Data File 181
I. The Family: Basic Concepts.
A. The family is a social institution, found in all societies, that unites individuals into coop-
erative groups that oversee the bearing and raising of children.
B. Families are structured around kinship, a social bond, based on blood, marriage, or adop-
tion, that joins individuals into families.
C. The family unit consists of a social group of two or more people, related by blood, mar-
riage, or adoption, who usually live together.
1. The family of orientation is the family into which a person is born and from
whom s/he receives early socialization.
2. The family of procreation is a family in which people have or adopt children of
D. In most societies, families are formed by marriage, a legally-sanctioned relationship in-
volving economic cooperation as well as normative sexual activity and childbearing, that
people expect to be enduring.
E. In practice, the definition of a family is becoming more inclusive, with many people ac-
cepting the concept of families of affinity, people with or without legal or blood ties who
feel they belong together and who want to define themselves as a family.
II. The Family: Global Variety.
A. The extended family is a family unit including parents, children, and also other kin. It is
also called the consanguine family.
1. Industrialization tends to promote the decline of the extended family and the rise
of the nuclear or conjugal family, a family unit composed of one or two parents
and their children.
2. Global Sociology Box: The Weakest Families on Earth? A Report from Sweden.
B. Marriage patterns:
1. Endogamy is marriage between people of the same social category.
2. Exogamy is marriage between people of different social categories.
3. Industrial societies favor monogamy, a form of marriage involving only two part-
4. Most preindustrial cultures allow polygamy, a type of marriage uniting three or
a. Polygyny is a type of marriage uniting one male to two or more females.
b. Polyandry is a type of marriage joining one female with two or more
5. Global Map 17–1: Marital Forms in Global Perspective.
182 Ch. 17•Family
C. Residential patterns:
1. Patrilocality is a residential pattern by which a married couple lives with or near
the husband’s family.
2. Matrilocality is a residential pattern by which a married couple lives with or near
the wife’s family.
3. More common in industrial societies, neolocality is a residential pattern in which
a married couple lives apart from the parents of both spouses.
D. Descent refers to the system by which members of a society trace kinship over genera-
1. Patrilineal descent is a system tracing kinship through males.
2. Matrilineal descent is a system tracing kinship through females.
3. Industrial societies usually display bilateral descent, a system tracing kinship
though both females and males.
E. Virtually all family systems worldwide are patriarchies.
III. Theoretical Analyses of the Family.
A. Functions of the family: Structural-functional analysis.
2. Regulation of sexual activity through the incest taboo, a cultural norm forbidding
sexual relations or marriage between certain kin.
3. Social placement.
4. Material and emotional security.
5. Critical evaluation.
a. This approach demonstrates why society could not exist without the fami-
b. It pays little attention to the fact that other institutions can provide key fa-
c. It ignores the diversity of family life in the U.S.
d. It overlooks the problems of family life.
B. Inequality and the family: Social-conflict analysis.
1. Family structure promotes inequality in several ways:
a. Because property is inherited through the family, it perpetuates class ine-
b. The family is generally patriarchal, perpetuating gender inequality.
c. Endogamous marriage also perpetuates racial and ethnic inequality.
2. Critical evaluation. This approach fails to account for the existence of family
problems in noncapitalist societies.
C. Micro-level analyses.
1. Symbolic interactionism emphasizes that the family is socially constructed and
hence always changing.
2. Family life can also be analyzed using social-exchange theory.
3. Critical evaluation. These perspectives ignore the fact that family life is similar for
people affected by any given set of structural and cultural forces.
IV. Stages of Family Life.
Data File 183
1. Arranged marriages were common in preindustrial cultures.
2. With industrialization, romantic love becomes a central criterion in mate choice.
3. All societies promote homogamy, marriage between people with the same social
4. Global Sociology Box. Early to Wed: A Report from Rural India.
B. Settling in: Ideal and real marriage. Newly married couples often have to scale down their
C. Child rearing has changed since industrialization. Children are now seen as economic lia-
bilities rather than as assets. Families with two working parents often experience particu-
larly difficult problems in child rearing.
1. Critical Thinking Box: Who’s Minding the Kids? Working parents are increas-
ingly relying on daycare programs for their children.
