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SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Canada Women'S National Soccer Team, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Parental Leave

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Margaret Gassanov;

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Chapter 12: families
Commonsense understandings of family problems as personal, private, and attributable
to “human nature
Sexuality, marriage, parenthood, housework and the gendered division of labor:
separation of tasks men and women regularly do
Exploring the familiar: families in Western society today
Dilemmas of contemporary family life
Family is usually the conventional nuclear family- man is the main breadwinner and
woman has primary responsibility for children
Most married women- even those with young children- now have to assume some of
responsibility of breadwinning
Career- taking time out for children, because of the commitment at odds with demands
of motherhood
Manhood was once equated with occupational success, but such success is now both
harder to achieve and insufficient for a happy marriage
Many women expect men to be emotionally open in ways that women tend to find
easy, in addition to aggressively pursuing occupational success and sharing the
Our society still seems to be organized around nuclear families and 1950s gender roles
despite conventional patterns in decline
Families nowadays don’t get much support with child-care responsibilities
lack of good, affordable daycare means that having children is difficult unless mother
becomes a full-time homemaker
men have depended on emotional support and caring work provided by their wives to
keep them sane and productive
Myths about family
idealized image of family life in 1950s was beamed into home across country-
compared to nowadays, the family seems to be disintegrating
“feministic” decade: people married earlier, had more children, and were less likely to
divorce than the generations and preceded and followed
Mythical- popular view that traditional European family consisted of 3 generations of
family living harmoniously under 1 roof (extended-family households)
The lives of all but male patriarch- completely limited by his authority over life + limb
Family Values
“family values” in U.S. political arena- undefined past, free of today’s social problems,
a time when the values we associate with family- community, decency and morality
were dominant
Family in political rhetoric- symbol of all that’s good+ bedrock on which society rests
Deviations from the ideal of heterosexual breadwinner/homemaker family is held
responsible for myriad social problems

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Family values advocated call for policies that punish deviations from nuclear-family
ideal (e.g. prohibit gay and lesbian marriages and parenthood)
Politicians seek to promote continued assumption of responsibility for people’s welfare
by families, with services provided largely by women
Problems with assumptions and logic of arguments themselves
oFirst: idea that family is in crisis is problematic because it assumes there is only
one kind of family- the heterosexual, nuclear, breadwinner/homemaker family
oAssumption that children are always best raised at home by full time moms
oSociety is simply the sum of individuals who live in it (suggests that the good
old days could be restored if only large numbers of individuals adopted “family
Ignores social structure, misses the most important insight of sociology-
organization of various aspects of society puts constraints on and creates
opportunities for individuals
Social structure generates powerful social forces that cannot be reduced
to individual motivation
oE.g. 19th century potter and factory owner Josiah Wedgwood- he was disturbed
by practice of child labor, but he was forced to use children in his own factory
to keep with competition
Explained market forces made it impossible not to use cheap labor
oMarket forces are most obvious example of influences that arise from the way
society is organized
oIndividual capitalists were pressured to use child labor because of dynamics of
capitalist economy
oWhen one producer uses child labor, others had to follow or reduce their own
labor costs → situation was out of hands of individuals
Sexism, racism are built into structure of our society and as divisions of labor
Social forces influence family patterns (who to marry)
Regularities that result attest to power of social structure and are what allow
development of “social science
Family becomes an institutions- a relatively stable set of roles and practices
Family-values arguments- popular ideology that confuses attempts to think clearly
about family
The myth of the natural family
One reason for popular fixation on nuclear family – it derives from biology of
Biological determinism- individual behavior or social organization is directly caused
by biology or biological processes
Sociobiology- type of biological determinism that view human behavior as product of
human evolution
oBehavior can be linked to specific genetic configurations
oCertain behaviors -adaptive because contributed to “reproductive success”
oYet, there is no maternal instinct that tells mothers how to care for babies

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Evolutionary forces have selected a pattern that is most likely to ensure survival of
offspring- union of 2 biological parents in a lasting relationship
Although nuclear family is common, its is often embedded in a larger household that
constitutes the unit of productive, consumption and child care e.g. Europe in Middle
Ages, wealthier → bigger household
In many non-Western cultures, moms are primary caregivers for babies but not for
older children –siblings often take on bulk of care of children or children are given to
grandparents to raise
Role of father in conception is not always recognized across different cultures- often
social father is different from biological father
Conceptualizing and defining family
Structural functionalism
Talcott Parsons and structural functionalism in post-WWI sociology
Institutions exists because of the useful functions it performs for the larger society
Problems: just because an institution performs a social function, no reason to assume
that some other institution might not perform that function equally well
#2: focus on how institutions create social order, and its consequent failure to analyze
the tensions in family life that can generate social change
Functions emphasized to meet needs of society don’t necessarily meet individuals
Rights and responsibilities follow from definitions
State regulated institutions such as schools and hospitals often use legal definitions of
marriage and family to determine which people will be informed and consulted about
the status of someone in the situation
E.g. patients might have family they had little recent contact with making important
medical decisions for them, whereas friends who have been companions are excluded
Tendency to definite family as nuclear unit results in focus on frequency with which
nuclear-family patterns appear across history and cultures
Focusing on diversity in social patterns can help us acquire a better understanding of
nature of families
Definition: sets of relationships people create to share resources daily in order to ensure
their own and any dependants’ welfare
Focuses what is of critical importance to both individual survival and generational
reproduction across many cultures
Definitions holds family to be the unit of social reproduction- activities that maintain
existing life and reproduce the next generations; feeding clothing, and looking for
subsistence needs as well as nurturing and socializing children and emotionally
supporting adults
A look at other family patterns
Foraging societies: the communal household
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