SOC 200 – MARRIAGE & FAMILIES
Lecture 1: What is a Family?
Edmund Leach: “the cereal-packet norm family”, the image of a family that is
standard in advertisement for breakfast cereals. Depicts father sitting at head
of table, smiling mother whose duties revolve around caring for other
members of household, beautiful children. Potent image because it is in the
vision of “home sweet home” or “home-y ness”. Portrayed as safe harbor
against cruel and heartless world. The scene that the family portrays is like a
Norman Rockwell painting. Dad cuts turkey, children frolicking with family
pet. This particular vision of family that has been shown in groups such as
family coalition party, Christian heritage party, real women of Canada and
the like. In US, this image has been shown by Republican party in every
presidential election since 1970s. In England, the conservative party
pointedly advertised as “party of the family”, concerned with well-being of
Family sociologists are fond of arguing that a natural type of grouping of
depicting the family through the imagery of “cereal packet norm family” is a
privileging of a particular set of beliefs about men and women and social
roles, of beliefs about most desirable sexual behaviours of men and women,
of beliefs about procreation and fertility, of beliefs about children and
optimal environments and socialization. All these intersect in discussions
about the family.
Married families are exemplary of family and distinguish real families from
other intimate groupings. They may also suggest that by drawing attention to
marriage and the family that they may be encouraging families to
conceptualize marriage, encourage students to compare intimate
relationships with reference to supposed norm of lawfully married
heterosexual couple with biological children that live in common household.
Dorothy Smith: the “standard north American family” (SNAF) is understood
as an ideological code that attempts to ensure that we think about it in a way
presumes that real families will have a certain set of attributes and that these
attributes define the family.
“I am using the term “ideological code” as an analogy to “genetic code”.
Genetic codes are orderings of the chemical constituents of DNA molecules
that transmit info to cells, reproducing in the cells the original ordering. By
analogy, and ideological code is a schema that replicates its organization in
multiple and various sites…. An ideological code can generate the same order
in widely different settings of talk or writing- in legislative, social, scientific,
and administrative settings, in popular writing, TV ads, or whatever. The
SNAF is an ideological code in this sense.” – Dorothy Smith
Nuclear family: the conventional household unit in modern society;
composed of a man and woman in a stable marital relationship, with their
dependent children. Extended family: a household unit where more than one generation of
husbands and wives reside with their offspring.
Reconstituted family: family units comprising step-parents as a consequence
of divorce or remarriage.
Kinship groups: an anthropological term referring to groups who are related
by marriage or blood.
Conjugal relationship: the relationship between spouses within marriage.
Unilineal descent: an anthropological term used to describe a line of descent
of people realted by blood acquired through either the male line (patriliny)
or the female line (matriliny).
Vetrilocal vs uxorilocal rules of residence
e.g. physiological paternity among the Trobiand Islanders: “open the way”
e.g. maternity among the Tikopia of Polynesia: “shelter house”
e.g. intrafamilial sexual activity among the Kachin of Burma: incest vs
Functionalism: maintains that the persistence of any social institution is
explained in terms of the benefits it provides for both individuals and the
society in which they live.
Values of ascription and particularism vs achievement and universalism.
Public sphere: arena outside the home and family, and the kinds of activities
associated with paid work.
Domestic sphere: arena of activity associated with the household and family
Instrumental: in relation to the family, the term Parsons uses to describe the
husband’s role of making material provision for his family.
Expressive: in relation to the family, the term Parsons uses to describe the
wife’s roles of providing for the emotional needs of her family.
A monolithic bias: treating the family as a monolithic structure by
emphasizing uniformity of experience and universality of functions and by
doing so, under-representing the diversity of family forms that actually exist
in any given society.
A conservative bias: by providing only a romanticized view of the nuclear
family and regarding possible change as ephemeral.
A sexist bias: assuming that there is a natural division of functions between
An ageist bias: by focusing almost exclusively upon exchanges between
adults and largely excluding children and the elderly from analysis.
A racist bias: devaluing or outright ignoring families of culturally or
ethnically non-dominant groups.
A heterosexist bias: denying family status to lesbian or gay families.
The Vatican, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition
to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” (2003): “The absence of sexual
complementary in these [homosexual] unions creates obstacles in the normal
development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons.
They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by such persons living in such
unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense
that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an
environment that is not conducive to their full human development.”
“Canadian Psychological Association” (2003): “There are essentially no
differences in the psychosocial development, gender identity or sexual
orientation between the children of gay or lesbian parents and the children
of heterosexual parents… Statements that children of gay and lesbian parents
have more and significant problems in the areas of psychosocial or gender
development and identity than do the children of heterosexual parents have
no support from the scientific literature.”
“Scripting”: not all of the scripts that we may choose are likely to receive
equal degrees of social validation and acceptance.
Census Year Historical Content, changes in census enumeration
1921 WWI, large numbers of war widows, first time census
distinguishes between households and families.