D. Marriages between the elderly usually stress companionship. Retirement and the death of
a spouse disrupt families in later life.
V. U.S. Families: Class, Race and Gender.
A. Social class heavily influences partners’ expectations regarding marriage.
B. Ethnicity and race also strongly affect the family.
1. Latino families tend to be extended, to exercise a good deal of control over their
children’s courtship, and to promote machismo.
2. African-American families, facing serious economic problems, are especially like-
ly to be single-parent and female-headed.
3. The number of racially mixed marriages is rising steadily.
C. Women and men experience marriage differently, with men clearly benefiting more than
women, according to Jesse Bernard.
VI. Transition and Problems in Family Life.
A. The divorce rate has risen rapidly this century and at present about half of all couples are
expected to divorce.
1. There are several factors which explain the high U.S. divorce rate:
a. Individualism is on the rise.
b. Romantic love often subsides.
c. Women are now less dependent on men.
d. Many of today’s marriages are stressful.
e. Divorce is more socially acceptable.
f. From a legal standpoint, divorce is easier to obtain.
2. Who divorces?
a. National Map 17–1: Divorced People Across the United States.
3. Divorce as process. Shannon suggests that people who divorce must make six re-
184 Ch. 17•Family
B. Most divorced people do remarry, often creating blended families.
C. Family violence is the emotional, physical or sexual abuse of one family member by an-
1. Violence against women includes spouse battering and marital rape, problems
which are receiving increased attention in modern society.
2. Violence against children is also a widespread problem.
VII. Alternative Family Forms.
A. One-parent families tend to face serious financial problems.
B. Cohabitation is the sharing of a household by an unmarried couple .
C. Gay and lesbian couples continue to face opposition from most Americans.
D. An increasingly large number of people are voluntarily choosing temporary or permanent
VIII. New Reproductive Technology and the Family.
A. In vitro fertilization and ethical issues.
IX. Looking Ahead: Family in the Twenty-First Century.
A. The high divorce rate is unlikely to decline.
B. Family life in the future will show increasing variation.
C. Most children will probably continue to grow up with only weak ties to their fathers.
D. Two-career couples will continue to be common.
E. The importance of the new reproductive technologies will continue to increase.
X. Controversy and Debate Box: Should We Save the Traditional Family?
4) Understand the distinction between en-
1) Understand how sociologists define kin- dogamy and exogamy.
ship, marriage, and the family.
5) Be familiar with the two basic types of
2) Recognize that the definition of what con- marriages (monogamous and polygamous) and
stitutes a family varies from time to time and with the two types of polygamy (polygyny and
place to place. polyandry).
3) Be familiar with the distinction between 6) Be aware of the three basic patterns of res-
nuclear and extended families. idence after marriage.
7) Understand the distinction between bilat-
eral, patrilineal, and matrilineal descent.
Data File 185
8) More generally, recognize how the form
and structure of the family tends to change as 19) Understand what Jessie Bernard means by
societies modernize. arguing that each union consists of two mar-
riages: his and hers.
9) Be familiar with how the structural-
functional, social-conflict, symbolic- 20) Recognize how each of the four types of
interactionist, and social-exchange paradigms marriage discussed in the chapter is associated
direct our attention to different aspects of the with different levels of marital depression.
sociology of the family.
21) Understand the primary reasons why the
10) Be familiar with the primary social func- divorce rate in America is unusually high by
tions of the family. any standards.
11) Recognize the ways in which the family 22) Recognize which sorts of marital partners
perpetuates various types of inequality and are most likely to divorce.
23) Be familiar with the six adjustments which
12) Be generally aware of how the family must be made following either a divorce or a
changes as it moves through different stages, remarriage.
from courtship to later life. Understand how
and why these stages have changed over the 24) Develop a general understanding of the
past several hundred years. cause and dimensions of the problem of family
13) Be familiar with the advantages and dis-
advantages of basing spouse choice on roman- 25) Be familiar with the primary alternatives
tic love. to traditional families currently gaining popu-
larity in the U.S.
14) Understand the reasons why virtually all
societies have encouraged homogamous mate 26) Realize why some of the new reproductive
choice. technologies are causing pronounced contro-
15) Be familiar with the distinction between
real and ideal marriage.
