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PSYC 3630 Lecture Notes - Nuclear Family, Sociology Of The Family, Scientific Method

Course Code
PSYC 3630
Erin Ross

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o the great variation in family forms and the variety of social settings for family life mean
that few of us can rely only on firsthand experience when studying families
The Blinders of Personal Experience
o Most people grow up in some form of family and know something about what
relationships, marriages, and families are
although personal experiences provides us with information, it may act as
blinders because we assume that our family is normal/typical
o therefore, science has developed norms for transcending the blinders of personal
Scientific Investigation: Removing Blinders
o the central aim of scientific investigation is to find out what is actually going on, as
opposed to what we assume is happening
Science: a logical system that bases knowledge on….systematic observations,
and on empirical evidence, facts we verify with our senses
the central purpose of the scientific method it is to overcome researches’
blinder, or biases
Scientific Norms
o in order to transcend personal biases, scientists follow certain norms
publishers are required to evaluate submissions only on merit, never taking into
account the researcher’s social characteristics (race, gender, etc) publishing
allows research results to be reviewed and critiqued by others thus making
science cumulative
an important scientific norm involves having objectivity: “the ideal of objective
inquiry is to let the facts speak for themselves and not be colored by the
personal values and biases of the researcher” to do this, scientists use rigorous
methods that follow a carefully designed research plan
o Theoretical perspective: are ways of viewing reality, or as a tool of analysis they’re
equivalent to lenses through which observers view, organize, then interpret what they
theoretical perspectives leads family researches to identify those aspects of
families and relationships that interest them and suggests possible explanations
for why parents and behaviors are the way they are
The Family Ecology Perspective
o Family ecology perspective: theoretical perspective that explores how a family
influences and is influenced by the environments that surround it. A family is
interdependent first with its neighborhood, then with its social-cultural environment,
and ultimately with the human-built and physical-biological environments. All parts of
the model are interrelated and influence one another

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Contributions and Critiques of the Family Ecology Perspective
o the family ecology perspective makes an important contribution today by challenging
the idea that family satisfaction or success depends solely on individual effort
it also turns our attention to family social policy what may be done about social
issues or problems that affect relationships and families
o disadvantage: it’s so broad and inclusive that virtually nothing is left out one research
agenda can hardly take into account the families socio-cultural environment on all
levels, from the global to the neighborhood
The Family Life Course Development Framework
o family life course development framework: the concept of the family life course is
central, based on the idea that the family changes in fairly predictable ways over time
o family life course stages:
1. the addition/subtraction of family members (through birth, death, and leaving
2. various stages that the children go through
3. changes in the family’s connections with other social institutions (ex. retirement
from work, or child entry into school)
Contributions and Critiques of the Family Life Course Development Framework
o the family life course development framework directs attention to various stages that
relationships and families encounter throughout life hence, this perspective
encourages us to investigate various family behaviors over time
noting how particular life course transitions affect relationships and family
o disadvantage: critics note remnants of the traditional tendency within this perspective
toward assumptions of life course standardization, possibly suggesting a white, middle-
class bias
The Structure-Functional Perspective
o structure-functional perspective: investigates how a given social structure functions to
fill basic societal needs (i.e. looks to the functions that institutions perform for society
and the structural form of the institution)
families are principally accountable for three vital functions: raise children
responsibly, to provide economic support, and to give family members
emotional security
Social structure refers to the ways that families are patterned/organized that
is, the form a family takes
Contributions and Critiques of the Structure-Functional Perspective
o all social scientists agree on the one basic premise underlying structure-functionalism
that families are important social institution performing essential social functions
it encourages us to ask how well various forms do in filling basic family needs

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o disadvantage: it dominated family sociology in the 1950’s and gave us an unrealistic
image of smoothly working families characterized only by shared values
the perspective once argued for the functionality of specialized gender roles: the
instrumental husband-father who supports the family economically and wields
authority inside and outside the family, and the expressive wife-mother-
homemaker whose main function is to enhance emotional relations at home and
socialize young children
the perspective has generally been understood to define the heterosexual
nuclear family as the only “normal” or “functional” family structure
vast majority of family sociologist rarely reference structure-functionalism
The Interaction-Constructionist Perspective
o interaction-constructionist perspective: focuses on internal family dynamics; the
ongoing action among and response to one another of family members (focusing on the
interaction, face-to-face encounters and relationships of individual who act in
awareness to one another)
family identity, traditions, and commitment emerge through interaction, with
the development of relationships and the generation of rituals recurring
practices defined as special and different from the everyday
sometimes this perspective explores family role making as partners adapt
culturally understood roles (ex. uncle, grandmother, mother-in-law, etc)
Reality as Constructed
o this approach explores ways that people, by interacting with one another, construct, or
create, meanings, symbols, and definitions of events or situations
as people “put out” or externalize meanings, these meanings come to be reified,
or made to same real once a meaning or definition of a situation is reified,
people internalize it and take it for granted as “real” rather than viewing it as a
human creation (ex. going for honeymoon following your wedding)
Post-modern Theory
o post-modern theory: theoretical perspective that largely analyzes social interaction
(discourse or narrative) in order to demonstrate that a phenomenon is socially
a principal goal involves debunking(ex. gender and race formerly taken for
granted as “real” now seen as socially constructed)
when applied to relationships, post-modern theory posits that beliefs about
what constitutes a “real” family are nothing more than socially fabricated
narratives, having been constructed through public discourse
Contributions and Critiques of the Interaction-Constructionist Perspective
o the interaction-constructionist perspective alerts us to the idea that much in our
environment is neither “given” nor “natural”, but socially constructed by humans
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