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A Sociological Approach
to Family

Looks not at the behavior of individuals, but how family is shaped by a society’s standard of living and technology

How patterns of family life are linked to income, education, gender, and race


What are some of the reasons why people decide to get married?

What is the ideal age to get married?

What do we expect from marriage? Do we expect too much out of marriage?

How much is too much to spend on a wedding ceremony?

Forms of Cultural Pressure in Mate Selection


Expectation to select a marriage partner within one’s social group


Pressure to marry outside the family group

Pool of eligibles

Population from which a person selects an appropriate mate


What is Marriage?

Marriage: a legally recognized social contract between two people, traditionally based on a sexual relationship and implying a permanence of the union.

Elements of Marriage

Legal contract

Emotional relationship

Sexual monogamy

Legal responsibility for children




M&F3 | CH1


Copyright ©2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.



M&F3 | CH1


Copyright ©2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.


Types of Marriage

Polygamy: Involves more than two spouses

Polygyny: One husband and two or more wives

Polyandry: One wife and two or more husbands

Polyamory: Multiple emotional and sexual partners

May have an open relationship

Pantagamy: Group marriage

What are the benefits/disadvantages of having multiple spouses?

Should polygamy be legal?



Group of two or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption

Family of origin: Family into which an individual is born or reared

Known as family of orientation

Family of procreation: Family an individual creates by getting married and having children

Nuclear family: Consists of:

Individual, spouse, and children

Individual and his or her parents and siblings

Civil union: Legal significance in terms of rights and privileges given to pair-bonded relationships

Domestic partnership: Emotionally and financially interdependent individuals who live together



Two unrelated adults involved in an emotional and sexual relationship

Sleep in the same residence at least four nights a week for three months




Here and now



Money savers

Pension partners

Alimony maintenance

Security blanket cohabiters

Rebellious cohabiters

Marriage never/cohabitants forever


Motives for Living Together

To remain marriage free

To avert risks

To boycott marriage

To dissent sexism

To live the American dream

To avoid economic disincentives


Living Together: Do We Need to Marry?

Critics of cohabitation

Less stable setting for raising children

Can put woman and children at risk

Men can lose legal right to raise their children

Supporters of cohabitation

Living together is a private matter

Meets the needs of a diverse society

Pattern of cohabitation

After 3 years, 40% of cohabiting couples marry, 32% continue to cohabit, and 28% split up.

Cohabitation Effect and Living Apart Together

Cohabitation effect

Multiple cohabitation experiences has negative effect on a subsequent marriage

Lower levels of happiness

Higher levels of divorce

Is Living together before marriage better?

LAT: Long-term committed couple who do not live in the same dwelling


Couple must define themselves to be committed

Others must define the partners as a couple

They must live in separate domiciles

Individuals who live together before getting married assume that doing so will increase their chances of having a happy and durable marriage relationship. The period of time while these engaged couples are cohabiting is superior to the time spent by couples who are not committed to the future.


Because people commonly have more than one cohabitation experience, the term cohabitation effect applies. This means that those who have multiple cohabitation experiences prior to marriage are more likely to end up in marriages characterized by lower levels of happiness and higher levels of divorce. Cohabitants tend to be people who are willing to violate social norms by living together before marriage. In some cases couples may move forward toward marriage for reasons of constraint rather than emotional desire.


Not all researchers have found negative effects of cohabitation on relationships. Reinhold (2010) found that among more recent cohabitant cohorts, the negative association between living together and marital instability is weakening. She suggested that it is the age at which individuals begin their lives together (coresidence) which impacts divorce, not cohabitation per se.


Advantages of LAT

Provides space and privacy

Helps manage respective careers

Supports variable sleep needs and allergies

Makes time for variable social needs and blended family needs

Keeps the relationship exciting and helps avoid satiation

Provides space for self-expression and comfort

Helps maintain the desired level of cleanliness or orderliness

Helps in elder care and maintaining one’s lifetime residence

Allows partners to leave inheritances to children from previous marriages

The benefits of LAT relationships include the following:

Space and privacy: have a separate space to read, watch TV, talk on the phone, or whatever.

Career or work space: Some individuals work at home and need a controlled quiet space to work on projects, talk on the phone, and focus on their work without the presence of someone else.

Variable sleep needs: Although some partners enjoy going to bed at the same time and sleeping in the same bed, others like to go to bed at radically different times and to sleep in separate beds or rooms.

Allergies: Individuals who have cat or dog allergies may need to live in a separate antiseptic environment from their partner who loves animals and would not live without them.

