Family structures and processes affect and are affected by numerous social and cultural trends, and changes in any one of these can lead to new familial functions, forms, and relationships. As mentioned elsewhere, families can be envisioned as society's shock absorbers of change, absorbing, for instance, socio-cultural changes in gender roles, intergenerational relationships, racial relationships, demographics (such as new waves of immigrants), in the division of labor, and shifts in the stratification order. Of course, such broad changes vary in their familial impacts by social class, region of the country, and so forth.
Consider the impacts of such cultural trends as industrialism, urbanism, individualism, and feminism on family structures and processes. A rich study can be made of the influence of Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement of the teens. Reacting against the 1873 Comstock Law (officially the Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use) which prohibited birth control information and devices, outraged at the premature aging of working class women whose bodies were worn out by fifteen or twenty pregnancies, Sanger, Emma Goldman, Mary Ware Dennett (founder of the Voluntary Parenthood League) and others saw reproductive rights as the key to women's economic and social freedom.
Religion affects family systems in numerous ways, from premarital counseling, staging of marital and baptismal rites-of-passage, and prescribing moralities of procreation and definitions of gender roles.
Here let us consider those Americans who identified themselves and their spouses as being either Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or having no religious affiliation, and consider the bearing of their faith on familial matters.
THE DISTRIBUTION AND ATTRIBUTES OF
HOMOGAMOUS AND HETEROGAMOUS COUPLES IN THE UNITED STATES
(COMBINED NORC 1973-94 GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEYS)
|% AGED 30+
Here's a table brim-full with information about religious homogamy in America and some of its implications. Moving from the right-most two columns, you can compare the percentage of unions that could be expected by chance with the percentages actually observed. In the "Percent of Total" column, we find over 80% of married Americans are in Protestant-Protestant, Catholic-Catholic, or Jewish-Jewish (in (husbands' religion-wives' religion order) unions. Notice how among mixed Protestant-Catholic relations, the proportion of Protestant husbands-Catholic wives unions is roughly the same as Catholic husband-Protestant wives unions. On the other had, in Jewish-Christian marriages, Jewish male-Christian female unions are 37% more likely than the other way around.
Looking at the percentage of these unions that are remarriages, observe how Protestant-Protestant couples are about twice as likely as Catholic-Catholic couples to have a previously married spouse. The proportion of Jewish families that are first marriages are the highest (91.2%) of any of these twelve categories of relationships (whose total is 82.9%), while Christian husband-Jewish wife relations are most likely to involve a remarriage (39.1% vs. 17.1% in total).
There are some interesting variations in the fertility of religiously homogamous vs. heterogeneous couples. Among once-married couples where the respondent is at least thirty years of age (just to give them time to reproduce), observe how, for instance, families with Jewish husbands and Christian wives are 2.8 times more likely (18.9% vs. 6.6%) to have no children than Jewish-Jewish relations. Among couples with one Christian spouse and one who is not religiously-affiliated, those where it is the husband who is not religious are less likely to have children than when it is the wife who is not religiously affiliated--and this difference is twice as great for Catholics (15.4% vs. 9.8%) than Protestants (13.3% vs. 11.5%).
Marital happiness is greater in religiously homogonous unions, with over two-thirds of spouses in PROT-PROT, CATH-CATH, JEW-JEW unions reporting being "very happy" in their marriages. Lowest rates of marital happiness involve those where one spouse is religious and the other has no religious affiliation, especially where it's the wife who is not religious.
In addition to matters of spouses' faith, there are the ways in which religion shapes attitudes toward a variety of moral issues. Click below to see:
The Rockford Institute--striving "to contribute to the renewal of Christendom ... through: the defense of the family; the promotion of liberty; the decentralization of political and economic life; ...
What issues come to mind when thinking about families and the economic order?
Further, this bifurcation of social realms supposedly leads to a bifurcation of the self: the public and the private.
The private sphere, this interstitial area created (we would think) more or less haphazardly as a by-product of the social metamorphosis of industrialism, is mainly where he will turn. It is here that the individual will seek power, intelligibility and, quite literally, a name--the apparent power to fashion a world, however Lilliputian, that will reflect his own being: ...a world in which, consequently, he is somebody--perhaps even, within its charmed circle, a lord and master. ... an area of individual choice and even autonomy.
With both industrialization and the expansion of the service economy,
the family system has metamorphosed from being a unit of production to
being a unit of consumption (and of therapy). This, in turn, has led to the erosion of many
traditional family functions--and their commodification. Consider the rise
of such services as:
Instead of entertaining each other, family members instead consume the numerous
products of the entertainment industries. Another consequence are new bonds between
family members, which are decreasingly shaped by working together but rather in sharing
each other's leisure or consumptive pursuits (e.g., the parents in the stands at Little League
competitions; family summer vacations and trips to the mall).
With the pressures of modern life many of us have occasion to stray from our long term partners and dally with a brief sexual or emotional relationship with a third party, this is often a short term affair, inconsequential to our long term plans and relationships, but with modern communications, and media, it has become increasingly difficult to be able to carry on such a temporary dalliance, without risk of detection. ...
