SOC214H1 Lecture Notes - Trobriand Islands, Nuclear Family, Group Marriage

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Cross-cultural pattern and a description of foraging societies
2011census
- Households: only 1/4 contain mom, dad, kids- more are multiple-family households (most are extended
familyconcentration of immigration population)
- Families: 67% are married couples [1961: 91.6%]
16.7% are common-law couples [1981: 5.6%]
16.3% are lone parents [1961: 8.4%]
An increased number of same-sex couples- 2.6% are blended families (1 of every 10 children live in
them)
Young adults living in their parents‘ home (a worldwide phenomenon): 59.3% of 20-24 year-olds;
25.2% of 25-29 yr.-olds
I. Cross-cultural Evidence on Family Patterns
A. Common-sense assumptions
- We assume the nuclear family was universal and was found in all societies
- Anthropologists: there is nothing about family since people organize themselves in different ways
B. The evidence on the range of human societies F. Edholm‘s summary
- Conception and sex: a variety of understandings; no causality of biology
In most society, biology is not known
In Trobriand Islands, it is believed that conception results from the entry of a spirit into the
womb; the male‘s role is to ―open‖ the womb through intercourse. The child‘s blood comes
from the mother‘s side and the child is not related to the father
In Marind-Anim society, it is believed that fertility is only possible from a mixture of semen.
Thus, gang raped at marriage and on subsequent occasions are common
The Lakker of Burma believed that the mother is only a container for the child. She has no
blood-connection with her child
There is always a social aspect or relationships in biology
- The mother-child relationship: not always close; biological mothers are not necessarily responsible
for care
There is nothing about maternity-instinct (when women are pregnant, they tend to go and read
books since they have no idea what to do)
In Melanesia and Polynesia, children are adopted just after weaning
In Tahiti, young women often have few children before they are considered to have a stable
relationship. These children will be take care by the young women‘s parents
- Fatherhood biological vs. social (recognized, given responsibility)- in some culture, father is
defined by social not biological
- Marriage different forms
Multiple spouses
Group marriage
Ghost marriage
- Household diverse compositions
Nuclear families are often embedded in an external families
Monogamy, polygyny, vivilocal, martilocal, neolocal, etc
- Incest variable interpretation
It is not necessary based on family
Exception: in ancient Egypt, inbreeding (brother-sister) was enforced to keep the purity of the
royal line
In Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, father-daughter and brother-sister sexual relationship were
common
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