Family: Two or more people, related either by birth or through social commitment, who share
resources, care for dependents, and often maintain close emotional relationships. With its
enduring patterns of relationships and behaviors, the family is a key social institution
Kinship: Family bonds. Can be blood, adoption, marriage, civil union, steadfast enduring
The meaning of family is culturally defined
Sociologists working in the functionalist tradition have highlighted several positive social
functions of families
• Social stability: Families create kinship ties. Solid network.
• Material aid: Members help one another by pooling resources. Work together
• Descent and inheritance: Descent- the way people trace kinship over multiple
generations. Inheritance- rules regarding the reallocation of property within a family.
Modern, descent is commonly bilateral aka traced through both mother and father. In
traditional societies, descent was unileal, traced either through the father or mother.
• Care and socialization of dependents: Children and elderly. Socialize them in values,
beliefs and practical skills.
• Sexual regulation: Cultural norms typically indicate which relations are socially
acceptable. Incest taboos prohibit sex with certain family members.
• Emotional comfort
Families vary in a variety of ways:
• Family networks
o Nuclear family: consists of a parent or parents and their children
o Extended family: consists of nuclear family plus grandparents, uncles, etc.
• Marriage and cohabitation
o Marriage: social relationship that creates family ties, typically involves sexual
intimacy, and is formalized by legal contract, religious ceremony or both.
o Cohabitation: Social relationship that can create family ties and typically involves
sexual intimacy, in which people live together as unmarried partners
o Marriage eligibility
▪ Endogamy: restriction of marriage either by law or custom to people
within the same social category (class, caste or race)
▪ Exogamy: marriage between people from different social categories
o Marriage arrangements: Romantic vs arranged
o Marriage forms
▪ Monogamy: Practice of restricting sexual relations to one partner
▪ Polygamy: marriage of one person to multiple spouses. Two main types
are polygyny and polyandry
o Gender roles
Global trends in family life
• Families are getting smaller
• Extended families are less common • Open-mate selection is growing
• Women are waiting longer to get married
• People spend fewer years of their lives being married
• More women are joining the paid labor force
• Families increasingly include more elderly members
Families have changed throughout history. Age of consent, dual income, child workers, etc.
were traditional family roles at one point
Marriage patterns are changing. Significant more common among college-educated people
than among others now. Graduates more likely to marry graduates, often resulting in relatively
affluent two-income households.
Nearly 50% of all first marriages eventually end in divorce. The rate of divorce has more than
doubled between mid 60s and early 80s. Since then, it has declined significantly but has
remained at higher levels than in the past.
Fertility rate: Average number of births per female. Fluctuated throughout history. High in early
20 century, low during depression, baby boom of 50s, now evened off at 2.1. Higher rate of
children born to unmarried parents.
2/3 of children are in 2 parent households.
Faith: Belief grounded in personal conviction or divine revelation rather than