Chapter 14. Marriage and also Family
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Figure 14.1. V so plenty of unmarried couples life together and having children, is marriage coming to be obsolete? (Photo courtesy of Nina Matthews/flickr)

Learning Objectives

14.1. What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?

Define “the family”.Describe micro, meso, and also macro approaches to the family.Outline the sociological approach to the dynamics that attraction and also love.Analyze transforms in marriage and family patterns.Understand the result of the household life cycle on the quality of family members experience.

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14.2. Sport in family Life

Recognize variations in family members life.Describe the different forms the the family members including the atom family, single-parent families, cohabitation, same-sex couples, and unmarried individuals.Discuss the functionalist, critical, and symbolic interactionist perspectives top top the modern-day family.

14.3. Challenges Families Face

Understand the social and also interpersonal affect of divorce.Describe the troubles of household abuse and also discuss whether corporal punishment is a form of abuse.

Introduction to Marriage and also Family

Christina and James met in college and have been date for much more than 5 years. For the past two years, they have been living with each other in a condo castle purchased jointly. When Christina and James to be confident in your decision to get in into a appointment (such together a 20-year mortgage), they room unsure if they desire to get in into marriage. The pair had countless discussions about marriage and also decided that it just did no seem necessary. Was it not only a piece of paper? walk not fifty percent of every marriages end in divorce?

Neither Christina nor James had actually seen lot success with marital relationship while cultivation up. Christina was raised by a solitary mother. She parents never ever married, and also her father has actually had little contact v the family due to the fact that she to be a toddler. Christina and also her mom lived with her maternal grandmother, who frequently served together a surrogate parent. James prospered up in a two-parent household until period seven, as soon as his parental divorced. That lived with his mother for a few years, and also then later on with his mother and her boyfriend till he left because that college. James stayed close with his father who remarried and had a baby v his new wife.

Recently, Christina and also James have been thinking around having children and the subject of marriage has actually resurfaced. Christina likes the idea that her youngsters growing up in a timeless family, when James is concerned about feasible marital difficulties down the roadway and negative consequences because that the children should that occur. As soon as they mutual these comes to with their parents, James’s mom was adamant the the couple should gain married. Despite having to be divorced and also having a live-in boyfriend of 15 years, she to trust that youngsters are better off when their parents room married. Christina’s mother believes the the couple should do every little thing they want however adds that it would certainly “be nice” if lock wed. Christina and also James’s friends said them, married or no married, they would still it is in a family.

Christina and James’s scenario might be complicated, yet it is representative of the lives of many young couples today, particularly those in urban locations (Useem, 2007). Statistics Canada (2012) reports the the number of unmarried, common-law couples prospered by 35% in between 2001 and also 2011, to make up a total of 16.7% the all families in Canada. Cohabitating, however unwed, couples account because that 16.7% that all households in Canada. Some might never choose to wed (Jayson, 2008). Through fewer couples marrying, the timeless Canadian household structure is coming to be less common. Nevertheless, back the percent of traditional married couples has decreased as a ratio of all families, in ~ 67% of every families, that is tho by far the predominant family members structure.

14.1. What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?

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Figure 14.2. The contemporary concept of household is far much more encompassing than in past decades. What perform you think constitutes a family? (Photo (a) courtesy that Gareth Williams/flickr; picture (b) courtesy that Guillaume Paumier/ Wikimedia Commons)

Marriage and family are key structures in most societies. If the two institutions have historically been carefully linked in Canadian culture, their connection is becoming much more complex. The relationship in between marriage and family is regularly taken because that granted in the popular imagination but with the enhancing diversity of family forms in the 21st century their relationship needs to it is in reexamined.

What is marriage? Different people define it in various ways. Not also sociologists room able come agree on a solitary meaning. For our purposes, we will specify marriage together a legally well-known social contract in between two people, traditionally based on a sexual relationship, and implying a permanence the the union. In creating an inclusive definition, us should additionally consider variations, such together whether a formal legitimate union is compelled (think the common-law marriage and its equivalents), or whether an ext than two human being can be involved (consider polygamy). Various other variations top top the an interpretation of marriage could include whether spouses room of the contrary sexes or the same sex, and also how among the classic expectations of marital relationship (to create children) is taken today.

Sociologists are interested in the relationship in between the college of marriage and the school of family members because, historically, marital relationships are what produce a family, and also families space the most simple social unit upon which society is built. Both marriage and also family develop status functions that space sanctioned by society.

So what is a family? A husband, a wife, and two youngsters — maybe also a pet — served as the design for the traditional Canadian family members for many of the 20th century. Yet what about families that deviate from this model, such together a single-parent family members or a homosexual pair without children? have to they be taken into consideration families as well?

The inquiry of what constitutes a family is a prime area of dispute in family members sociology, and also in politics and religion. Society conservatives have tendency to define the family in regards to a “traditional” nuclear family members structure with each household member filling a certain role (like father, mother, or child). Sociologists, top top the various other hand, tend to specify family an ext in terms of the path in i m sorry members relate to one an additional than on a strictly configuration of status roles. Here, us will define family as a socially recognized team joined through blood relations, marriage, or adoption, that develops an emotional connection and also serves as an financial unit that society. Sociologists additionally identify different varieties of families based upon how one enters into them. A family the orientation refers to the household into i beg your pardon a human is born. A family that procreation describes one that is developed through marriage. This distinctions have cultural significance connected to issues of family tree (the difference between patrilineal and matrilineal descent because that example).

