INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY INSTRUCTOR: DAVID L. EIKERENKEOTTER CHAPTER 15: FAMILIES AND INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS BY EARL LEE BRUNSON
In Chapter 15 of the book “Families and Intimate Relationships,” Earl Lee Brunson discusses the condition of the American family and whether it is experiencing a crisis or adapting to rapid economic, technological, and social changes in the United States. Two Sociologists, David Popenoe and Judith Stacey, present contrasting viewpoints on what lies ahead for families.
A sociologist claims that since 1960, the family has experienced detrimental changes. The increased rates of divorce, births outside of wedlock, and cohabitation have contributed to a decrease in both marriage and fertility rates within married couples. As a result, these patterns have led to various societal issues such as child poverty, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile crime. Furthermore, the surge in divorce rates and nonmarital births has caused the emergence of numerous households headed by females and the subsequent absence of men in raising children.
According to Popenoe, the contemporary family structure has negative consequences for children. On the other hand, Stacey defines the modern family as having a father who provides financial support and a mother who assumes child-rearing responsibilities. This arrangement perpetuates gender segregation and confines married white women within a more secluded domestic realm. Nevertheless, various types of families have emerged as alternatives to the traditional model, referred to by Stacey as the postmodern family. These new structures encompass single mothers, blended families, cohabiting couples without marriage, same-sex partners, communal living arrangements, and dual-income households.
This postmodern family, regardless of gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, is just as effective as the traditional two-parent family in facing the challenges of the current economy and raising children. It is crucial for children to have capable, loving caretakers. Sociologists unanimously agree on the importance of competent and affectionate caretakers within a family structure. However, they also acknowledge that having both a father and a mother confers more advantages to a child when compared to having only one parent. Biological fathers contribute uniquely to their children’s well-being and cannot be substituted by anyone else. Fathers not only serve as powerful male role models for their sons but also assume disciplinary responsibilities for children prone to misbehavior. Additionally, they offer their daughters valuable insights into heterosexual relationships from a male perspective. Through their distinct play styles, fathers teach their offspring about teamwork, competition, independence, self-fulfillment, self-control, and emotional regulation.
Mothers and fathers have distinct roles within the family, imparting lessons on both self-identity and interpersonal relationships. Gender-specific parenting is essential to address these dual needs. The notions of family, kinship, and marriage revolve around a collective unit of individuals bonded by blood relations, where adult members assume the duty of nurturing their offspring.
Kinship ties are connections among individuals, established either through marriage or through the lines of descent that connect blood relatives (mothers, fathers, offspring, grandparents, etc.).
Marriage can be defined as a socially acknowledged and approved sexual union between two adult individuals.
When two people marry, they become kin to one another; the marriage bond also, however connects together a wider range of kinspeople. Parents, brothers, sisters, and other blood relatives become relatives of the partner through marriage.