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Chapter 1

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PSYC 3630
Erin Ross

Chapter 1: Marriage, Relationships, and Family Commitments: Making Choices in a Changing Society DEFINING FAMILY o family: a family is any sexual expressive, parent-child or any other kin relationship in which people – usually related by ancestry, marriage, or adoption – 1) form an economic and/or otherwise practical unit and care for any children or other dependents, (2) consider their identity to be significantly attached to the group, and (3) commit to maintaining that group over time o definitions of family incorporate both functional and structural components  functional definitions point to the purpose for which a thing exist (ie. what it does)  structural definitions emphasize the form that a thing takes – what it actually is Family Functions Family Function 1: Raising Children Responsibly o society bares the task of raising children responsibly (trained properly in the culture, and are dependable) to families Family Function 2: Providing Economic and Other Practical Support o virtually every family engages in activities aimed at providing for such practical needs as food, clothing and shelter o in modern times family economic functions consist of earning a living outside the home, pooling resources, and making consumption decisions together Family Function 3: Offering Emotional Security o in the past the point of family was material maintenance, now its more of a source of emotional security Structural Family Definitions o The U.S. Census Bureau defines a family as “a group of two or more persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption and residing together in a household”  household: any group of people residing together  but by the Census Bureau definition persons sharing a household must also be related by blood, marriage, or adoption to be considered a family o Family structure: or the form a family takes (i.e. nuclear, extended, etc)  Extended family: family including relatives besides parents and children, such as aunts or uncles  in traditional/preindustrial societies this was included as part of the family performing most societal functions including economic production  Nuclear family: a family group comprising only the wife, husband and children  the norm in modern/industrial societies o Today, family members are not necessarily bound to one another by legal marriage, blood or adoption; the term family can identify relationships beyond spouses, parents, children and extended kin Post-modern: There is No Typical Family o post-modern family: came into use in order to acknowledge the fact that families today exhibit a multiplicity of forms and that new or altered family forms continue to emerge and develop Adapting Family Definitions to the Post-modern Family o as family forms have grown increasingly variable, social scientists have proposed – and often struggled with new, more flexible definitions for the family o legal definitions of family have become more flexible as well o many employers have redefined family with respect to employee benefit packages o the authors of the textbook Relaxed Institutional Control over Relationship Choices: “Family Decline” or “Family Change”? o social institutions: a system of patterned and predictable ways of thinking and behaving – beliefs, values, attitudes, and norms – concerning important aspects of people’s lives in society (ex. family, religion, government, economy, education)  since the 1960’s, however, family formation has become less and less predictable  “beginning in the late 1950’s Americans began to change their ideas about the individual’s obligations to family and society…This change was away from an ethic of obligation to others and toward an obligation to self” o two perspectives on why the relaxation of institution over relationships and families:  family decline perspective: view such changes as increases in the age at first marriage, divorce, cohabitation and non-marital births and the decline in fertility as disastrous for the family as a major social institution  claim that a cultural change toward excessive individualism and self- indulgence has led to high divorce rates and could undermine responsible parents  family change perspective: consider that family has varied over time – they argue family can adapt to recent changes and continue to play a strong role in society THREE SOCIAL TRENDS THAT IMPACT FAMILIES 1. new communication and productive technologies 2. changes in America’s race/ethnic composition 3. economic uncertainty Advancing Communication and Reproductive Technologies o the pace of technological change has never been faster; new technologies will continue to alter not only family relationships but how we define families as well Communication Technologies o cell phones allow parents and children to be readily reached – helps parents monitor children/teens along with GPS o we can video tape events like birthdays and send them to family members across the world o Facebook, Skype, email and others facilitate communication like never before o the internet makes family boundaries more permeable, always social support and people to be connected in ways that couldn’t have been imagined 30 years ago o but its also had negative affects like greater access to porn and/or infidelity Reproductive Technologies o technology has affected pregnancy as modern science continues to develop new techniques to enable couples or individuals to have biological children o more common infertility interventions involve prescription drugs and microscopic surgical procedures to repairs a females fallopian tubes or a male’s sperm ducts o assisted reproductive technologies (ART) involves the manipulation of sperm and/or egg in the absence of sexual intercourse, often in a laboratory, and may involve third parties  although ART procedures allow biological parenthood in ways that were unimaginable thirty years ago, these medical advances do raise family and ethical issues The New Faces of America’s Families: Fewer Non-Hispanic Whites, More People of Color o in 1965, the United States saw the first indications of fertility decline among non- Hispanic white, native-born women; that same year, the U.S. opened its doors wider to immigrants, the majority of whom are people of color o making up about one third of the U.S. population today, racial and ethnic minorities are projected to reach 50 % of the total population by 2042, the population under 18 is projected to reach this point by 2023 o as immigrants establish themselves, they typically begin to send for relatives as ethnic kin and community networks develop here o as a result more and more Americans maintain trans-national families:  a family of immigrants or immigrant stock that maintains close ties with the sending country; identity and behavior connect the immigrant family to the new country and the old, and their social networks across national boundaries o also many immigrant families are bi-national families:  an immigrant family in which some members are citizens or legal residences of the country they migrate to, while others are not legal residents (undocumented) Economic Uncertainty o Americans during the 1990s, others experienced job insecurity, loss of benefits, longer workdays, and more part-time and temporary work – but the recession that hit in 2008 has increased unemployment and caused uncertainty and change in virtually all families  marriages are being put off for lack of money, contraceptives aren’t being purchased due to lack of money or in most cases b/c children are expensive the birth rate is declining, individuals are selling their sperm/eggs, children are moving back in with parents, unemployment is raising depression rates, etc THE FREEDOM AND PRESSURES OF CHOOSING o as families have become less rigidly structured, people have made fewer choice “once and for all” – many people re-examine their decision about family (and face new choices) throughout the course of their lives o people are influenced by the beliefs and values of their society o structural constraints: economic and social forces that limit options and, hence,
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