Chapter 1: What is a Family?

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University of Guelph
Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 1020
Olga Sutherland

Chapter 1: What Is A Family? Definitions of ‘the family’ -it is difficult to define ‘the family’; there are many ways to define it (page 5 has a few definitions). Definitions have changed according to time and place -legal definitions of the family are not fixed; changed as a result of court cases and legislation. They also aren’t consistent across the country/provinces Social Definitions: -traditional family: includes father, mother and their children -nuclear family also known as ‘standard North American family’ or SNAF comes in two forms: 1) families of origin or orientation are those who are born into and raised in 2) families of procreation are those we form through marriage or cohabitation, and in which we raise our children -extended family includes the nuclear family and all other relatives Personal Definitions: -includes close friends, or step-family for example -in some cases a person may not consider a biological member to be part of their ‘family’, for example, a parent that has abandoned the family or disowned the child, this can also include a divorced parent -ideas about the family fall along a continuum with biological and legal definitions at one end and social and personal definitions at the other -theories about family help shape government policy, agency regulations, methods of therapy and other ways society relates to families. Theories tend to ignore realities of family life, for example time pressures or spatial matters James Garbarino’s Ecological Theory (influences of interlocking system at 4 levels -ecological view helps to explain relationships between family and extended family Level 1: Microsystem -small groups in which people interact face-to-face (ex: workplace, organizations, school) -affects quality of life through relationships with individuals Level 2: Mesosystem -the relationships between two or more groups of which the individual is a member (ex: relationship between family and school, or family and workplace) -quality of connection is important (positive/negative, strong/weak) Level 3: Exosystem -individuals do not take an active part in, but this affects them through the micro- & mesosystem (for example, the government, employment, school board) -can affect the extended family (ex: if the family has to relocate for work, so they can ‘move to move up’) Level 4: The Macrosystem -society’s ideology and culture (shared beliefs, ways of doing things) -it is the basis on which policy decisions are made and are adjusted in response to economic or political situations Macro or Micro? Macro theories study the values of a society and the way those values affect the family. (Includes structural-functional and conflict theories) -Structural-functional theory views the family as an institution among other social institutions (i.e. legal and educational systems)  family has a structure and function, it is both separated and connected to society. A major contribution to this theory is the concept of norms and values -this theory emphasis positive aspects -this theory doesn’t tolerate differences from the SNAF; that is considered abnormal or defective in some way. -this theory assumes that society has one set of values and norms, which is not the case in a multicultural society such as Canada -Functions of the family in society include: provides for physical protection of its members, family cares for the emotional well-being of the family, produces and shapes new individuals who will be prepared to take their place in society (socialization), and it bestows characteristics such as ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic status on their children. All four of these result in social stability -According to structural-functionalists, the family is organized around three statuses: the father/husband, the mother/wife, and the child where the husband/father’s role is instrumental (active/doing, he is responsible for economic support) and the wife/mother’s role is expressive (emotional, she physically and emotionally, nurtures) -Conflict theory views the family from the perspective of society -this theory emphasis negative influences -Marxism views the family as part of a system in which a few people exploit the majority and reap the benefits of their labour -an example of a conflict-based theory is feminism; they criticize the patriarchal view of structural- functionalism -this theory explains why families and societies change  balance of power Micro theories emphasize relationships within individual families (includes symbolic-interaction and exchange theories) The Family System -System contains a set of interrelated and interacting parts. Family system has complementarity roles, like the role of a parent must have the corresponding role of a child. -Subsystems are smaller groupings of members within the family. Most common are spouse, parental and sibling subsystems. -These subsystems ar
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