FRHD 2010 May 21, 2017
Unit 1: Getting Started and Definitions
- Online course notes
- Chapter 1: The Family
What is a Family?
- Definitions of family change according to time and place.
- Family of orientation is the family that we were born into and raised in.
- Family of procreation is the family that we form through marriage or cohabitation.
- Census family: a legal definition of the family used by Statistics Canada including diverse
How does Society Influence Families?
Families do not exist in isolation, they are part of a vast social network through
membership and participation in their surroundings. Theoretical perspectives are separated
according to whether they take a macro or micro perspective:
- Macro: a theoretical perspective that looks at the bigger picture and studies how the
values of a society affect the family.
o The structural functionalist and conflict theories are macro perspectives.
- Micro: a theoretical perspective that focuses on individuals or small groups and
emphasizes relationships within individual families.
o Includes the symbolic interactionist theory, family systems theory, and exchange
o The feminist theory and the ecological theory have both macro and micro
The Family as an Institution – The Structural Functionalist Theory
Views the family as an institution among other social institutions, such as school, the
workplace, and the health care system.
- George Murdock identified four basic functions that families perform:
1. The sexual
2. The economic
3. The reproductive
4. The educational
- Current theorists have extended on Murdock’s functions:
3. Social placement
4. Economic support FRHD 2010 May 21, 2017
5. Emotional support
- For structure functionalists, when the family performs all 5 of these functions well,
social stability results.
- This knowledge is passed on to each generation through socialization:
o A lifelong process in which the cultural knowledge of how to survive and how to
take part in social life is passed on to each generation.
- Structural functionalists generally believe that role specialization increase the efficiency
of family functioning, in particular, the husband is an instrumental specialist and the
wife is an expressive specialist:
o Standard North American Family (SNAF)
The Family in Conflict – The Conflict Theory
The conflict theory is a macro perspective that views the family from the perspective of
its relationship to the wider society, but instead of emphasizing positive aspects of the
relationship, they stress the negative.
- Concerned with power relationships and inequality.
Family as Integrating Members – Symbolic Interactionism
The symbolic interaction theory is a micro approach for understanding relations
between family members and to examine the meanings each sees in other member’s words
- Behaviour and objects gain meaning, or become symbols through this process of
Diversity of Family Structures in Canada
- Nuclear Families
o Composed of two parents and their one or more biological or adopted children
- Extended Families
o Composed of parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other blood
relatives living together, or not.
- Step, Blended, or Recombined Families
o Composed of parents who have divorced their first spouses, remarried someone
else and formed a new family that includes children from one or both first
marriages and or from the remarriage.
- Childless Families
o Consisting of a couple.
- Lone Parent FRHD 2010 May 21, 2017
o Families composed of a parent, most often a mother, with a child or children.
- Cohabitating Couples and Common lay Marriages
o Family arrangements that resemble other forms, but without legalized marriage.
- Traditional Families
o A term that reflects the changing nature of Canadian families in that people tend
to use it to refer to their own families or to the type of family they encounter
- Same Sex Families
o Consisting of two parents of the same sex, and possibly natural or adopted
children of one or both partners.
Family Structure – Refers to the classification of census families into:
1. Married couples and common-law (same sex or opposite) couples, with or without
never-married sons or daughters living with them.
2. Lone parent families (either male or female parent) living with at least one never
married son or daughter.
Analytic Biases in Family Studies
Margrit Eichler (1883) identified four pervasive biases in our thinking about and studying
1. Monolithic Bias
a. The tendency to think of a family structure on uniformity of experience and a
universality of structure and functions.
2. Conservative Bias
a. The tendency to largely ignore changes in socio-cultural institutions such as
family or to treat apparent changes as temporary rather than central and
3. Sexist Bias
a. The tendency to assume there is some natural differentiation of functions within
families based on sex and that there is a uniformity of experience for all
members of the family regardless of sex.
4. Microstructural Bias
a. The tendency to ignore impacting and explanatory factors external to the family