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notes soc aging class 7.doc

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Martha Shaffer

Sociology of Aging Winter 2012 Week 7 Class Notes: Aging and Families I. Introduction – Aging and Families “The family, as a fundamental social institution, influences daily life and life chances through the life course.” – McPherson and Wister (2008), pg. 263, Aging as a Social Process. Why? -socialization and care in early life: religious customs, ethnic food you eat, school you go to -coordinating care in later life: who takes care of parents afterwards -a context for many major life transitions: entering long-term relationship, becoming parents, family transitions are some of the most important turning points Families are unique as social institutions in that they are fundamentally age-integrat- ive- families by their definition are fundamentally link together multiple generations of people Defining “family” is a notoriously tricky task. Compositional vs. functional types of definitions  compositional definitions: relatively narrow, legal systems rely on these defini- tions and they often change over time e.g., The Canada census definition of family: “A married couple and the children, if any, of either or both spouses; a couple living common law and the children, if any, of either or both partners; or, a lone parent of any marital status with at least one child living in the same dwelling and that child or those children. All members of a particular census family live in the same dwelling. A couple may be of opposite or same sex. Children may be children by birth, marriage or adoption regardless of their age or marital status as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their own spouse or child living in the dwelling. Grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents present also constitute a census family.” ( Social scientists often see clear limitations of a narrow compositional idea of families: - there are growing diversity of family forms - other types of people living together acting as family that this narrow definition excludes functional definitions e.g., “A unit of intimate, transacting, and interdependent persons - who share some values, goals, resources for decisions and … - who have commitment to one another over time e.g., “The intimate group in which reproduction, socialization of the young, eco- nomic cooperation, and social status placement occur.” sociologists note that most definitions focus on nuclear families and disreg- ard extended families, aunts uncles, grandmothers grandfathers, that may also be important for a families functioning that aren’t included so “Kin- ship” is emerging to include this concept in understanding what a family is. II. Emerging Trends in Kinship Structures 1. Kinship system has become longer (beanpole families – “vertical extension” but “horizontal shrinkage”) People living longer and more generations alive at the same time, but because reproduction is narrowing the parts of the beanpole so horizontally it is shrinking. 2. Shift from an age-condensed structure to an age-gapped structure in many ex- tended families - recent study done in Canada: - age-condensed: where successive generations have children at an early age (21 and under) - age-gapped: gap between generations is 30 or more - Normative structure: each generation has babies btwn 22-29 - In Canada: normative-55%, 32% age-condensed, 13% age-gapped 3. More truncated families- The lineage stops, with declining fertility more people are not having kids 4. Increasing number of blended or reconstituted family after remarriage- with in- creased divorce rates etc. more families are becoming blended III. Norms and Expectations of Intergenerational Kinship Relationships Norms of intergenerational family life… (a) Depend on the family roles in question (e.g., norms for spousal relations differ for relations between parents and children) (b) Vary by social class, ethnicity, region, and other relevant basic social factors (c) May vary between specific families (d) Change over historical time Key norms related to intergenerational kinship relationships : Families exist at the crossroads of these competing norms independence volunteerism families obligation dependence Independent-dependent: heavy level of dependence for infants and children that shifts as children age to a growing independent. Should children return home after university? after a divorce? -Growing incidence of Boomerang kids: coming home after school 1/3 of all 20 year olds are likely to return home after completing higher education -being a “burden” on adult children - “intimacy at a distance” many older adults are concerned about becoming a burden to their adult children as they age. Most people don’t want to live geographically close to their children 1 Figure adapted from Morgan, Leslie A. and Suzanne R. Kunkel, Aging, Society, and the Life Course, 2
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