Topic: The Family and Intimate
Relationships
Family- c.1400, "servants
of a household," from L.
familia "family servants,
domestics;" also "members
of a household," including
relatives and servants, from
famulus "servant," of
unknown origin.
Aim: What are some
differing forms of
families in different
cultural contexts?
Do Now: offer a working definition of
what you understand a ‘family’ to be,
based on your own life experience.
•In Tibet, a woman may be married simultaneously to more than
one man, usually brothers
•Among the Betsileo of Madagascar, a man has multiple wives, each
living in a different village where cultivates rice (whichever he has
the best rice field is considered the ‘senior’ wife!)
•Among the Yanomami of Brazil & Venezuela, it is considered
proper to have sexual relations with your opposite-sex cousins if
they are the children of your mother’s brother or your father’s sister
(but, if the cousins are children of your mother’s sister or your
father’s brother, the practice is considered incest - Haviland et al.
2008; Kottak 2011).
1. Which of those is strangest to you? Why?
2. How has your own culture influenced your ability to view
different views of the family?
Do We Define Family As…
• Those who live under the same roof ? (A New Jersey
court ruled that male college students sharing a
renewable four-month lease fits the definition.)
• The functions it performs?
• Includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom
maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and
one or more children? (Same sex-marriage?)
• Legal recognitions of the relationships? (only married
couples?)
Although the institution of
family is universal to all cultures,
the form of family varies
greatly. For every element
someone might regard as
essential to family, some group
has a different custom.
"A group of persons directly linked by
kin connections, the adult members of
which assume responsibility for caring
for the children.” (Giddens)
Kinship - relationships based on
biological or marital ties.
Household - the place of domesticity.
•The Nayar of Malabar
never allow a bride and
groom to have sex. After a
3 day marriage ceremony,
the groom leaves and is
never allowed to see the
bride again. Nayar women
can have sex, but only with
approved partners---none
of whom can be her
husband! She can bear
children for up to 12 men This system keeps family
property intact- along
matrilineal lines. (Gough,
1972)
The Oneida Community (Boston 1848) - founded by Christian
preacher, John Humphrey Noyes: sexual activity between
agreeable members, but only those considered suitable were
allowed to reproduce. An ethos of group marriage where
children were raised communally.
•The Nuer & Dinka peoples of Sudan have several forms of "ghost
marriage." A man may marry a woman as a stand-in for his deceased
brother. The children that are born of this union will be considered descendants
of the dead man--the "ghost" is the socially recognized father. This allows the
continuation of his family line and succession to an important social position.
• A Nuer woman of wealth may marry a deceased man to keep her wealth and
power. Married Nuer women traditionally have no significant wealth--it belongs
to their husbands. With this form of "ghost marriage", there will be no living
husband, though she may subsequently have children. She is, in effect, a widow
who takes care of her husband's wealth and children until they are mature.
Organization of Families
Types of families:
• Nuclear: Family made up of a
husband, wife, and children
• Extended: nuclear family plus other
family members such as
grandparents who live together (3
or more generations)
• Single Parent: Family with only one
parent (typically the mother)
• Same Sex: same sex couples or
same-sex parents
Family Trends in the U.S.
• The "traditional" nuclear family, with a
husband wage-earner, wife homemaker and
dependent children, now accounts for less
than 10 percent of all American
households
• 45% of American families headed by a
single mother live in poverty
• 65% of black children live in a family
headed by a single mother (‘feminization of
poverty’), and a black child born today has
an 87 percent chance of spending some
years in a single- parent home.
Common Cultural Themes of Family:
1. Mate Selection: Established
norms for choosing who
marries whom
2. Marriage: approved mating
arrangements, marked by a
ritual of some sort
3. Descent: The way people
trace their kinship over
generations
4. Inheritance: Property passed
from parent to child
Kinship Patterns:
1. Who is your mother’s mother to you? ____
2. Who is your father’s mother to you? ____
3. Who is your mother’s sister to you? ____
4. Who is your father’s sister to you? ____
Systems of Descent:
Descent assigns
people to kinship
groups based on their
relationship to their
mother and father.
• Bilateral System: a system of
organizing one’s descent that gives
equal value to both the mother’s
and father’s side (typically Western
concept).
• Matrilineal or Patrilineal
System: Up to 64% of cultures
give primacy to either mother or
father.
Sociological Perspectives on
the Family
Why is the family (in some form), universal to all cultures?
What functions/purposes does it serve?
Functionalist View:
The family is universal because it fulfils the following
essential functions for society
1. Sexual Regulation: controls sexuality, provides
stability for adults (i.e.- the ‘incest taboo’)
2. Reproductive: provides new members of society.
3. Protective: family provides for its members, takes
care of sick and aged
4. Socialization: family socialises the young into
norms and values of society.
