Images, Ideals, and Myths Images and Ideals • The Family as Haven – The family provides a safe haven from the threats and dangers of the modern world • Love, protection • Emerged during industrialization • The Family as Fulfillment – The family provides satisfactions unattainable through other social arrangements • Compensatory rather than protective • The Family as Encumbrance – A negative image of the family in which components of family life are viewed as inhibiting selfexpression and personal freedom • Monogamy, child-rearing responsibilities Images and Reality Image: family represents symbolic separation from, or opposition to, work & business Reality: outside circumstances increasingly produce inner family conflicts Image: husband-wife, parent-child relationships viewed as overwhelmingly positive Reality: emotional conflict, generational differences, sibling rivalries, tensions, & ambivalence are commonplace • Image: “Standard North American Family” (SNAF) used to evaluate ways of living together • Reality: such images are misleading when used to evaluate our own family interactions and when used as a model for social legislation – Relations among family members are highly idealized and can lead to guilt, anger, or disappointment when reality falls short of expectations • • • • The Mythical American Family • Myth of a Stable and Harmonious Family of the Past – Families of the past are idealized as being more stable and happier than today’s families. • The family has faced adverse problems (outside pressures & internal conflicts) throughout history • Anxiety about the family is not new • We expect more from marriage & family than in the past • Myth of Separate Worlds – The image of the family as haven emerged out of the belief that work and family roles were mutually exclusive. • The family is deeply embedded in social and economic structures – Families shape themselves in response to demands of jobs, careers, schools, & other social institutions – “Family Darwinism” blames individual families for structural failure, ignores economic conditions & social inequalities – Social institutions have taken oven many functions once performed by families & weakened parents’ authority – Globalization and the changes it produces in the economy and the workplace have transformed families by moving women out of the home & into the labor force, increasing mobility in search of work, and increasing work hours & nonstandard work schedules • Myth of the Monolithic Family Form – Alleged “typical” family: 1) a nuclear unit, 2) consisting of a mother, father, and children, 3) has a sexual division of labor with a breadwinner father and full-time wife and mother. • In reality, this describes only 7% of American families. • Family (kinship group) vs. household (residence group): not always the same • Proliferation of diverse family types is the result of: globalization & economic transformation, new work patterns for men & women, new patterns in marriage & divorce, decline in number of children women bear • Myth of a Unified Family Experience – Assumes that all family members have common needs, interests, and experiences • In reality, each member experiences the family differently. • Families produce divergent experiences based on gender & age • Gendered institution based on patriarchy • Myth of Family Consensus – Idealized image of the family that assumes families always operate on the principles of harmony and love • Family life is contentious due to: power relations within the family, competitive aspects of family relations, new patterns of work & leisure, & the intense emotional quality of intimate relationships (which can generate violence) • Love & conflict exist together • Families are paradoxical, full of disparities • Family Decline as the Cause of Social Problems – The suggestion that recent changes in family patterns is a primary cause of contemporary social problems • Family is the product of social conditions, not the building block of society • Ignores structural reasons for family breakdown • Divorce & single parenthood are the consequences of social & economic problems, not the cause of them A New Framework for Understanding Families The Sociological Perspective – Focuses on the structural sources of family life • Examine how changes in society affect family formation & relational dynamics – There is a close relationship between families and the larger society that shapes them • Macro & micro level analysis – Social inequality is a key determinant of family diversity The Changing Functionalist Model – The dominant approach for understanding families has been a functionalist model. – This model placed the nuclear family as the basis of social organization and cohesion in society. – New ideas about pluralism, diversity, and social context have challenged that model and caused a paradigm shift. The Structural Diversity Approach – Family forms are socially constructed and historically changing. – Family diversity is produced by the very structures that organize society as a whole. – The social locations in which families are embedded are not the product of a single power system, but are shaped by intersecting hierarchies. – Family diversity is constructed through social structure and human agency. – The structural diversity model draws from many scholarly fields including history, economics, anthropology, women’s studies, African American studies, and psychology.