INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY INSTRUCTOR: DAVID L. EIKERENKEOTTER CHAPTER 15: FAMILIES AND INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS BY EARL LEE BRUNSON FAMILIES AND INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS Chapter 15 opens with the discussion in the form of a question. Is the American family in a state of crisis? Or are family arrangements simply changing to keep pace with rapid economic, technological, and social changes in the United States? Two Sociologists, David Popenoe and Judith Stacey offer different perspectives on the future of the family.
One sociologist argues that the family has changed for the worse since 1960. Since then, divorce, nonmarital births, and the cohabitation rates have increased, while marriage and marital fertility rates have decreased. These trends, taken together are at the root of countless social ills, including child poverty, adolescent pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile crime. The increase in divorce rates and nonmarital births has created millions of female headed-households and has consequently removed men from the child-rearing process.
Popenoe argues that this is harmful for children. According to Stacey, the “bread-winner-father and child- rearing mother” family, is defined as the “modern family,” perpetuated the “segregation of the sexes by extracting men from, and consigning white married women to, an increasingly privatized domestic domain. ” The modern family has been replaced by many new family forms. These new forms, which Stacey has named the “postmodern family,” include single mothers, blended families, cohabiting couples, lesbian and gay partners, communes, and two-worker families.
This family (postmodern) is not inferior to the traditional two-parent family. It is well suited to meet the challenges of the current economy and is an appropriate setting for raising children: Children need capable, loving caretakers-regardless of their gender, marital status, or sexual orientation. Sociologists agree that in the family, children need capable, loving caretakers, yet maintain that “on the whole, two parents-a father and a mother-are better for a child than one parent. Biological fathers make “distinctive, irreplaceable contributions” to their children’s welfare. Fathers offer a strong male role model to sons, and play the role of disciplinarian for the trouble-prone children, they provide their daughters with a male perspective on heterosexual relationships, and through their unique play styles, they teach their children about teamwork, competition, independence, self-fulfillment, self-control, and regulation of one’s emotions.
Mothers, alternatively, teach their children about communion, or the feeling of being connected to others. Both needs must be met and can be achieved only through the gender-differentiated parenting of a mother and father, both fulfilling their roles in the family. BASIC CONCEPTS There are some basic concepts when pertaining to the family, kinship, and marriage. A family is a group of people directly linked by kin connections, the adult members of which assume responsibility for caring for their children.
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.