16) Understand some of the family issues
which arise when both parents work outside 1) Most generally, basing your argument on
the home. evidence presented in this chapter, do you be-
lieve that the U.S. family is reasonably
17) Understand some of the ways in which the healthy, in trouble, or actually collapsing? De-
variables of class and race and ethnicity influ- fend your position.
ence family patterns.
2) In your opinion, is a massive return to the
18) Be familiar with the special problems cur- traditional pattern of U.S. family life either
rently confronting the African-American fami- desirable or possible? Defend your position.
186 Ch. 17•Family
3) Should families of affinity be treated ex- 12) How does contemporary U.S. society at-
actly as if they were traditional families, both tempt to ensure that most marriages will be
formally and informally? Discuss. homogamous?
4) What are some of the reasons why most 13) In what ways do U.S. courtship patterns
observers feel that the extended family is los- prepare people well for marriage? How do
ing popularity and being supplanted world- they fall short? How could people be better
wide by the nuclear family? prepared for playing the spousal role?
5) What is gained and what is lost as extend- 14) Do you think most people have unrealisti-
ed families are replaced by more nuclear ones? cally high expectations regarding marriage?
Where do these expectations come from?
6) What are some positive and negative con-
sequences of the Swedish de-emphasis of the 15) What are some of the ways in which socie-
family? Would you like to see the United ty might respond to help reduce the problems
States move in this direction? Why? that arise when both parents work? Should
these responses be the responsibility of the
7) How is homogamy related to endogamy parents, the employer, or the government?
16) Does your own personal experience sup-
8) Most U.S. families are nuclear, monoga- port the sociological generalizations presented
mous, neolocal, bilateral and mildly patriar- in the text concerning how class influences
chal. Explain why such a pattern makes more marriage? How would you account for any
sense in an industrial society than it does in a differences you may have noted?
17) Outline the primary reasons for the partic-
9) Can you think of any additional functions ular severity of the problems facing many poor
presently provided by the U.S. family beyond African-American families. What do you re-
the four mentioned in the text? Are there other gard as the most effective ways of attempting
functions that may be provided by the family to alleviate these problems?
in a preindustrial society? How are these func-
tions served in modern societies? 18) If marriage actually benefits men more
than women, as Bernard argues, then why
10) Are you personally more comfortable with does our popular culture depict women as anx-
the structural-functional or with the social- ious to marry and men as having to be dragged
conflict perspective on the family? Why do to the altar?
you think this is the case? Explore.
19) Is divorce best viewed as a problem, a so-
11) What is gained and what is lost as a socie- lution, or a symptom?
ty moves from arranged marriages to freely
chosen spouse selection based on romantic 20) After reflecting on the text’s explanation
love? for our high rate of divorce, do you think that
a substantial reduction of this rate is likely in
the foreseeable future? How might we attempt
to attain such a reduction? Would the social
Data File 187
consequences of such a program be, on the • T-35 Mean After-tax Income, U.S. Fami-
whole, socially beneficial? lies, 1980-1994
• T-76 Children Living with Married-
21) Most figures show family violence on the Couple Parents, 1990
upswing, although some feel that these data • T-77 Single-Person Households in the
demonstrate people’s increasing willingness to United States, 1950-1992
report such violence rather than real increases. • T-78 Median Age at First Marriage, by
Speculate on whether you think family vio- Sex, 1890-1993
lence is likely to increase or decrease in the • T-79 The Divorce Rate for the United
coming decades, and indicate the reasoning States, 1890-1994
behind your projections. • T-80 Who Does the Housework?