5. Provision of social status: we inherit a social
position because of family background.
Interactionist Viewpoint
Interested in how individual
family members interact with one
another, on a micro level. So, for
example, in a study of Black and
White two-parent households, it
was discovered that children with
more involved fathers had fewer
behavior problems and got along
better with other family members
(Mosley & Thomson, 1995)
The Feminist
Perspective
The isolated and ‘private’ nuclear family
The functionalist view suggests that the nuclear
family has become
1. Socially isolated from extended kin
2. Geographically separated from wider kin
The family is self-contained, inward looking with little
contact with neighbours and community. Home
leisure via TV, Video, Internet etc. have made the
family more home-centred.
Marriage and Family
Fill out the ‘mate selection’ handout and then
we’ll discuss
Love & Courtship in a Global Perspective:
• Concept of romantic love people idealizing and being
sexually attracted to one
another, is a common cultural
theme
• Generally a Western concept,
but appears in many societies
around the world
• Like family itself, love
manifests in vastly different
ways from culture to culture
Aspects of Mate Selection:
• Exogamy: Exogamy rules require that marriage be outside of
some defined social group, such as one's own family
• Endogamy: In contrast, endogamy rules require that it be
within some larger group, such as the local community.
• In other words, rules of exogamy tell you who you cannot
marry, while rules of endogamy specify who would be
acceptable and preferred as a marriage partner.
Homogramy: the conscious
or unconscious tendency to
select a mater with similar
personal characteristics to you.
Monogamy
• How many spouses an individual is allowed to have varies
from culture to culture, for different reasons.
• The rule that is familiar to North Americans and Europeans is
monogamy--that is, one man married to one woman. While
this is now by far the most common form of marriage around
the world, it is, in a sense, the least preferred. (In a sample of
850 societies, less than 20% preferred monogamy over other
marriage patterns!)
• Polygamy: the marriage of more than one spouse at a time, has been
popular on all continents except Europe.
• Polygyny: the marriage of many women to one man
• However, a rarer form, known as polyandry, occurs when several
husbands share the same wife (typically fraternal polyandry - 2 brother
marrying the same woman)
• Both forms of polygamy have advantages and disadvantages over
monogamy in their particular cultural settings.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
What is your initial reaction to the concept of a polygamist family?
How is their family different from what you think of as a ‘family’?
Do you look at this ethnocentrically or relativistic (in other words, do
you judge this lifestyle or not, and why?)
What is the role of culture and religion in this practice?
Should this practice be allowed by law? Why or why not?
Do children complicate this type of lifestyle? Do you think this is a
good way to raise a child?
What are the benefits of this kind of lifestyle (even if you don’t agree
with it)?
Now I Ain’t Sayin She’s a Gold Digger…
• Hypergamy: Selecting a spouse
of higher socio-economic status
than oneself.
• Specifically, it refers to a
widespread tendency amongst
human cultures for females to
seek or be encouraged to pursue
male suitors that are
comparatively older, wealthier
or otherwise more privileged
than themselves.
Love & Arranged Marriage in India:
• Indian sociologists
estimate about 95% of
marriages are still
arranged by parents.
• Sociologist ask why India
has so many arranged
marriages whereas
Americans do not..
• Why do you think this is?
• A basic sociological principle
explains: A group’s marriage
practices match its values and its
patterns of social stratification
• The U.S. values individuality, so we
stress individual choice in picking a
partner.
• Arranging marriage reflects Indian
values of deferring to parental
authority and reaffirmations of the
Caste System.
Dating & Relationships:
1. After 2 people decide they are interested in one
another, how do they begin to date/go out?
Describe the actual process…
2. How do you think this has changed, let’s say in the
past 100 or so years? What did ‘dating’ look like in
the 1950’s, for example?
3. What are some other, non-traditional forms of
dating/realtionships available to people today?
What is your opinion of them?
A Brief History of American Dating:
• Pre-WWII, couples didn’t ‘go out’, the man went to the woman’s
family’s home. After that they were chaperoned by a male member
of the woman’s family, or went to group activities (like dances),
typically organized and controlled by a church group.
• The car changes all this - dating shifts to being less about finding a
spouse than having fun
• Changing role of women impacted reason for dating/marriage (how
so?)
• The pill
• Cohabitation and divorce trends
Stimulus-Value_Role Theory of
Mate Selection:
1. Stimulus Stage: 2 people attracted to each
other in some superficial way
2. Value Stage: Compatibility is tested in terms
of important things (religious beliefs,
political opinions, interests, the future, etc.)