Variable social needs: Partners differ in terms of their need for social contact with friends, siblings, and parents.

Blended family needs: LAT works particularly well with a blended family in which remarried spouses live in separate places with their children from previous relationships.

Keeping the relationship exciting: Zen Buddhists remind people of the necessity to be in touch with polarities, to have a perspective where we can see and appreciate the larger picture.

The term satiation is a well-established psychological principle—a stimulus loses its value with repeated exposure or people get tired of each other if they spend relentless amounts of time with each other.


Categories of Singles

Singlehood: State of being unmarried


Men are likely to be less educated and have lower incomes

Women tend to be poor, have mental/physical health issues, use drugs, and have children with multiple partners

Divorced singles have a higher suicide risk

The widowed are associated with depressive symptoms

The term singlehood Single individuals are often young adults seeking jobs/careers, adventure, and relationships. However, there are three categories of single people: the never-married, the divorced, and the widowed

Never-Married Singles: A disproportionate number of unmarried individuals live in large cities—New York, DC, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Boston. These individuals are often young adults seeking jobs/careers, adventure, and relationships.

Divorced Singles: There were 14.2 million divorced females and 10.7 million divorced males in the United States in 2012. While some divorced singles may have ended the marriage, others were terminated by their spouse. Hence, some are voluntarily single again while others are forced into being single again.


The divorced have a higher suicide risk. Spouses are more likely to be “connected” to intimates; this “connection” seems to protect a person from suicide. Of course, intimate connections can occur outside of marriage but marriage tends to ensure these connections over time. Spouses look out for the health of each other. Single people often have no one in their life to nudge them toward regular health maintenance. 50% of women remarry within 5 years and 75% within 10 years

Widowed Singles: Although divorced people often choose to leave their spouses and be single again, the widowed are forced into singlehood. The stereotype of the widow and widower is utter loneliness, even though there are compensations (e.g., escape from an unhappy marriage, social security). Kamiya et al. (2013) found that widowhood for men was associated with depressive symptoms. 32% of US population are widowed.


Postponing Marriage

Men and women get married about six years later now than in 1950.

Women, 26.6 years old; men, 29.0 years old

Delaying marriage is a function of:

Spending more time in education

More women in labor force

Birth control technology and legal abortion

Economic conditions/uncertainty

Drop in overall childbearing

More freedom in forming relationships

Ways of Finding a Partner – Meeting Online


Highly efficient

Develops a relationship without visual distraction

Crowded, uncomfortable locations can be avoided

Can disappear quickly



Potential to fall in love too quickly

Cannot assess compatibility through computer screen

Cannot assess nonverbal behavior

Discussion: What are the advantages and disadvantages of online dating?

Increasingly, individuals are using the Internet (and attendant technology) to find partners for fun, companionship, and marriage. Individuals also use Facebook to find a partner. Hall (2014) compared spouses who had met on social networking sites (e.g., Facebook) with those who met through other online means—dating sites, online communities, and one on one communication. Individuals who met through social networking sites were younger and more likely to be African American.


“In the past 15 years, the rise of the Internet has partly displaced not only family and school, but also neighborhood, friends, and the workplace as venues for meeting partners. The Internet increasingly allows individuals to meet and form relationships with perfect strangers” (Rosenfeld & Thomas, 2012).

Internet Partners: The Upside


In regard to advantages, online dating services have become clear in their mission—to provide a place where people go to “shop” for potential romantic partners and to “sell” themselves in hopes of creating a successful romantic relationship.


A primary attraction of meeting someone online is efficiency. On the Internet, one can spend a short period of time and literally scan hundreds of profiles of potential partners. For noncollege people who are busy in their job or career, the Internet offers the chance to meet someone outside their immediate social circle. Another advantage of looking for a partner online is that it removes emotion/chemistry/first meeting magic from the mating equation so that individuals can focus on finding someone with common interests, background, values, and goals.


Internet Partners: The Downside


There are also downsides to meeting on the Internet. Lying occurs in Internet dating (as it does in non-Internet dating). Some online users also lie about being single. They are married, older, and divorced more times than they reveal.


It is important to be cautious of meeting someone online. Although the Internet is a good place to meet new people, it also allows people who have been rejected or an old lover to monitor one’s online behavior. Some people also use the Internet to try on new identities.


Other disadvantages of online meeting include the potential to fall in love too quickly as a result of intense mutual disclosure; not being able to assess “chemistry” or how a person interacts with one’s friends or family; the tendency to move too quickly (from texting to phone to meeting to first date) to marriage, without spending much time to get to know each other and not being able to observe nonverbal behavior.