• T-81 Payment of Child Support Follow-
22) How serious a problem is single-parent ing Divorce
childrearing? How ought our society to re- • T-82 Percent of Births to Unmarried
spond to this concern? Women, 1991
• G-19 Marital Form in Global Per-spective
23) Should we allow gay and lesbian couples • N-23 Divorced People Across the United
complete legal equality with heterosexual States
4. Images in Sociology, Series II (laser
24) Do you feel we should encourage, tolerate, disk):
or discourage use of the new technologies of • Chapter 43 - Family
Integrative Supplement Guide Supplemental Lecture Material
Birth Order and the Baby Boom
1. ABC Videos:
• The Middle Class - The Family Dream According to Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
(Nightline, 1/6/95) nology scientist Frank J. Sullivan, birth order
• Soft on Domestic Violence? (Day One, makes all the difference in personality and
2/2/95) openess to change. Firstborns tend to identify
• That’s Not My Job - Division of Parenting with authority and uphold the status quo,
Duties (20/20, 9/23/94) while laterborns identify with the underdog
• Family Matters (Prime Time Live, and challenge establishment. This is not just
3/22/95) interesting on a personal level, but has larger
• Police and Teens (World News To- implications for society. During the 1930s,
night/American Agenda, 12/12/95) families had an average of 2.5 children, so
firstborns made up 41 percent of children born
2. Social Survey Software, 2/E: then. This group has been known as the Silent
• Unit 15 - What’s Happened to the Nuclear generation, generally conservative and defend-
Family? ing the status quo.
On the other hand, in the baby boom of the
3. Transparencies - Series IV: post-war years, families had three or four chil-
• T-29 U.S. Family Income
188 Ch. 17•Family
dren on average, and the percentage of Supplemental Lecture Material
firstborns shrank in proportion. Deadbeat Dads
Since the older boomers, who are more
likely to be firstborns, are now at the prime In 1989, 58 percent of all women with chil-
age for positions in power in business and pol- dren under the age of 21 and with no father
itics, this is a possible explanation for such present in the household were awarded child
conservative movements as the rise of the re- support, but only 44 percent of these mothers
ligious right, welfare reform, and the crack- received the full amount. Twenty-one percent
down on drugs and cigarette smoking. collected nothing at all.
But younger baby boomers, of whom On the average, the family income of a
many are younger siblings, will follow on the mother who retains custody of her children
heels of their older brothers and sisters. "Their after divorce drops by 23 percent. One-parent
openess to change and their acceptance of new families headed by a woman are six times as
ideas could provide the impetus to reinvent likely to be poor as are families with two par-
Social Security, health care, and other societal ents. Forcing absent fathers to make good their
systems." Lastborns, in particular tend to be financial obligations to their children would
daring and liberal. obviously be an effective way to fight poverty.
So, what does all this mean for the not-so- However, many fathers fiercely resist paying
near future? Baby boomers themselves have child support. Their reluctance is usually a re-
tended to have smaller families of less than flection of lingering hostility against the ex-
two children, with firstborns once again at a wife, but in practice it hurts children even
higher 43 percent. Since those children tend to more than their mothers.
follow the lead of their parents, it will matter Mothers have two basic lines of recourse
tremendously which set of baby boomers they in the face of fathers’ refusal to pay up. They
have been raised by, the more conservative, or may hire a private lawyer, who will try to
the more liberal. " The firstborn of the bring the delinquent father into court, but at-
firstborn boomers may try to counteract some torney’s fees can easily eat up the lion’s share
of the changes instituted by laterborn boomers. of the recovered money. Or they can turn to
But their younger siblings along with the the state. In 1984, Congress required that local
firstborns of laterborn boomers, will soon governments must help any custodial parent,
come along to stir things up." not just the poor, to collect child support. But
Most notably, what is going to be lacking, local agencies are greatly overloaded: social
is a lack of middleborns, who tend to mediate workers may be juggling up to 1,000 cases at a
and compromise. Therefore, "in the future, the time and prosecutors sometimes handle 100
contrast between firstborns and lastborns cases a week. “In 1990, state agencies reported
could become stark indeed." they were collecting money only in 17.9 per-
Source cent of the 12 million cases they were then
Russell, Cheryl. "Birth Order and the Baby handling.”
Boom," American Demographics, Vol. 19, Buoyed by strong public support, a num-
No. 3 (March 1997):10-12. ber of innovative approaches have been devel-
Discussion Question oped to address this problem:
1) Do you think this birth order principle holds
true globally? Why or why not? • Massachusetts has begun placing posters
in subways and on bulletin boards with
pictures of most-wanted deadbeat dads.
