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Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 1020
Robyn Pitman

1-DEFINING FAMILY ACROSS THE LIFE COURSE The Importance of Using Definitions When Defining Families o Definitions are important because they construct our laws and social expectations and guide our research and knowledge Examples of Definitions of Family and Marriage 1. Family is the fundamental social group for society or is a building block for society 2. Two opposite-sex adults and their biological or adopted offspring  This definition ignores same-sex couples and their children  It excludes single-parent families  Also ignores children raised by grandparents Definition of Family o The 2006 census identifies several ways in which the family is changing  There are fewer married-couple families  Same-sex couples are increasing at a faster rate than opposite-sex couples  Single-person households are increasing  More young adults aged 20 to 29 live with their parents st  For the 1 time in Canadian history, unmarried people outnumber married people Types of Definitions of Family and Marriage o Legal definitions: context is enforceable legislated laws  May be definitions used in legislation, common-law understandings, and court order  Usually legal definitions relating to family law are about custody, maintenance, common-law relationships, and cohabitation  Immigration law must define family relationships in order for individuals to claim family reunification as ground for admission in Canada  The Government of Canada and provincial governments have legislation about families  Legal definitions vary around the world and across political regions within a country o Normative definitions: context is the social norms in a society Social construction of family are shared by majority of people in a country/region   Normative: practice or action is regarded as socially legitimate and approved  Canadians as a majority support same-sex marriage, therefore its considered normative  When an act or practice is non-normative or deviant there are often negative sanctions for the behaviour  The practice or act that is socially disproved may be stigmatized  Sometimes find that legal definitions are out of sync with social norms  This lack of consistency between our social norms and our legal definitions is the result of formal laws never being replaced or of interest groups advocating legislation that is not normative  Social norms are not necessarily reflected in formal legislation  Legal definitions only exist in those areas that require codifications and formal sanctions, whereas much of our social life is governed by informal norms  Much of social organization is tied to social norms, and normative definitions are inextricably linked to this social organization  Over last 50 years normative definition of family have broadened and with multicultural and economic pressures it will likely continue to broaden 1- DEFINING FAMILY ACROSS THE LIFE COURSE  Even though our particular religious or social groups may construct family in a way different than the normative definition, social constructions of the family gain power only when adherents to a perspective increase in number o Theoretical definitions: context is the concepts and propositions of a social science theory  A concept is an abstract set of things or ideas collected under one symbol or idea  Propositions are the backbone of a theory and are defined by any statement that relates one concept to another  Complex theories, such as about families, are constructed by connecting many propositions about a specific phenomenon o Research definitions: context is a specific research question  May be derived from a theory, social problem or a hunch  All linked to measurement  Measurement is simply a way to assign numerals to a concept  Usually several ways to measure a concept Every theory supplies conceptual hypotheses but those concepts must be tied to  measurements for research to test predicted outcomes  The family will be defined differently in different research contexts – variance in family structures  Variance the variability on any set of measures. All social sciences study variances  Variable the name for one set of scores of the same measure for different people  Steps in the Research Process:
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