1931 Great Depression, marriage and fertility rates decline,
reference to food, shared tables and housekeeping are
dropped from census, eradicating hints of women’s domestic
labour, single-parent heads of households counted for the
1951 Baby Boom (1946-1965), fertility rates increase, first time the
census clearly makes it possible for single parents with
children living with other families to be separately counted.
1981 Legacy of the sexual, gender and human potential revolutions,
emphasis upon gender equality and personal freedom, first
time common-law unions are enumerated.
1996 Majority of Canadian married women employed, number of
married women employed, number of hours spent doing
unpaid housework asked for the first time in this consensus.
A “Census Family”: 1991: Refers to a non-married couple (with or without
sons/daughters or either or both spouses) or a lone parent of any marital
status, with at elast one never-married son or daughter living in the same
2001: Refers to a married couple (with or without children of either or both
spouses), a couple living common-law (with or without children of either or
both partners) or a lone parent of any marital status with at least one child
living in the same dwelling. A couple living common-law may be of opposite
of same sex. “Children” in a census family include grandchildren living with
grandparents but with no parents present. Lecture 3
“hot sex on wedding night”, following sex tape of Pamela Anderson, mind
blowing orgasms, hubby falls off chandelier and rendered incurably infertile.
This is not grounds for a marriage to be annulled.
An annulment on grounds of sexual incompacity is not granted because
spouses can’t. Legal definition of non consummation of marriage, one of
spouses cannot perform sexual intercourse. The possibility of procreation
and the achievement of sexual pleasure are not necessary. Ejaculation is
important in relation to demonstrating sexual capacity or lack thereof.
Inability to consummate must exist at time of marriage, must be incurable, if
you have bore a child with husband, this does not conclusively prove that he
is impotent, legally speaking. If you could prove that the child was born
through artificial semination or without penetration (turkey baster), you
could have a child that is fertilized by your spouse but be able or eligible to
get an annulment on grounds of sexual incapacity.
Females: takes form of extreme repugnance or psychological repulsion to the
notion of having sexual intercourse with the husband.
Case: Canada. Husband applied for annulment because his wife refused to
have sex with him. He said he made her feel sick. She disliked him so much
her response to him was phobic. Had this woman been asked to imagine
herself with various life forms, she might have ranked sexual attractiveness
allure that below a squid or porcupine. Since both wife and husband were
both capable of sexual relations (she was a slut before marriage), no
annulment was granted. Legal principles, this case was wrongfully decided,
because if she had such an intense repulsion, it qualified as a clinical phobia,
then that intensity of emotion should have tipped scales in husband’s favour
and resulted in annulment.
How do you prove non-consummation? In past, if was assumed that sexual
incapacity and non consummation were easy proven- what you did was ask
wife to go along to doctor and he would perform exam and issue certificate
that says woman is still a virgin or not. Assumed that women would be
virginal upon marriage and they would surrender maidenhood (hymen) at
same time she married and gave up maiden name. If there was physical
evidence coupled with legal evidence, this constituted as sexual incapacity
Women in Canada are more likely to hang onto maiden name than maiden
hood. This intertwines 2 social trends. First social trend is the increasing
prevalence of women in Canada to retain maiden names. This is facilitated by
the fact that outside of Quebec, name change upon marriage is a social
custom. It is not a legal requirement. In Quebec, it is mandatory in ’81 that
women retain the name that they were registered with at birth – can’t legally
change it. This fact would promote retention of birth names in law, in
relation to legal affairs, but for purpose of continuity in social affairs. Second
social trend that has made this medical validation, has made the acceptance of pre-marital sex. A study in 1965 in UWO reported that just over 1/3 of
undergraduate males and 15% of undergraduate females had engaged in pre-
marital sex. This trend has been greater in relation to women than men. 1972
UoT, ½ male undergrads and 40% female undergrads had engaged in sex. 6
years later at UoT, rates had risen to 3/5 males and 60% females. By end of
80s, 8/10 of this age engaging in pre-marital sex.
When non-consummation is alleged, medical certificates of virginity are still
asked for. When a defendant after being asked refuses to submit to a medical
exam, it is legally questionable whether court has power to order them to
submit to an exam to submit to this. Like a lie detector test – a refusal may be
significant even if the test is seemingly meaningless.
The refusal of sexual relations after a prolonged time can also be legal
grounds for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty. Married persons cannot
force their spouse to have sex with them (still rape). Any attempt to force sex
on another person is liable to result in the person being charged with sexual
In Canada, if you cant to have a vasectomy (man) or tubes tied (female), you
have the right to control your own reproductive life including your ability to
There was once a requirement in Canadian Family Law that marriage was
between opposite sexes. There was never a statutory definition of marriage
in this country that marriage was between persons of the opposite sex,
rather it was taken for granted.
British case: 1866. Hyde vs. Hyde and Woodmansee. “Opposite-sex
‘requirement’?” This case didn’t investigate the legality or same sex persons
marrying at all, rather it was concerned with examining the legal effect of a
polygamist marriage in Utah, and in this context, talking about polygamy,
that the case resulted in a memorable voicing of the opinion that marriage is
the union of one man and one woman.