Another disadvantage of using the Internet to find a partner is that having an unlimited number of options sometimes results in not looking carefully at the options one has. It is also important to use Internet dating sites safely, including not giving out home or business phone numbers or addresses, always meeting the person in one’s own town with a friend, and not posting photos that are “too revealing,” as these can be copied and posted elsewhere.




Online dating is moving from websites to apps on mobile devices. Seven percent of smartphone users say they have used a dating app on their phone. (on the basis of a photo) allows one to identify and connect with someone (who also selected their photo) in the area.




Total number of single people in the U.S.54,250,000

Total number of people in the U.S. who have tried online dating49,250,000

Total eHarmony members16,500,000

Total members23,575,000

Number of questions to fill out on eHarmony survey400

Annual revenue from the online dating industry$1,749,000,000

Average spent by dating site customer per year$243

Average length of courtship for marriages that met online 18.5 Months

Average length of courtship for marriages that met offline42 Months

Percent of users who leave within the first 3 months10 %

Percent of male online dating users52.4 %

Percent of female online dating users47.6 %

Percent who say common interests are the most important factor64 %

Percent who say physical characteristics are the most important factor49 %

Percent of marriages in the last year in which the couple met on a dating site17 %

Percent of current committed relationships that began online20 %

Percent of people who believe in love at first sight71 %

Percent of women who have sex on the first online dating encounter33 %

Percent of people who say they have dated more than one person simultaneously53 %

Percent of sex offenders who use online dating to meet people10 %

Men lie most about; Age, Height, IncomeWomen lie most about: Weight, Physical Build, Age


If you haven’t found quite what you’re looking for on an online dating site, you aren’t alone. Two thirds of online daters—66%—tell us that they have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or dating app.  That is a substantial increase from the 43% of online daters who had actually progressed to the date stage when we first asked this question in 2005. But it still means that one-third of online daters have not yet met up in real life with someone they initially found on an online dating site.

Many online daters enlist their friends in an effort to put their best digital foot forward. Some 22% of online daters have asked someone to help them create or review their profile. Women are especially likely to enlist a friend in helping them craft the perfect profile—30% of female online daters have done this, compared with 16% of men.


Dishonesty, Lying, and Cheating

Catfishing: Making up an online identity and an entire social facade

Purpose – To trick a person into becoming involved in an emotional relationship

Infidelity can be both sexual and nonsexual

Access to many ‘suitors’

Developing technologies that make it easier to cheat

Ways in which we can confirm the identity of individuals?



Dishonesty and deception take various forms. One is a direct lie—saying something that is not true. Not correcting an assumption is another form of dishonesty.


5-6b Lying in American Society


Lying, a deliberate attempt to mislead, is pervasive. The price of lying is high—distrust and alienation.


Catfishing refers to a process whereby a person makes up an online identity and an entire social facade to trick a person into becoming involved in an emotional relationship. The catfish is the lonely person on the Internet who is susceptible to being seduced into this fake relationship.


5-6c Lying and Cheating in Romantic Relationships


Lying is epidemic in college student romantic relationships. Cheating may be defined as having sex with someone else while involved in a relationship with a romantic partner. Even in monogamous relationships, there is considerable cheating. People most likely to cheat in these monogamous relationships were men over the age of 20, those who were binge drinkers, members of a fraternity, male NCAA athletes, and those who reported that they were nonreligious.


Strickler and Hans (2010) conceptualized infidelity (cheating) as both sexual and nonsexual. Sexual cheating was intercourse, oral sex, and kissing. Nonsexual cheating could be interpersonal (secret time together, flirting), electronic (text messaging, emailing), or solitary (sexual fantasies, pornography, masturbation).


Gay and Lesbian Families

2004: Massachusetts is first state to allow gay marriage

2013 Census data:

640,000 same-sex couples, 190,000 of which are married couples

1 in 4 couples are parents raising children

Same-sex marriage extends legal rights

hospital visitation, health insurance, child custody

Same-Sex Marriage

Recognized by the federal government

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

Legislation passed by Congress in 1996, denied federal recognition of homosexual marriage

Allowed states to ignore same-sex marriages licensed by other states

Promotes relationship stability among gay and lesbian couples

Some states have broader measures banning other forms of partner recognition.

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

Legality of Homosexuality Cross-Culturally


Ask students to research the laws regarding homosexuality in the United States and in one other country. Instruct the students to compare the laws in the two countries and explain why they think the similarities and differences between the two countries exist.