3. Role Stage: People then ‘act’ the role of the
couple as dictated by society and culture
Mate Selection & Gender Roles
Discussion:
• Thinking back to our gender topic, what were
some of the ‘typical’ qualities that we
associated with males/females
• How many of these are very important to
you when considering a potential partner?
Mate Selection & Gender Roles:
• Actual mating patterns may be different from the
cultural ideal. For instance, in the more traditional
regions of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, men
generally strive to be machos-- that is, confident, strong,
dignified, brave men. Machos should be overtly
masculine and sexually active. They are expected to
have a wife with many children and possibly one or
more mistresses. Men are usually assumed to be
adulterous by nature.
• Women, in contrast, are expected to be passive in
responding to the demands of their husbands and to
have sexual intercourse only with them and only when
they are married. They are to emulate the Virgin Mary
in being chaste. As a result, this female counterpart to
machismo has been referred to as marianismo (from
Maria or Mary).
The Dating Game (Activity)…
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
Gender (male/female/transgendered)
Height, Weight, Hair Color, Eye Color
Race
Ethnicity
Religion
Nationality (from what country)
Education Level (be specific)
Socio-economic status (how much $ do they
make/have? What social class are they)
9. What do they specifically do for a living?
Cohabitation and marriage trends
1. Do you see
yourself getting
married in the
future?
2. Why or why not?
3. If so, at what age?
Marriage Trends:
• With few exceptions, marriage choices follow highly
predictable social channels, particularly age, education,
social class, race, and religion (over 90% of Americans
marry within the same racial group!)
• This is due to propinquity, or spatial awareness - we tend
to ‘fall in love’ and marry those who live near us or who
we meet at school or work
• For example, an Hispanic woman with a college degree whose
parents are both physicians is likely to fall in love with and marry
an Hispanic man slightly older than herself who graduated from
college
Postponing Marriage:
• In 1890 the typical first-time
bride was 22. By 1950 she had
just left her teens.
• In 1970 age started to increase.
Today’s aver rage first time
bride and groom are older now
than any time in U.S. history
• Partly due to increased trends
in cohabitation
Cohabitation Trends in the U.S.
• Cohabitation: living together
in a sexual relationship
without being married.
• 8x more common today than
30 years ago
• In marriage, the assumption
is permanence; in
cohabitation, couples agree to
stay as long as it works out.
Cohabitation Discussion Questions (part 1):
1. Would you consider living with someone
before getting married? Why or why not?
2. Describe how would this be perceived by
your family? Role of culture?
3. Do you believe that it is acceptable to
have children with someone you live with
outside of marriage? Why or why not?
Cohabitation Discussion (continued):
1. Of those who said they would cohabitate, would
the expectation be to get married at some point?
Why or why not?
2. Regarding cohabitation and mate selection, what
factors would separate partners from those you
would live with vs. those you would marry?
Explain
3. Do you view cohabitation as less permanent than
you would marriage? Explain.
4. What impact do you think cohabitation might
have on children, either good or bad?
Cohabitation Statistics:
• A significant number of cohabitations end before
marriage (40%) – 2 years is a significant benchmark
• Whether the male cohabiter is employed full-time has a
significant impact on the duration of the relationship
• Cohabiters report more frequent interaction with their
partners than do married people
• Children living in cohabiting households are more likely to
be officially poor than those living in married couple
households
• The longer a couple lives together the less likely it is that
they will marry
• Spouses who cohabited before marriage report lower
levels of commitment to marriage as an institution.
Divorce and Divorce Trends
What have you heard regarding the frequency of
divorce in the United States?
50 % ???
• Each year there are about half as many
divorces are granted as there are marriages
performed
• However, the one number has nothing to
do with the other, as the number of people
married in a given year are most often not
the ones getting divorced!
• Since the U.S. has 59,000,000 married
couples, and only 1,135,000 obtain
divorces in a year, the divorce rate in a
given year is actually 1.9%, not 50%!
Divorce Discussion:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
What are some reasons why so many marriages in the
U.S. end in divorce?
Why has divorce become increasingly accepted in our
society?
Do you think divorce is a viable option, or should
couples simply ‘stick it out’, or ‘work it out for the
kids?” Explain your rationale.
In what circumstances might divorce be necessary?
For what reasons do you think other marriage types
(polygamist marriages, arranged marriages in
Asia/Africa, etc.) have an almost non-existent divorce
rate compared to U.S./western marriages?
Societal Acceptance:
• Increasing acceptance of divorce in society, including religious
institutions
• Rise in no-fault liberal divorce laws
• More practical due to decrease in numbers of children couples have
• Greater opportunities for divorced women - women less dependent on
husbands economically and socially.
