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Chapter 12.doc

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Margaret Gassanov;

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 housework Our society still seems to be organized around nuclear families and 1950s gender roles despite conventional patterns in decline Families nowadays dont 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 todays social problems, a time when the values we associate with family- community, decency and morality were dominant Family in political rhetoric- symbol of all thats good+ bedrock on which society rests Deviations from the ideal of heterosexual breadwinner/homemaker family is held responsible for myriad social problems 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 peoples welfare by families, with services provided largely by women Problems with assumptions and logic of arguments themselves o First: idea that family is in crisis is problematic because it assumes there is only one kind of family- the heterosexual, nuclear, breadwinner/homemaker family o Assumption that children are always best raised at home by full time moms o Society 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 values) 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 o E.g. 19 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 o Market forces are most obvious example of influences that arise from the way society is organized o Individual capitalists were pressured to use child labor because of dynamics of capitalist economy o When 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 reproduction 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 o Behavior can be linked to specific genetic configurations o Certain behaviors -adaptive because contributed to reproductive success o Yet, there is no maternal instinct that tells mothers how to care for babies 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 dont necessarily meet individuals Definitions 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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