Friday, August 21, 2009

Structure of the Family

Structure of the Family:
What is the family? Although we all use the term and doubtless have a clear idea of what we mean by it, the “family” is exceedingly difficult to define. When we set about separating families from non families, we encounter all sorts of problems. Many of us think of the family as a social unit consisting of a married couple and their children, living together in a household. But as we will see in the course of the chapter, such a definition is too restrictive. In many societies it is the kin group, and not a married couple and their children, that is the basic family unit. Sociologists have traditionally viewed the family as a social group whose members are related by ancestry, marriage, or adoption and who live together, cooperate economically, and care for the young. But there are those who are unhappy with this definition, arguing that psychological bonds are what families are all about; they see the family as a close-knit group of people who care about and respect each other. A recent poil found that many Americans are now willing to accept alternatives to traditional notions of the family indeed, 45 percent of Americans thought that an unmarried couple also placed a homosexual couple raising children in this category, and 20 percent regarded two homosexuals living together as a family (Sherlock, 1987). Broadly considered, then many Americans deem that long-term relationships, heterosexual or homosexual, should be considered as families. Clearly, defining the family is not simply an academic exercise. How we define it determines the kinds of families we will consider normal and the kinds we will consider deviant, and what rights and obligations we will recognize as legally and socially binding.
Forms of the Family:
As we look about the world, and even in our own society, we encounter a good many differences in the ways in which families are organized. Families vary in their composition and in their decent, residence, and authority patterns.
Composition: Social relationships between adult males and females can be organized within families by emphasizing either spouse or kin relationships. In the nuclear family arrangement, spouses and their offspring constitute the core relationship; blood relatives are functionally marginal and peripheral. In contrast, in the extended family arrangement kin-individuals related by common ancestry-provide the core relationship; spouses are functionally marginal and peripheral. The nuclear family pattern is the proffered arrangement among most Americans. In the course of their lives, Americans typically find themselves members of two nuclear families. First, an individual belongs to a nuclear family that consists of oneself and one’s father, mother, and siblings, what sociologists call the family of orientation. Second, since over 90 percent of Americans marry at last once, the vast majority of the population are members of a nuclear family that consists of oneself and one’s spouse and children, what sociologists call the family of procreation.
Extended families are found in numerous forms throughout the world. In one case, that of the Nayar – a soldiering caste group in the per-British period of South Western India – spouse ties were virtually absent. When a woman was about to enter puberty, she was ritually “married” to a man chosen for her by a neighbourhood assembly. After three ceremonial days, she was ritual “separated” from him and was then free to take on a series f “visiting husbands” or “lovers”. Although a woman’s lovers gave her regular gifts on prescribed occasions, they did not provide support. When a woman had a child, one of the men – not necessarily the biological father – paid a fee to the midwife and thus established the child’s legitimacy. However, the man assumed no economic, social, legal, or ritual rights or obligations toward the child. It was the mother’s kin who took responsibility for the child.
For some time, sociologists assumed that industrialization undercut extended family patterns while fostering nuclear family arrangements. For instance, William J. Goode (1963) surveyed industrialization weakens extended family patterns in a number of ways. First, industrialism requires that people move about in search of new job and professional opportunities weakening kin obligations that depend on frequent and intimate interaction. Second, industrialism facilitates social mobility, creating friction among relatives of different class rankings. Third, industrialism substitutes nonkin agencies for kin groups in handling such common problems as police protection, education, military defence, and money lending. And fourth, industrialism emphasizes achievement over kingship, reversing the traditional pattern and thereby lessening people’s dependence on their families. However in recent years sociologists have taken a new look and have found that industrialization and extended family arrangements are not necessarily incompatible. By virtue of high mortality rates, the nuclear family had come to prevail in England before industrialization got under way. And when Tamara K. Hareven (1982) examined family life in a textile community of New Hampshire in the nineteenth century, she discovered that industrialism promoted kin ties. Not only did different generations often reside together in the same household, they provided a good deal of assistance to one another. Indeed, economic dislocations and the increase availability of non-nuclear kin may actually have encouraged the formation of extended family households in the early industrialization of England and the United States.
Descent, Societies trace descent and pass on property from one generation to the next in one of three ways. Under a Matrilineal through the line of the father. Under a matrilineal arrangement, descent and inheritance take place through the mother’s side of the family. The Nayar were a matrilineal people. A child owed allegiance to the mother’s brother and not the father. Property and privileged positions passed from maternal uncle to nephew. Under the billineal arrangement, both sides of an individual’s family are equally important. Americans are typically bilineal, reckoning descent through both the father and the mother (however, the surname is transmitted in patrilineal manner).
Residence: Societies also differ in the location where a couple take up residence after marriage. In the case of patrilocal residence, the birdie and groom live in the household or community of the husband’s family. The opposite pattern prevails in matriarchal residence. For example, among the Hopi, a Southwest Pueblo people, the husband moves upon marriage into the dwelling of his wife’s family, and it is here that he eats and sleeps. In the United States, newlyweds tend to follow neolocal patterns in which they set up a new place or residence independent of either of their parents or other relatives.
Authority: Although the authority a man or woman enjoys in family decision making iis influenced by their personalities, societies nonetheless dicate who is expected to be the dominant figure. Under patriarchal arrangements, is usually the eldest male of the husband who fills this role. The ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans and the nineteenth-century Chinese and Japanese provide a few examples. Logically, the constriction of a matriarchal family dye is very simple and would involve the vesting of power in women. Yettrue matriarchies are rare, and considerable controversy exists as to whether the balance of power actually rests with the wife in any known society. Even though matriarchies may not be the referred arrangement in most societies, they often arise though default upon the death or desertion equalitarian arrangement, power and authoring are equally distributed between husband and wife. This pattern has been on the increase in recent years in the United States, where marriage is changing from a one-vote system in which men make the decision to a system in which the couple sort out choices jointly.


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