SOC101 NOTES- Family
Families we choose: social arrangements that include intimate relationships between couples
and close familiar relationships with other couples, as well as with other adults and children.
Family: not an easy concept to define; relationship in which people live together with
commitment, form an economic unit and care for any young, and consider their identity to be
significantly attached to the group.
• Microlevel: we have our own “biography” based on our experience within a family.
• Macrolevel: families are embedded in a specific social context that has a major impact
• Families in industrialized societies serve fewer and more specialized purposes than
families in preindustrial societies do (political systems provide structures of social control
and authority and economic systems are responsible for the production and distribution
of goods and services).
• Families are socially constructed; families are neither static, universal nor biologically
Kinship: social network of people based on common ancestry, marriage or adoption; people
cooperate to acquire basic necessities of life and serve as a means which property is
transferred, goods are produced and distributed and power is allocated.
Family of orientation: the family into which a person is born and in which early socialization
Family of procreation: the family that a person forms by having or adopting children.
Extended family: family unit composed of relatives in addition to parents and children.
Nuclear family: family made up of one or two parents and their dependent children.
Homogamy: marrying those who have similar characteristics such as race, religion, age,
• Most people in Canada tend to marry partners who are similar to themselves.
Monogamy: marriage to one person at a time.
Polygamy: having more than one spouse at a time.
• Polygyny: marriage of one man with two or more women.
• Polyandry: marriage of one woman with two or more men.
o Polyandry is never the only form of marriage in a society: where polyandry occurs,
Patrilineal descent: system of tracing descent through father’s side of family. Matrilineal descent: system of tracing descent through mother’s side of family; however,
women cannot control property and inheritance is usually traced from maternal uncle (mother’s
brother) to his nephew (mother’s son). In some cases, mothers may pass on their property to
Bilateral descent: tracing descent through both the mother’s and father’s sides of the family.
Patriarchal family: authority held by eldest male.
Matriarchal family: authority held by eldest female.
Egalitarian family: family structure in which both partners share power and authority equally.
Sociology of family: attempts to describe and explain patterns of family life and variations in
Martial satisfaction: marital stability rooted more today in marital satisfaction than in
usefulness of marriage; increase in martial satisfaction is connected to autonomy of women
(legalization of birth control and presence in paid labour force).
• 5 sets of social forces for martial satisfaction: economic factors, divorce laws, family life
cycle, housework and childcare, and sex.
Perspectives on family
Functionalist: emphasizes the functions that families perform at the macrolevel of society;
importance of family in maintaining stability of society and well-being of individuals.
• Durkheim: marriage, family and division of labour is efficient for life.
• Parsons: father fulfills instrumental role, while mother fulfills the expressive role.
• In advanced industrial societies, families serve 4 key functions: sexual regulation,
socializing children, economic and psychological su