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SOC214H1 Lecture Notes - Friedrich Engels, Nuclear Family, Stepfamily

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Bonnie Fox

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Definitions of theoretical approaches to studying family
- Working definition of family in this course: the social relationships that people create to care for
children and other dependents daily and also to ensure that the needs of adults are met-Luxton & Fox
- Carol stack: family is the smallest, organized,, durable network of kin and non-kin who interact daily,
providing domestic needs of children and assuring their survival
Conceptualizing „Family‟
- Women entered the labour force and changed the concept of family ;equality seeking groups (women,
gay, lesbian, Trans) created new gender and family relationships
Definitions of „Family‟
Definitions are needed to encompass the diversity of family pattern in CA. In this culture, people believe that
biology determines family, our behaviour and personality
- Nuclear family: Father, Mother and Children or just the couples
- Blended family: step-parents with or without children
- Extended family: beyond the nuclear family (nuclear family + relatives)
- Census family: married couples with the children, living in the same dwelling
- Economic family: group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and are related to each
other by blood, marriage, common law or adoption
- Household is where people live together, the unit of social reproduction. It is different from „family‟
- Neo-liberal theory: individuals are responsible of their own beings
Families should be the one who are responsible for people‟s welfare, not the state. Thus, gay and
lesbian marriages may be more acceptable than young women becoming single mothers who will
probably demand state services
Rightwing, pro-family groups blame social problems on those who do not conform to heterosexual
nuclear-family forms
Legal definitions
- The government has legal definitions (and census definition) about family. It focuses on the kinds of
units and defines couples, including same-sex couples, who love and support each other and without
child as family.
- The implications of legal definitions of family provide rights to people. Children who are age18 or
above are responsible for their parents
Legal definitions do matter
- It might let people or family members who are not close to that person be able to gain rights and make
medical decision
- Fathers who have never taken care of the children can make custody claims
- Single mothers are denied access to social assistance if they fail to name the father
Margrit Eichler‟s criticism-on the importance of what people do, not who they are
- Sociologists pay more attention on people who do provide care and daily bases rather only people who
are biologically related
- Anthropologists show that family and kinship are social creations, not biological
Theoretical Approaches (Theory is a way to approach the study. We need to explore these approaches because it
guides our research, gives and suggests the question we are going to ask. It also shapes the way we interpret.)
I. Historical materialism (1800, time of social unrest)
- Frederick Engels, On the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State -- family as the product of
history, socially produced
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