State Laws Regarding Homosexuality


Ask students to research the laws regarding LGBT rights in the state in which their college is located. In a classroom discussion, argue the effects of these laws on LGBT people and whether these laws should be changed



More than 1/3 of people who identify as LGBT have had a child at some point.

6 million U.S. children have an LGBT parent

Public opinion divided on gays raising children

Research shows little difference in parenting effectiveness

Problems due more to stigma than from family form itself


LGBT Parenting

Hetero-gay family: Heterosexual mother and a gay father conceive and raise a child together but reside separately

Lesbian mothers tend to have high levels of shared decision making, parenting, and family work

Gay fathers are more likely to coparent equally and compatibly than fathers in heterosexual relationships

While both gay females and gay males report increases in individual happiness during the first year of having a baby/adopting a child, relationship happiness decreases (Goldberg et al., 2010).

This drop in relationship satisfaction after a child arrives in the gay relationship is the same as what happens in heterosexual relationships.


LGBT Parenting

Act of becoming a father has a positive outcome on gay men’s sense of self-worth

Children seem to benefit when there are two parents in the household

Gender of the parents is irrelevant

Children raised by same-sex parents fare equally well

Discussion: What are the concerns about gays and lesbians as parents?



Gay parents are sensitive to potential stigmatization

Seek gay-friendly neighborhoods to rear their children

Children with gay parents felt less pressure to conform to gender stereotypes

Children of transgender parents struggle with new definitions of who their parents are and how this affects them



Being open and honest about one’s sexual orientation and identity


Parental and family members’ reactions

‘Transparent Closet’ ‘Family Closet’

Harassment and discrimination at school or the workplace

Hate crime victimization

Death of Lawrence King

Some of the risks involved in coming out include disapproval and rejection by parents and other family members, harassment and discrimination at school, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and hate crime victimization.

Parental and family members’ reactions

Svab and Kuhar (2014) identified the concept of the “transparent closet” to describe a situation in which parents are informed about a child’s homosexuality but do not talk about it… a form of rejection.

The “family closet” refers to the wider kinship system having knowledge of a child’s homosexuality but “keeping it quiet” (a form of rejection).

Padilla et al. (2010) found that parental reaction to a son or daughter coming out had a major effect on the development of their child.

Parental rejection of GLBT individuals is related to suicide ideation and suicide attempts.

Harassment and discrimination at school

LGBT students are more vulnerable to being bullied, harassed, and discriminated against.

The negative effects are predictable including “a wide range of health and mental health concerns, including sexual health risk, substance abuse, and suicide, compared with their heterosexual peers.”

Hate crime victimization

Another risk of coming out is being victimized by antigay hate crimes against individuals or their property that are based on bias against the victim because of his/her perceived sexual orientation.

Such crimes include verbal threats and intimidation, vandalism, sexual assault and rape, physical assault, and murder.



Give congruent messages

Share power

Power: Ability to impose one’s will on one’s partner and to avoid being influenced by the partner

Principle of least interest: Person who has the least interest in a relationship controls it

Keep the process of communication going


Challenges Families Face: Having Children Evaluation of Lifestyle Changes

Daily living routines will be focused around children’s needs

Living arrangements have to be made

Work schedule has to be changed to allow parents to be home more

Food shopping and menus change

Loss of freedom of activity and flexibility in one’s personal schedule

Financial obligations of parents increase

Challenges Families Face: Having Children

Pronatalism: Cultural attitude which encourages having children

Family, friends, and religion encourage childbearing


Tax structure supports parenthood

Cultural observances

Special days are identified to celebrate parenthood

Discussion: Who pressures young couples to have children?


Challenges Families Face: Having Children

Antinatalism: Opposition to children

Reasons to remain childfree

Great current life/relationship satisfaction

Freedom and independence

Avoidance of the responsibility for rearing a child

No maternal/paternal instinct

Accomplishment of career and travel goals

Discussion: How do you feel about other people’s children?

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

Is remaining childless a selfish act?


Have students write an opinion piece addressing the question above. After students turn in their papers break them into 2 groups and have a debate about the question.


Individual Motivations for Having Children

Desire to love and to be loved by one’s own child


Personal fulfilment

To recapture one’s own childhood and youth

To avoid career tracking

To gain the acceptance and approval of parents and peers

Discussion: What are some of the personal reasons people want babies?