• How do you view divorce?
Children of Divorce:
• What are some ways in which divorce has
an effect on children?
Impact on Children:
• Sociologists disagree as to the
short term and long term impacts
of divorce on children
• In 1/3 of cases children benefit
due to less exposure to
dysfunction and conflict
• Greater difficulty forming and
maintaining intimate relationships
(Wallerstein, 1971)
Topic: Abuse
Aim: To what extent is the United States a ‘rape
culture’?
Do Now:
1. Define the term
‘rape’
2. Is rape possible in
the context of a
marriage? Explain
why or why not.
“The Rape Culture”
• Phrase coined by sociologist Dianne F. Herman in
her 1984 essay of the same name.
• Argues that by linking sexuality and violence in the
media, we’ve created a ‘rape culture’ in which rape
is taken less seriously
• “Rape is the logical outcome if men act according
to the ‘masculine mystique’ and women act
according to the ‘feminine mystique.” (Herman,
1984)
Marital Rape:
• 14% of married women report
being raped by their husbands
(Russell, 1990).
• Statistics hard to quantify since
most probably do not report
the rape
• Why do you think so many
wives/girlfriends do not
report incidents such as this?
Types of Marital Rape: (Finkelhor, Yllo, 1985)
1. Non-battering rape: forced sex with no other physical
violence
2. Battering rape: sexual assault with some other
intentionally inflicted pain
3. Perverted rape: force wives to submit to unusual sex acts
• Women ages 16 to 24 experience rape at rates 4X higher
than the assault rate of all women, making the college
(and high school) years the most vulnerable for women.
• 60% of male college students “indicated some likelihood
of raping or using force in certain circumstances.”
• Men in fraternities appear to engage in more non-physical
coercion and use of drugs and alcohol as a sexual strategy
than do independents.
• 90% of all campus rapes occur under the influence of
alcohol. Men are more likely than women to assume that a
woman who drinks alcohol on a date is a willing sex
partner. 40% of men who think this way also believe it is
acceptable to force sex on an intoxicated woman.
Types of Acquaintance Rape:
•
•
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
In examining the problem of acquaintance rape of
college students (which, as noted, accounts for 90% of
college rapes), it is important to define the sub-problems
for analysis, investigation and prevention purposes.
Among them are:
Party rape (can also include gang rape);
Date rape (usually takes place in the victim's or offender's
residence or in a car after the date);
Rape in a non-party and non-date situation (e.g., while
studying together);
Rape by a former intimate (ex- boyfriend or girlfriend)
Rape by a current intimate (boyfriend or girlfriend)
• Alcohol use at the time of the attack was found to be one of
the four strongest predictors of a college woman being raped.
• 43% of college men admit using coercive behavior to have
sex, including ignoring a woman’s protest; using physical
aggression; and forcing intercourse; 15% acknowledged they
had committed acquaintance rape; 11% acknowledged using
physical restraint to force a woman to have sex.
• Of the college woman who are raped, only 25% describe it as
rape.
• Of the college women who are raped, only 10% report the
rape.
• College women are most vulnerable to rape during the first
few weeks of the freshman and sophomore years.
• One in twelve college-age men admit having fulfilled the
prevailing definition of rape or attempted rape, yet virtually
none of these men identify themselves as rapists.
Domestic Abuse Discussion:
1. Define ‘domestic abuse’
2. What are the forms domestic abuse can take?
3. Why do you think domestic abuse is so
rampant?
4. Do you think it is more accepted in some
cultures vs. others? Why?
5. What impact does the witnessing of domestic
abuse have on children?
Discussion Questions (gender):
1. Why might men be abusive
towards their significant
others?
2. Why is it less common for
women to be abusive towards
their husbands?
3. Why do you think that
women commonly remain
with men who abuse them,
sometimes for years?
Why don’t they ‘just leave’?
Statistics of domestic abuse:
• Nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of
men were raped and/or physically
assaulted by a current or former
spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating
partner/acquaintance at some time in
their lifetime
• In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men
were killed by an intimate partner.
• Sociologists believe that this is due to
the socialization into a sexist, gender
stratified society
Incest:
• Any sexual relationship between family
members constitutes incest
• More common than once thought
• Uncles are the most common
offenders, followed by first cousins,
fathers/stepfathers, and brothers
• Brother-Sister incest more common
than father-daughter incest. Motherson incest is very rare.
LOOKING AT OUR LANGUAGE:
"rule of thumb": English orig.., where law
specified it was acceptable to beat one's wife with
a switch no thicker than a thumb
"naboot": ancient Egyptian orig., a wooden stave
used by husbands to beat their wives.
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