Data File 189
if he had denounced her ancestors or killed
• The state of Washington requires many someone in her family.”
employers to give the names and social But today, because of exposure to the ideal
security numbers of all newly hired work- of romantic love in foreign movies and songs,
ers to its child-support agency to facilitate more and more Chinese, especially in the cit-
tracking down parents who are delinquent ies, are coming to believe that love is an es-
in paying child support. sential component of a good marriage. “In
1980, an amendment to the Chinese marriage
• Recognizing that making payments may law was approved saying that love is the most
be impossible for fathers who are unem- important element in marriage and stipulating
ployed, several states have begun requir- that the deterioration of love is ground[s] for
ing them to enroll in job-search programs. divorce.” And as a result, the Chinese divorce
rate has skyrocketed, “. . . with one divorce for
• Some advocates, fed up with the ability of nearly every dozen marriages nationwide in
many parents to tie the system up for years 1990 and one in eight marriages in Beijing.”
by moving across state lines, are urging In 1980, there were 341,000 divorces in Chi-
that the IRS become involved in collecting na; ten years later, there were 800,000.
child support payments. Many of the couples who divorce were
married in the 1970s and before, when love
Finally, it is worth noting that nonsupport is a was still generally regarded as a minor con-
problem that crosses gender lines. Fifteen per- cern. Other divorces take place between cou-
cent of custodial parents are men, and mothers ples from radically nonhomogamous back-
in these cases have an equally dismal record of grounds — intellectuals married to peasants,
failing to support their children. for example — who were wed during the ideo-
logical ferment of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Source Not that divorce is necessarily easy, even
Waldman, Steven. “Deadbeat Dads,” in today’s China. It can hurt the career pro-
Newsweek (May 4, 1992):46–52. spects of people working in the government or
the Communist Party. Divorces often must be
Discussion Questions approved by an individual’s “work unit,” and
1) Can you think of other ways in which de- such approval is not always routinely forth-
linquent parents can be compelled to pay child coming. And, because urban China is suffer-
support? ing from a severe housing shortage, divorced
couples sometimes must continue to live to-
2) When child support simply cannot be ob- gether in the same cramped apartment for
tained, should the state step in to make up the months or even years. But despite these diffi-
difference? culties, there is no reason to believe that the
trend toward an increasing divorce rate is like-
Supplemental Lecture Material ly to turn around any time soon.
Love — and Divorce — Come to China
In traditional China, many marriages were ar- Wu Dunn, Sheryl. “Romance, a Novel Idea,
ranged and thus love was at most a minor el- Rocks Marriages in China,” New York Times
ement in marital choice. Divorce was rare. “A (April 17, 1991).
wife in China could divorce her husband only
190 Ch. 17•Family
Discussion Question The history of such policies is long and
1) Why do you think the divorce rate, in Chi- complicated. Black groups against interracial
na and the United States, tends to be higher in adoptions have probably been the most im-
the cities than in rural areas? portant factor. The National Association of
Black Social Workers (NABSW), for instance,
called the adoption of black children under
Supplemental Lecture Material white parents “cultural genocide” in the
Black Children, White Parents: The Poli- 1970s. Although the group has toned down its
tics of Adoption opposition in recent years, the NABSW still
prefers same-race adoptions.
The adoption of black children by white par- Much of the opposition to race-blind
ents has long been controversial. About adoption is based on fear that the racial identi-
20,000 of the children in the foster-care sys- ty of black children will be erased, distorted,
tem are eligible for adoption. Although 44 or at least greatly limited by being raised by
percent of them are white and the 43 percent white parents. Interracial adoption is a “major,
are black, 67 percent of the families who want major assault on black families,” says Ruth-
to adopt children are white. Many of these Arlene Howe, a law professor at Boston Col-
families are willing to adopt black children, lege.
but they face serious institutional obstacles. But the deficit between the number of
In at least forty states, government agen- black children waiting to be adopted and the
cies prefer same-race adoptions, although each number of black adults seeking to adopt has
state varies in the degree to which it will pur- caused more individuals and groups to support
sue such policies. In Arkansas, California, and interracial adoptions. “Leaving African-
Minnesota, matching the race of the child and American kids in foster care rather than allow-
adopting family is legally preferred. ing them to be adopted by loving parents in-
In fact, such policies can lead agencies to flicts very serious harm on children,” says
take what appear to be extreme measures to Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor.