Instead of entertaining each other, family members instead consume the numerous products of the entertainment industries. Another consequence are new bonds between family members, which are decreasingly shaped by working together but rather in sharing each other's leisure or consumptive pursuits (e.g., the parents in the stands at Little League competitions; family summer vacations and trips to the mall).
|During the Fall of 2001 Trinity's Sociology of Marriage
& Family Processes class focused on the commodification of family
life. Research teams were given the following assignment:
Summaries of the groups' presentations:
It is largely because of members' participation in the economic
order that determines their families' location in the class structure,
which, as we've seen, profoundly shapes familial roles, structures, and
processes. As developed, the family is the shock absorber of socio-cultural
change and the lower the family is on the social
hierarchy, the more immediate this change affects family structure and
process. Antoine Prost ("Public and Private Spheres in France,"
pp. 1-49 in Prost and Gerard Vincent [eds.], A History of Private Live,
Vol. V: Riddles of Identity in Modern Times) observed:
At the turn of the century it made a great deal of difference whether
one worked at home or elsewhere. For a young girl the ideal was to stay
home and not work. If obliged to work, it was best if she could do so at
home--as a seamstress, for instance. Only girls at the bottom of the social
hierarchy worked outside the home, in a factory or shop or as a servant
in a private home. In 1900 more than half, perhaps as many as two- thirds,
of French workers worked at home (p.9)
The growing incompatibility of work and family life for successful women. According to the Census Bureau's "Fertility of American Women: June 2000," 20 percent of women 40-44 are childless. For all women under the age 45 with graduate and professional degrees the childless figure is 47 percent. This statistic poses an interesting dilemma for feminists who, in pursuing a woman's freedom of choice regarding motherhood, face a new generation of females without the role models they espouse. Groups have emerged to help resolve the tensions of family and work demands, such as the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Work and courtship. In 1993, a young couple fell in love and it cost them their jobs. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, has a policy prohibiting any employee who is married from dating any other employee. The young woman was married but separated when she began dating a co-worker in the sporting goods department. Click here for Romac International's "Personal Relationships in the Workplace" Survey
family businesses. According to Newsweek (Erik Calonius, "Blood and Money," Special Issue [Winter/Spring]:82-84), three-quarters of American companies are family owned and controlled (37% of the Fortune 500 companies), producing some 60% of the gross national product. In late 1990, the magazine Family Business premiered.
The effect of non-standard working hours on family dynamics. There are, of course, the family stories of nightshift workers, whose family routines are out of synch with the daytime majority. According to the Bureau of Labor, in 1988 some 16% of American workers are on shifts other than regular daytime schedules, of which 40% were 4 p.m. to midnight, 27% were rotating shifts (days to evening, etc.), and 17% were midnight to 8 a.m. With the rise of the global economy, West Coast brokers and bankers, for instance, not only work according to East Coast time but Tokyo time as well, which is 17 hours ahead of their own.
The reported declines in leisure time as Americans work harder.
The impact on the internal family division of labor, power structure, and distribution of resources (whether economic, social [e.g., "quality time"), emotional, or temporal) when different family members (such as children and/or wives) work and contribute varying proportions to total family (vs. personal) resources. In 1990, it was estimated that one-half of two-income families would drop below the poverty line if the family did not work.
Elaborating further on the point above, consider the numerous ways in which dual career families can be studied. The temporal challenges, for instance, are considerable, fitting in two full-time jobs on top of what spouses normally try to do when they are at home. In order to accomplish this, there is an increasing necessity to organize future time, to plan ahead about precisely what one wishes to accomplish. This entails prioritization and making sure that enough time is allocated for those things that are personally important. Some may not know what is personally important, which requires even further time to decide as this entails a high degree of self-knowledge. As a result, couples must interact with greater frequency and focus. Numerous lists are often compiled.
And, of course, the impact of working mothers on child development. According to my own research, working mothers are nothing new. Of those born between 1900 and 1924, over 40% had mothers who worked before they reached the age of 5. The only exception: those born 1925-32, the parents of the early part of the baby boom, 62% of whose mothers did not work largely because of the great depression.
Click here for further elaborations on the division of household labor within families.
Economic Policy Institute's DataZone. Includes such tables as husbands' and wives' hours of work, effect of wives' earnings on income shares among married couples 1979-94
CareGuide: Child and Elder Care Directory: descriptions of care options, articles, how-to guides, and checklists of considerations
Scientific advances, such as in biomedical research, are having profound effects on family systems. For instance, click here for a Washington Post story about a surrogate mother who was impregnated with the egg (fertilized by an anonymous sperm donor) of a deceased woman whose parents had arranged for the production of a grandchild. As the author, Rick Weiss, observes, this is "just one of an increasing number of ethical predicaments to emerge ... as a dizzying array of reproductive technologies has redefined the meaning of `parent' and `child'..."
The time has come to establish the principle that children belong to the Republic before they belong to their parents.
--Georges Jacques Danton, French revolutionist, 1791
Consider the broad range of state interventions in family life: mandatory education (along with course curriculums and school busing), care for the old, passage of no-fault divorce and family-leave laws, pursuit of absent/nonsupportive parents, interventions in family violence, inheritance taxes, and tax relief for families with children. According to the Luxembourg Income Study, apparently such interventions do not go far enough in the United States, which lags behind all other industrial nations in actively lifting its children out of poverty.
In 1996, perhaps the major family-related Congressional debate centers around the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act (H.R.1946: and S.984), which would get government out of childrearing interventions and reinforce parental control over the upbringing of their children against educational, public health and liberal organizations. Interesting coalitions have emerged, with proponents including groups from conservative religious faiths and political conservatives pitted against an alliance of the National Education Association, the National P.T.A., the American Association of School Administrators, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
In August 2001 the conservative Parents Television Council
reported the findings
of its study of six weeks of “family-hour” television programming during the 200-2001
season. Compared with the 1998-99 season:
Make you angry? Fed up with the trash on television? Then join OneMillionMoms.com or OneMillionDads.com, a project of the American Family Association.
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