Marriage and Family in Global Perspective
What is a familyand what themes are universal?
Family is difficult to define. For just about every element one might consider essential, there are exceptions. Consequently, family is defined broadlyas people who consider themselves related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Sociologists and anthropologists have documented extensive variation in family customsfrom cultures in which babies are married to those in which husbands and wives refrain from sexual relations for years at a time. Universally, marriage and family are mechanisms for governing mate selection, reckoning descent, and establishing inheritance and authority. Pp. 468472.
Marriage and Family in Theoretical Perspective
What is the functionalist perspective on marriage and family?
Functionalists examine the functions and dysfunctions of family life. Examples include the incest taboo and how weakened family functions increase divorce. Pp. 472473.
What is the conflict perspective on marriage and family?
Conflict theorists examine how marriage and family help perpetuate inequalities, especially the subservience of women. Power struggles in marriage, such as those over housework, are an example. Pp. 473475.
What is a symbolic interactionist perspective on marriage and family?
Symbolic interactionists examine how the contrasting experiences and perspectives of men and women are played out in marriage. They stress that only by grasping the perspectives of wives and husbands can we understand their behavior. Pp. 475476.
The Family Life Cycle
What are the major elements of the family life cycle?
The major elements are love and courtship, marriage, childbirth, child rearing, and the family in later life. Most mate selection follows predictable patterns of age, social class, race-ethnicity, and religion. Childbirth and child-rearing patterns also vary by social class. Pp. 476481.
Diversity in U.S. Families
How significant is race-ethnicity in family life?
The primary distinction is social class, not race or ethnicity. Families of the same social class are likely to be similar, regardless of their racial or ethnic makeup. Pp. 482485.
What other diversity in U.S. families is there?
Also discussed were one-parent, childless, blended, and gay and lesbian families. Each has its unique characteristics, but social class is significant in determining their primary characteristics. Poverty is especially significant for one-parent families, most of which are headed by women. Pp. 485488.
Trends in U.S. Families
What major changes characterize U.S. families?
Two changes are postponement of first marriage and an increase in cohabitation. With more people living longer, many middle-aged couples find themselves sandwiched between rearing their children and caring for their parents. Pp. 488491.
Divorce and Remarriage
What is the current divorce rate?
Depending on what figures you choose to compare, you can produce almost any rate you wish, from 75 percent to just 1.9 percent. However you figure it, the U.S. divorce rate is higher than any other industrialized nation. Pp. 491493.
How do children and their parents adjust to divorce?
Divorce is difficult for children, whose adjustment problems often continue into adulthood. Most divorced fathers do not maintain ongoing relationships with their children. Financial problems are usually greater for the former wives. Although most divorced people remarry, their rate of remarriage has slowed considerably. Pp. 493496.
Two Sides of Family Life
What are the two sides of family life?
The dark side is abusespouse battering, child abuse, marital rape, and incest, acts that revolve around the misuse of family power. The bright side is families that produce intense satisfaction for spouses and their children. Pp. 496499.
The Future of Marriage and Family
What is the likely future of marriage and family?
We can expect cohabitation, births to single women, and age at first marriage to increase. The growing numbers of women in the work force are likely to continue to shift the marital balance of power. Pp. 499500.