Unit 1 & Chapter 1
People in families participate in three areas: reproduction and the nurturant care of
children; the establishment of an individual’s social identity, social role, and social status;
and as a source of intimacy and need fulfillment for the individual throughout the
What is a Family?
Household: people who occupy the same dwelling and can consist of one or more
families, a single person, or a group of related or unrelated people e.g. siblings, a live-in
nanny, or apartment mates.
Polygamy: the practice in many Muslim countries and was encouraged among the early
Mormons in the United States.
Monogamy: marriage to only one person at a time.
Communal living: sharing financial resources, work assignments, and even meals on a
community basis, e.g. the Hutterites.
Census family: Refers to a married couple (with or without children of either or both
spouses), a couple living common-law (with or without children of either or both
partners), or a lone parent of any marital status, with at least one child living in the same
dwelling. A couple living common-law may be of opposite or same sex. Children may be
children by birth, marriage, or adoption. Children in a census family include
grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents.
Social Definitions of the Family
Nuclear family: regarded as married parents and their children and sometimes called the
standard North American family and it forms the basis for what advocates call
“traditional family values”.
Extended family: encompasses the nuclear family and all other relatives.
In both of these genetic and blood relationships are important, although other
types of relationships, such as marriage or adoption, are recognized by most
people. Ecological theory- looks at the relationship of family and society. According to James
Garbarino families are a part of interlocking systems that influence each other at four
Level 1- Microsystem
The microsystem consists of the small groups in which people interact face-to-face. For
adults this might involve family, workplace, and organizations to which they belong. The
microsystem most directly affects the quality of life through relationships with
individuals; therefore, its nature and quality are important. Each family member has a
different microsystem; for example, those of young children may include daytime
Level 2 – The Mesosystem
Is made up of the relationships between two or more groups of which the individual is a
member. A child’s mesosytem might consist of the relationship between family and
daycare centre, or between family and school. For parents, the mesosystem might consist
of the relationship between family and workplace. The quality of the connections is
important – whether they are weak, strong, negative or positive.
Level 3 – The Exosystem
The exosystem is a setting in which individuals do not take an active part, but which has
an effect on them through the mesosystem or microsystems.
Level 4 – The Macrosystem
The macrosystem consists of a society’s ideology and culture. These shared beliefs and
ways of doing things are, taken together, the basis on which policy decisions are usually
made. Most social policies are based on assumptions concerning relationships between
the sexes, such as the division of labour between males and females both inside and
outside the family.
Evaluation of the Ecological Theory
- This theory better explains change that occurs in families than it does change that
occurs in society as a whole. It deals more with growth than with decline, as in
- Although this theory does address family relationships in the microsystem, its real
strength is in its explanation of how society and family interact
- E.g. can help service providers understand how minority families differ from
mainstream ones in their relationships with their extended families and with
organizations such as schools, police systems, and social service agencies. Macro or Micro?
- Macro theories principally study the values of a society and the way those values
affect the family
- These viewpoints include the structural-functional and conflict theories
- Micro theories emphasize the relationships within individual families
- Among these are the symbolic interaction and exchange theories
The family as an institution
- The structural-functional theory views the family as an institution among other
social institutions, such as the legal and educational systems
- The family has a structure and function that both connect it with society as a
whole and separate it from other institutions
- Has a number of important functions in society including that it provides for the
physical protection of its members. Usually this means that one or more family
members must provide income to support the family. Second, the family cares for
the emotional well-being of its members. Third, it produces and shapes new
individuals who will, as adults, be prepared to take their place in society. This
shaping process is called socialization. Finally, the family bestows characteristics
such as ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic status on their children.
- Values are social principles accepted by a society as a w