• The definition of a family varies by society, time period in history, as well as by class, race, and ethnicity within society.
The Functionalist Perspective of the Family
• The functionalist perspective is concerned with how the family helps to maintain social order and stability for the entire society. It looks at several functions performed by the family:
1) Regulation of sexual behavior through incest taboo and mate selection
2) Replacement of members of society through reproduction
4) Care and protection of family members
5) Social placement/stratification
6) Emotional support
The Conflict Perspective of the Family
• The conflict perspective argues that men benefit the most from the family arrangement. Traditional families are male-dominated institutions wherein the male is the head of the household and the breadwinner
• Studies of wedding practices and legal codes relating to marital relationships demonstrate that women are subordinate to men in every society. In the past and present, men are given more rights and privileges than women.
• Family or domestic violence, especially between husbands and wives, may involve verbal or physical abuse. An estimated 6 million women suffer beatings annually from their boyfriends or husbands. Family violence is linked to gender inequality in society as a whole.
Divorce in the U.S.
• Divorce usually means that the marriage has failed. The U.S. has the world’s highest divorce rate (50% of all marriages). Children (those under 18) are involved in over 70% of families that break up as a result of divorce.
• Explanations for why divorce occurs range from personal to structural reasons. Some reasons include:
1) The increased level of education, economic independence, and employment opportunities for women
2) The decline in moral, social, and religious sanctions which stigmatized those who divorced
3) Liberal divorce laws, such as "no-fault" divorce
• The Feminization of Poverty – the economic difficulties faced by divorced women with children – is associated with high divorce rates. Divorced women face two significant economic problems:
1) Most women do not receive adequate alimony and child support. Some have suggested that there should be payroll deductions for these purposes.
2) Divorced women tend to fill low-paying jobs and can not afford adequate child care.
The Changing Family