Chapter 2 Life Course Analysis.docx

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University of Guelph
Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 1020
Ruth Neustifter

Families Across The Life Course Chapter 2: Life CourseAnalysis The Nature of Analysis Analysis involves trying to understand a phenomenon or event by breaking it into its parts and seeing how they fit together and are organized. “How” explanations tend to examine mechanisms at work whereas “why” explanations tend to identify causes. When we analyze people, we often assume that people cause themselves to do things through self-motivation. In the social sciences, the principal way we answer “how” and “why” questions is through theoretical analysis. All analyses and all theories make theoretical assumptions in order to explain things. TheoreticalAssumptions Many theories that could compete to explain the same phenomenon (one of the greatest strengths of the social sciences). General forms of social science theories are abbreviated into these three sets of assumptions: Motivational theories assume that you choose or determine why and how you do something. Rational choice theory: This theory proposes that individuals choose events, people, and things based on the principle of maximum profit. Some rational choice theories, such as those of Coleman, derive social norms and social organizations from the individual’s profit-seeking calculations and behaviour (founded on such assumptions).Problems with a purely motivational approach, such as the argument that your choices are conditioned genetically and you are in fact determined to act in a certain way even though you may perceive choice. Some critics argue that there is little logic in our choices since we cannot compute the costs and rewards of any action in a rational way. Normative theories assume that social norms predict behaviour and action. Social Norm: is a rule about our conduct that is held and followed by most people in a society. This becomes the basis for social expectations. Formal norms: social rules that are codified or written down in legislation or institutional documents such as contracts. Informal norms: social rules shared by people in a society by not written down as laws or contracts.Life course theory is largely a normative theory. It takes the perspective all societies need to organize people across their life courses. The norms that organize individual and family change are related to our ages and stages of life. Age-graded norm: a social norm that refers to the age or timing of a particular event or stage.The major criticism is that they fail to explain how norms are formed and how they develop. Macro-historical theories assume that forces beyond the individual or society create change. Our behaviour is determined neither by us nor by particular social norms but by macroscopic forces such as historical dialectics and evolution. Historical dialectics: a dialectical process moves from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. Historical dialectics is the interpretation of historical events as representing thesis  antithesis synthesis.Evolution: any process determined by a consistent set of rules or principles that explain and predict that continuity of change.The major problem with macro-historical theories is explaining variation in human responses. Families Across The Life Course Chapter 2: Life CourseAnalysis Box 2.1 – Major Theoretical Frameworks for Studying Families Functional Theories – the family is a normative to understand a family system, scholars must institution in all societies and that the family is examine holistically. central in all societies to perform the functions Rational Choice and Social Exchange – based of reproduction, control of sexuality, and socialization of children. Tends to see social on individuals having the rational capacity to change as a threat to society’s institutional choose those actions deemed to produce the greatest rewards relative to costs. functional relations. Conflict Theories – thinks of the family as a Symbolic Interaction Theories – focuses on social group that mirrors and is affected by individuals being constructed by their society. The central concept used in the study of families large-scale forces such as historical dialectical materialism or a clash of cultures. Family is social roles and how much these are socialized violence is related to social and cultural values or neglected. about violence such as those favourable toward Bioecological Theories – encompasses the guns and spanking. interplay of our biological and evolutionary Feminist Theories – encompasses many distinct selves with our social selves. Last two decades, schools of thought such as cultural feminism, researchers have focused on such areas as hormonal linkages between married partners, critical race feminism, and liberal feminism. The family is most often seen as the central cortisol levels (stress hormones) in family institution that reproduces the social roles and interactions, and the biosocial effects of breastfeeding on a mother’s attachment to her mechanisms that maintain patriarchal oppression. child. System Theories – focuses on the notion that all Developmental and Life Course Theories – focuses on the concepts of stages and transitions. elements of a system affect each other and that Life Course Theory Social Dynamics When change is slow, we perceive it as stability. When it is rapid, we perceive it as cataclysmic change. A hidden dimension is the biological constraints
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