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SOC101Y1 (470)
Chapter 2

Chapter Two

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Bonnie Fox

Chapter Two: Life Course Analysis The Nature of Analysis analysis involves trying to understand a phenomenon/event by breaking into its parts and seeing how they fit together and are organized + how something has happened + why an event/phenomenon occurred + how explanations tend to examine the mechanisms at work whereas why explanations tend to identify causes two types of explanations are the same theoretical assumptions: +ie: people whose goals become more similar over time have happier marriages or a more equitable division of household labor + all analysis and all theories make theoretical assumptions in order to explain things Theoretical Assumptions: many theories could compete to explain the same phenomenon + richness of concepts & theories gives us alternative ways of viewing any one phenomenon three sets of assumptions: motivational theories, normative theories, & macro- historical theories motivational theories assume one choose/determine why and how they do something + most people like to think they determine their actions one would choose option with bigger rewards rational choice theory & much of micro-economics founded on such an assumption + critics: what something is worth to one person depends on the situation and the norms in the society value of reward set by society functional theories: + family is a normative institution in all societies and that the family is central in all societies to perform the functions of reproduction, control of sexuality, and socialization of children + emphasizes the maintenance of functional institutions, therefore seeing the social change as a threat to society's institutional functional relations conflict theories: + family as a social group that mirrors and is affected by large-scale forces such as historical dialectal materialism + sees family as expressing the larger forces in society ;; ie: family violence is related to social and cultural values about violence such as those favorable toward guns and spanking feminist theories: + cultural feminism, critical race feminism, and liberal feminism unified by common perception that women are subjugated and oppressed by patriarchy + family most often seen as central institution that reproduces social roles and mechanisms that maintain patriarchal oppression systems theories: + all elements of a system affect each other and that to understand a family system, scholars must examine it holistically + major concepts are feedback & equilibrium + families have members that affect both one another and the balance of entire family system + when system is thrown out of equilibrium or balance, members try to correct the dysfunction by recalibrating means and goals or by changing inputs and outputs produced concepts such as double blind hypothesis, the dysfunctional family, and refrigerator mother rational choice & social exchange theories: + individuals having the rational capacity to choose those actions deemed to produce greatest rewards relative to costs + over time, individuals engage in relationships such as marriage that bring, on average, more rewards than costs; as result, these social relationships become valued exchange relationships in themselves and individuals maintain and continue them symbolic interaction theories: + individuals being constructed by their society + society precedes the individual + when individual arrive in the world, they learn signs and symbols so that they can express and negotiate meanings in the social world + some variants of symbolic interaction see individual as being strongly determined by the existing meanings and roles in society whereas other emphasize individuals' ability to negotiate and reorganize their social relationships + central concept used in study of families is social roles and how much they're socialized or negotiated bioecological theories: + encompasses the interplay of our biological and evolutionary selves with our social selves + focused on concept of inclusive fitness individuals act to maximize the survival of their genes from one generation to their next ;; process viewed as common to our species, failed to explain why some mothers murder their children while others are excellent parents (relationships affect mother's attachment to her child) developmental and life course theories: + focuses on concepts of stages and transitions + individuals, relationships, and families are all conceptualized as traversing stages of development + as we traverse the life course of a family/individual/relationship, significant events propel a transition to another stage normative theories assume social norms predict behavior and action + social norm: a rule about our conduct that is held and followed by most people in a society + because rule is held and followed by so many people, it becomes basis for social expectations social norms divided into formal norms (ie: laws/rules established by an authority as a teacher) & informal norms (not codified or written down but are shared by many people) life course theory is largely a normative theory + takes the perspective that all societies need to organize people across their life courses + norms that organize individual and family change are related to our ages and stages of life + ie: cannot drive until 16 years old age-graded norm + stage-graded norms refer to stages of life such as the expectation (norm) that you should not have children until you are married stage of life (married) sets the normative expectation for having children. Major criticism of normative theories: fail to explain how norms are formed and how they develop + problem: norms very different from society to society, although we're all rational human beings + evolutionary social theory: norms are based on our biological nature most human beings have same biological nature but societies are very different macro-historical theories: + assume that forces beyond the individual or society create change + forces may be historical or even evolutionary + people's behavior is determined neither by us nor by particular social norms but by macroscopic forces such as historical dialects & evolution+ problem: explaining variation in human responses great variation in human response to same stimuli provides difficulties for macro-level theories - at minimum, macro-level theories need to identify processes other than macro-level forces to explain individual variation these three major sets of assumptions offer very different perspectives on what causes our behavior: individual choice, social norms, or macro-level forces Life Course Theory: Social Dynamics: change is everywhere; when it's slow, perceived as stable + when rapid, it's cataclysmic change + change can be measured only across points in time + change takes place when family is different at different time point questions of identity (same across time points) and change (different across time points) are central to developing a dynamic theory a family exists when there is at least one intergenerational bond and this social group is recognized and governed by social norms + when child is brought to world, there are social norms that establish relationship expectations such as nurturance and financial support family + important: families have histories and futures that can be analyzed Another tacit/hidden dimension of social dynamics is the biological constraints on individuals and groups + single most significant biological constraint is aging all individuals and groups are aging ;; implies that mere passage of time has effects on both individuals and social groups + duration effect : as people move across different units (ie: individuals, sibling relationships, families), all of these can be said to be affected by the duration of time since inception would be your age but your exposure to the influence
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