Based top top Simmel’s difference between the form and also content that social communication (see chapter 6), we deserve to analyze the family as a social form that comes into existence roughly five various contents or interests: sex-related activity, economic cooperation, reproduction, socialization of children, and emotional support. Together we could expect from Simmel’s analysis, the species of family type in which all or several of these contents are expressed are diverse: nuclear families, polygamous families, expanded families, same-sex parent families, single-parent families, mixed families, and also zero-child families, etc. However, the forms that families take space not random; rather, these develops are identified by social traditions, social structures, economic pressures, and historical transformations. They also are topic to intense moral and political debate around the meaning of the family, the “decline that the family,” or the policy options to ideal support the health of children. In these debates, sociology displayed its valuable side together a discipline that is capable of giving the factual expertise needed to make evidence-based decision on political and also moral issues concerning the family.

The Macro, Meso and Micro Family

The household is great example the an school that have the right to be examined at the micro-, meso-, and macro- levels of analysis. For example, the debate in between functionalist and vital sociologists on the climb of non-nuclear household forms is a macro-level debate. It concentrates on the household in partnership to a society as a whole. Because the 1950s, the functionalist strategy to the family members has emphasized the prestige of the nuclear family — a cohabiting man and also woman who keep a socially approved sexual relationship and have at the very least one boy — as the simple unit of one orderly and functional society. Although only 39% of family members conformed to this version in 2006, in functionalist approaches, it often operates together a model of the common family, with the implication that non-normal family members forms bring about a variety of society-wide dysfunctions such together crime, drug use, poverty, and welfare suspended .

On the various other hand, an important perspectives emphasize the inequalities and also power connections within the family and also their connection to inequality in the more comprehensive society. The modern diversity of family forms walk not suggest the “decline the the family” (i.e., of the best of the atom family) yet the diverse responses of the family type to the tensions of sex inequality and also historical transforms in the economy and society. The frequently large, expanded family the the rural, agriculture-based economy 100 years ago in Canada was very different from the single breadwinner-led “nuclear” household of the Fordist economic climate following civilization War II; it is various again indigenous today’s households who need to respond to economic conditions of precarious employment, liquid modernity, and norms of gender and also sexual equality. In the critical perspective, the nuclear household should be believed of less as a normative version for how family members should it is in and an ext as an historical anomaly the reflected the particular social and also economic problems of the two years following the 2nd World War. These space analyses that set out to know the household within the context of macro-level procedures or society as a whole.

At the meso-level, the sociology that mate selection and marital satisfaction reveal the various ways in i beg your pardon the dynamics of the group, or the family form itself, plot upon the desire, preferences, and choices of separation, personal, instance actors. In ~ the meso-level, sociologists are pertained to with the interactions within groups where multiple society roles interact simultaneously. Since the spontaneity the romantic love and also notions of separation, personal, instance “chemistry” have become so central to our principles of mate selection in west societies, it is interesting to note the social and also group impacts that impinge ~ above what otherwise appears a completely individual choice: the appraisal that socially characterized “assets” in potential mates, in-group/out-group dynamics in mate preference, and also demographic variables that influence the accessibility of desirable mates (see conversation below).

Similarly, that is feasible to speak that the life cycle of marriages independently of the details individuals involved. This area of examine is another meso-level analysis. Marital dissatisfaction and divorce height in the 5th year the marriage and again between the 15th and also 20th years of marriage. The existence or absence of kids in the home additionally affects marital satisfaction — nonparents and parents whose kids have left home have the highest level that marital satisfaction. Thus, the family kind itself appears to have built-in qualities or dynamics nevertheless of the characters or details qualities of family members members.

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At the micro-level of analysis, sociologists focus on the dynamics between individuals within families. One example, the which more than likely every married couple is acutely aware, is the interaction dynamic defined by exchange theory. Exchange concept proposes that all relationship are based upon giving and also returning valued “goods” or “services.” individuals seek to maximize their rewards in their exchanges through others. Exactly how do they weigh up that is contributing more, and also who is contributing less, the the an important resources the sustain the marital relationship relationship (such together money, time, chores, emotionally support, romantic gestures, top quality time, etc.)? What happens to the household dynamic as soon as one spouse is a network debtor and another a network creditor in the exchange relationship? In The Unbearable lightness of Being, the Czech novelist Milan Kundera describes the method every relationship forges an implicit contract concerning these exchanges within the first 6 weeks. It is as if a template has actually been created that will govern the nature the the conflicts, tensions, and disagreements between a married pair for the expression of your relationship. Kundera is composing fiction, yet the dynamic he defines exemplifies a micro-level evaluation in that this “contract” is a form created with the communication between details individuals. Afterwards, it acts as a framework that constrains their interaction. In the more severe situations of unequal exchange, residential violence, even if it is physical or emotional, can be the result. The dynamics that “intimate terrorism” and also “violent resistance” explain the excessive outcomes of uneven exchange.