lec032910 - Sociology 101 Introduction to Sociology Monday...

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Sociology 101 Introduction to Sociology Monday March 29, 2010 Topic: Family I. What is a family? A. General definition and characteristics 1. The family is a primary group of people, usually related by ancestry, marriage, or adoption, who form a cooperative economic unit and care for the young and each other. The family members consider their identity to be intimately attached to the group, and they are committed to maintaining the group over time. (for instance, a biological father who maintains no social or economic ties to his kids, and who does not identify with those children would NOT be considered family) a. Although earlier definitions often specified that family members “reside together” this is no longer part of the widely- accepted definition, given increases in the number of children living apart from their non-custodial parent, and other changes such as an increase in the number of “commuter marriages”. 2. The family is a social institution , and thus it changes yet persists over time. From the functionalist perspective, it contributes to the maintenance of society by providing a setting for raising and rearing children. 3. Families are shaped by their relationship to systems of inequality in society. Race, class, gender and age stratification affect how society values certain families, and they influence the resources available to them. 4. The family is closely linked to other social institutions, such as law or the economy. The economy is a very important influence on the family. Economic conditions can have a powerful effect on how the family functions. Important family decisions such as whether to marry, cohabit, divorce, and to have children (and how many children to have) are strongly guided by economic factors. Laws and legal changes also affect family roles and relationships. For instance, the law in 44 states currently says that gays and lesbians cannot marry. 5. An important idea when studying families is that “ families are systems of social relationships that emerge in response to social conditions and that, in turn, shape the future direction of society.” These social conditions can be conceptualized as having both STRUCTURAL/INSTITUTIONAL and CULTURAL aspects. The former refer to the influence of social institutions such as the economy, educational system, or political system (as described above). Structural/institutional influences on family life reflect the influence of established and organized systems of social behavior with a recognized purpose. Cultural influences on family structure and behavior refers to widespread beliefs, norms, and values that define the way of life for a given group or
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society at a given time. These ideas are very important in helping us to understand changes in the family over the last century. a.
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This note was uploaded on 11/20/2011 for the course SOCIOLOGY 920:101 taught by Professor Carr during the Spring '10 term at Rutgers.

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lec032910 - Sociology 101 Introduction to Sociology Monday...

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