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Chapter 3

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PSYC 3630
Erin Ross

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 60s as they moved from adolescence to young adulthood in the Vietnam War era o in the 1960s and 1970s, 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 th o one of the most dramatic developments of the 20 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 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 familys 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 mens 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 scholars 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 downturno 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: ones experience and perception of the social world the experiences we have are shaped by the social class in which we reside, as well as o
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