about the power of love or bonding, yet the presence of love and bonding may distinguish the family from all other groups in society.conflict theorists assume that differences lead to conflict. Differences can also be accepted, tolerated, or appreciated



Feminist Perspectives

Feminists critically examine the ways in which family experience is shaped by gender.Argue that gender and family are concepts created by society.Feminists have an action orientation alongside their analytical one as they strive to raise society’s level of awareness regarding the oppression of women.



Feminist Perspectives

Critique of Feminist PerspectivesThe feminist perspective is not a unified theory; rather, it represents thinking across the feminist movement.Some family scholars who conceptualize family life and work as a “calling” have taken issue with feminists’ focus on power and economics as a description of family.



Symbolic Interaction Theory

Symbolic interaction theory looks at how people interact with one another.We interpret or attach meanings to interactions, situations, roles, relationships and other individuals whenever we encounter them.In marital and family relationships, our interactions are partly structured by social roles.



Symbolic Interaction Theory

Critiques of Symbolic Interaction TheoryThe theory tends to minimize the role of power in relationships.Does not fully account for the psychological aspects of human lifeDoes not place marriage or family within a larger social context



Social Exchange Theory

According to social exchange theory, we measure our actions and relationships on a cost–benefit basis, seeking to maximize rewards and minimize costs by employing our resources to gain the most favorable outcome.We do much of this unconsciously



Social Exchange Theory

Critiques of Social Exchange TheoryAssumes that we are all rational, calculating individuals, weighing the costs and rewards of our relationships and making cost–benefit comparisons of all alternatives.Difficulty ascertaining the value of costs, rewards, and resources, as such values may vary considerably from person to person or situation to situation



Family Development Theory

Family development theory is the only one exclusively directed at families, and it emphasizes the patterned changes that occur in families through stages and across time.Family development theory looks at the changes in the family that typically commence in the formation of the premarital relationship, proceed through marriage, and continue through subsequent sequential stages.



Family Development Theory

Critiques of Family Development TheoryIt assumes the sequential processes of intact, nuclear families.Gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and social class all create variations in how we experience family dynamics and the very sequence of stages may reflect a middle- to upper-class-family reality.



Family Systems Theory

Family systems theory combines structural functionalism and symbolic interaction.Structure of related parts or subsystems each with specific boundaries.The family is a purposeful system that seeks homeostasis.



Family Systems Theory

Critiques of Family Systems TheoryCan be so abstract that is loses meaning in the real world.Applications are more relevant to dysfunctional rather than healthy families.



Conducting Research on Families

Quantitative researchdeals with large quantities of information that is analyzed and presented statisticallyQualitative research Is concerned with a detailed understanding of the object of study.Secondary data analysisreanalyzing data originally collected for another purpose.


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