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Chapter 3

PSYC 3630 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: G.I. Bill, Marriage Penalty, Portuguese Colonial War


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 3630
Professor
Erin Ross
Chapter
3

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CHAPTER 3: AMERICAN FAMILIES IN SOCIAL CONTEXT
o individuals and families vary as a result of the social setting in which they exist
HISTORICAL EVENTS
o historical events and conditions affect options, decisions, and the everyday lives of families
American family life is experienced differently by people living through the Great
Depression, World War II, the optimistic ‘50s, the tumultuous ‘60s, the economically
constricted ‘70s and ‘80s, the time-crunched ‘90s, war and the threat of terrorism
throughout the 2000s, and the continuation of a globalized economy
o during the years of the Great Depression, couples delayed marriage and parenthood and had
fewer children than they wanted
o the end of WWII was followed by a spurt in the divorce rate, when hastily contracted wartime
marriages proved to be mistakes or extended separation led couples to grow apart
o WWII was also followed by an uptick in marriages and childbearing
Most white men earned a “family wage” and most white children were cared for by
stay-at-home mothers
thanks to the GI bill enabling returning soldiers to get a college education, and
the less educated could get good jobs in automobile and other factories but
b/c of neighborhood discrimination the GI bill was unable to help black families
the large baby boom cohort, born after WWII (1946-64), has had a powerful impact on
American society, giving us the cultural and sexual revolutions of “the 60’s” as they
moved from adolescence to young adulthood in the Vietnam War era
o in the 1960’s and 1970’s, marriage rates decline and divorce rates increased dramatically
perhaps in response to a declining job market for working-class men, the increased economic
independence of women, and the cultural revolution of the ‘60s, which encouraged more
individualistic perspectives
these trends, as well as the sexual revolution, contributed to a dramatic rise in non-
marital births
o The most recent historical moments focus on adaptation adapting to a globalized economy,
insecurity post-September 11, 2001, and new or continued overseas wars
also change in the election of a biracial man as president, although his election does not
suggest that racism and ethnic tensions are no longer an issue, it does point to increased
racial tolerance among Americans
o of course, the family has faced the necessity of adapting to demographic, social, economic, and
political change throughout its history
AGE STRUCTURE
o one of the most dramatic developments of the 20th century was the increased longevity of our
population in 1900 it was 47, but an American child born in 2006 is expect to live to 78
among the positive consequences of increased longevity are more years invested in
education, longer marriages for those who do not divorce, a longer period during which
parents and children interact as adults, and a long retirement during which family
activities and other interests may be pursued or second careers launched, more of us
will have longer relationships with grandparents, and some will know their great-
grandparents
o the increasing number of elderly people must be cared for by a smaller group of middle aged
and young adults divorce and remarriage may change family relationships in ways that affect
the willingness of adult children to care for their parents

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o the impact of a growing proportion of elderly will also be felt economically (funding Social
Security and Medicare)
o the declining proportion of children is likely to affect social policy support for families raising
children fewer children may mean less attention and fewer resources devoted to their needs
THE ECONOMY AND SOCIAL CLASS
o life chances: the opportunities one has for education and work, whether one can afford to
marry, the schools that children attend, and a family’s health care – all depend on family
economic resources
income and class position also affect access to an important feature of contemporary
society: technology
o class differences in economic resources affect the timing of leaving home, marrying, and
assuming caretaking responsibilities
o money may not buy happiness, but it does afford a myriad of options: sufficient and nutritious
food, comfortable residences, better health care, keeping in touch with family and friends
through the Internet, education at good universities, vacations, household help, and family
counseling
Economic Change and Inequality
o the U.S. economy has not necessarily been good for many Americans
many have experiences increased job insecurity, loss of benefits, longer workdays, and
more part-time and temporary work
programs of assistance for the poor have been cut, and there is increased economic risk
and volatility as well as uncertainty about the future of such benefits such as pensions
and health insurance
many white-collar jobs are being out-sourced out of the country
Income
o regardless of economic change, the overall long-term trend in household income has been
upward, though It can drop from 1.7 to 6 percept during periods of recession
however, this picture masks a distribution of income in the U.S. that is highly unequal
the rich have gotten rich and the poor have gotten poorer
o incomes vary by race and ethnicity, but all middle to lower groups show moderate gains at best
over the long term
o income varies by gender as well women have gained more than men since 1970, while men’s
wages were largely stagnant, still access to a male wage remains an advantage
o incomes also vary by family type married couple households had the highest incomes in 2008
compared to male-headed households and then female-headed households
o some scholar’s have pointed to the increasing tendency for well-educated, high-earning men to
marry their female counterparts, whereas men and women at the lower end of the economic
scale marry each other
creating a “real marriage penalty” (families diverge more b/c of this multiplier effect)
Poverty
o poverty rates show somewhat the same pattern as income: long-term improvement but
increased disadvantage in the short term
poverty rates fell dramatically in the 1960s and have varied since then, with the current
poverty rate increasing considerably during the current economic downturn

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o Poverty rates vary by racial/ethnic group non-Hispanic whites had the lowest poverty rates,
followed by Asian Americans. African Americans have higher rates of poverty
Blue-, Pink-, and White-Collar Families
o life styles vary by social class (position in the social hierarchy, can be viewed in terms of such
indicators as education, occupation, and income or analyzed in terms of status, respect and
lifestyle)
working-class people, or blue-collar workers, are employed as mechanics, truckers,
machine operators, and factory workers, in jobs typically requiring uniforms or durable
work clothes
pink-collar jobs are primarily lower-paying jobs held mostly by women; waitressing,
retain sales, and secretarial positions
white-collar workers include professionals, managers, clerical workers, salespeople, and
so forth, who have traditionally worn white shirts to work
o blue-, pink-, and white-collar employees, however may continue to look at life differently, even
at similar income levels
marriage: working-class couples tend to emphasize values associated with parenthood
and job stability and may be more traditional in gender role ideology; white-collar
couples are more inclined to value companionship, self-expression and communication;
middle-class parents value self-direction and initiative in children, whereas parents in
working-class families stress obedience and conformity
o habitus: one’s experience and perception of the social world
the experiences we have are shaped by the social class in which we reside, as well as our
race and gender
o middle-class parenting strategies include involving children in a myriad of stimulating activities
and lessons to enhance their development plus with advantages regarding educational
success, health care, and housing
o advantages occurring to children in working-class and poor families: these children see relatives
frequently and have much deeper relationships with cousins and other relatives, as well as less
time-pressured lives
o more highly educated, high-income parents with managerial/professional occupations are less
likely than those at lower socioeconomic levels to have dinner with their child every day during
a typical week plus b/c of achievement pressures and social isolation in affluent, suburban
families result in some surprisingly high rates of depression and substance abuse among their
preteens/adolescents
RACE AND ETHNICITY
o the study of child socialization often finds class to be more significant than race in terms of
parental values and interactions with their children yet, racial/ethnic heritage (the family’s
place within our culturally diverse society affects preferences, options, and decisions, not to
mention opportunities
Conceptualizing Race and Ethnicity
Race
o race is a social construction reflecting how Americans think about different social groups “race
is real a real cultural, political and economic concept, but it’s not biological”
race: implies a biologically distinct group, but scientific thinking rejects the idea that
three are separate races clearly distinguished by biological markers
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