avoid interracial adoption. In Texas, Lou Ann Randall Kennedy, another Harvard law profes-
and Scott Mullen, both of whom are white, sor, states, “I’m sure there’s a difference be-
had been the foster parents of two black broth- tween the way Jesse Jackson raises his kids,
ers, ages two and six, since their infancies. Louis Farrakhan raises his kids, and my par-
The Mullens tried to adopt but claim that the ents raised me.”
state agency delayed action on the adoption in Research conducted by Rita Simon, an
order to find a suitable black family instead. American University sociologist, provides an
Robyn was three days old when she was useful perspective. She followed about two
abandoned in San Francisco in 1991. She had hundred parents and children in interracial
been born addicted to crack cocaine. Patricia families for twenty years. Most of the children
and Bill Mandel cared for her for fourteen felt as teenagers that their parents were “very,
months when they applied for adoption. Be- very committed” to discussing black issues
cause of the difference in race, the adoption with them. According to Simon, the children
agency attempted to remove Robyn from their would say, “My God, not every dinner conver-
care. After some two years of legal struggle, sation has to be about black history.” When
the Mandels were finally declared eligible to grown, the children felt that they had a strong
adopt Robyn. sense of racial identity that had not suffered
from having adopted white parents. Her study
Data File 191
provides more support to those white parents poor. This, Rauch argues, is what is killing the
who want to take black children into their family. Being pro-family, ought to mean being
homes. pro-responsibility, not anti-gay. By definition,
gays don't put illegitimate children into this
Source world, and so long as homosexuals are mo-
Smolowe, Bill. “Adoption in Black and nogamous, faithful and responsible, they
White.” Time (August 14, 1995):50–51. should be welcomed to form families. Acting
responsibly means caring for children and
Discussion Questions keeping the burden of support off society's
1. What if any threats to racial identity does shoulders.
interracial adoption pose? Is there anything This stance means that unmarried hetero-
wrong with a black family adopting a white sexual partners should not get benefits, be-
child? cause homosexuals are not allowed to be mar-
ried, they should receive partner benefits to
2. Should the government seek to restrict or encourage them to settle down. This "holds
encourage interracial adoption? Should the that the two-parent family is special and
government do nothing? should be favored by public policy —not at
the expense of homosexuals per se, but at the
expense of single people (including homosex-
uals) and childless couples (again including
homosexuals)." If the focus remains on the
Supplemental Lecture Material straight versus gay issue, we are avoiding the
A Pro-Gay, Pro-Family Policy real problems dogging the family today.
Rauch wrote his article in 1994, but two
In a 1994 article, author Jonathan Rauch years later, the United States Congress reject-
charged Republicans with the task of building ed same-sex marriages. Although Hawaii and
truly pro-family policies by embracing respon- some cities grant limited marital benefits on
sible adults, no matter whether heterosexual or homosexual couples, marriages between gays
homosexual as the basis of families. Currently, and lesbians are prohibited in all 50 states.
"family values," he argued, are often coupled Source
with intolerance, which claims that homosex- Rauch, Jonathan. "A Pro-Gay, Pro-Family
uals are a threat to the family. "But this is ca- Policy," New York Times (November 29,
nard. Divorce, illegitimacy and infidelity are 1994):A22.
the enemies of the family. . . . To see it as a
threat to the family, you need to believe that Discussion Questions
millions of heterosexual Americans will turn 1) Where do you stand on this issue, and why?
gay if not actively restrained — an absurd no-
tion. And it is perfectly possible to venerate 2) Do you think same-sex marriages will ulti-
the traditional family without despising those mately become acceptable in the United
who are, for whatever reason, unable to have States? Why or why not? What will their ef-
one." fect be on the family?
As you learned from the textbook, in 1997
about 4 in 10 marriages ended in divorce and 3) Activity. Conduct some library research to
nearly 1 in 3 children were born to single find articles or studies regarding same-sex
mothers, raising their chances of growing up marriages in countries such as Denmark or
192 Ch. 17•Family
Norway. How do their attitudes toward homo- attitudes toward the family?
sexuals differ from ours? How about their