Brave New Families:
High-Tech Reproduction

In vitro fertilization: uniting egg and sperm in a laboratory

Expensive; only 176,000 couples a year

Ethical and moral questions related to selection of physical and perhaps mental traits

Surrogate motherhood: One woman carries and bears a child for another

Legal questions over child support

Cultural Lag: scientific discoveries advance more quickly than our ideas about the acceptable ways to use them



Public and private agencies

Independent adoption

Kinship and stepparent


Inability to have a biological child

Desire to give an unwanted child a permanent loving home

To avoid contributing to overpopulation



Least expensive forms of adoption

Adopting from the U.S. foster care system

Stepparent and kinship adoptions

Open adoption

Biological parent can stay involved in the child’s life

Open adoption benefits:

Adoptees learn early that they are adopted and who their biological parents are.

Birth parents are more likely to avoid regret and to be able to stay in contact with their child.

Adoptive parents have information about the genetic background of their adopted child.


Problems of Internet Adoption

Potential fraud


Lack of professional consideration of the child’s best interest


Parents who have adopted a child use the Internet to place unwanted adopted children in new families

Child Care

Most married mothers are working mothers:

54% of those with infants

60% of those with preschoolers

70% of those with school-age children

Figures are higher for single mothers

Child care options depend on income

4.5 million “latchkey children”

U.S. government support for child care is the income tax deduction

Types of Parenting Styles

High on responsiveness and low on demandingness


High on demandingness and low in responsiveness


Both demanding and responsive


Low in responsiveness and demandingness


McKinney and Renk (2008) identified the differences between maternal and paternal parenting styles, with mothers tending to be authoritative and fathers tending to be authoritarian.

Mothers and fathers also use different parenting styles for their sons and daughters, with fathers being more permissive with their sons than with their daughters.

Discussion: Which type of parenting is best for most children?


Money and Relationships

Money is associated with power, control, and dominance

Effects of poverty on families

Poorer physical and mental health

Lower personal and relationship satisfaction, and death at younger ages

Relationship conflict

Negative effect on parenting

In 2014, a two-person household with an income below $15,370 was defined as living in poverty.

Poverty is the lack of resources necessary for material well-being.

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

Making Ends Meet


Students will need to balance a budget for a family. Provide half the class with a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children under 18 one needing daycare) and a family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children under 18 one needing daycare).


a. Students should create a monthly family budget for each family. This includes housing, utilities, food, clothing, toiletries, insurance/medical, daycare, transportation, entertainment.

b. How much money would the family need to make per year to live on the budget?

c. Next, tell the students the working members of the family work full-time, but on minimum wage. Can the budget be met? Create a new minimum wage budget.

d. Students should think about what they would do in this situation. Before taking government assistance into account, how would they make ends meet? What are the consequences of any actions taken to make ends meet?


Students are often surprised that it is difficult to meet a budget on a minimum wage job. For students who have little to no expenses, they are shocked when the budget is created.


This could be a classroom activity or a project. As a classroom activity provide students with average amounts of some of the items (rent, transportation, etc.). As a project, have students research each item. Remind them of taxes being taken out as well!



Single-Parent Family and Household

Single-parent family: Includes only one parent

Other parent is completely out of the child’s life through death, sperm donation, or abandonment

No contact is made with the other parent

Single-parent household: One parent has primary custody of the child/ children

Other parent lives outside of the house, but is part of the child’s life

Known as binuclear family

Challenges Faced by Single Parents

Responding to the demands of parenting with limited help

Resolving the issue of adult sexual needs

Coping with lack of money

Ensuring guardianship

Obtaining prenatal care

Coping with the absence of a father

Avoiding negative life outcomes for the child

Perpetuating a single-family structure

Negative stereotyping

Positive Outcomes of Single-Parenting

Stronger bonding experience with children

Sense of pride and self-esteem for being independent

Being a strong role model for offspring

Internet Exercises

A Single Parents Network—Support and Resources

What support and resource services are available to single parents?


Violence and abuse

The frequency of violence among families is difficult to determine because many cases go unreported.

Domestic Violence:

Situational and Intimate Terrorism

Intimate partner violence (IPV)

Women are the primary victims of IPV

Often starts as emotional abuse

Black women have higher rates of IPV than white women

Abuse may be reported by a third party.

Female victims of IPV are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, suffer from eating disorders and attempt suicide.


Forms of murder in families

Filicide: Murder of an offspring by a parent

Parricide: Murder of a parent by an offspring

Siblicide: Murder of a sibling

Victims of same-sex relationship abuse lack legal protections and services

Over the last three decades U.S. parents have committed filicide about 500 times every year.

70% of the children killed were age 6 or younger, 15% were infants and about 10 % were those between ages 7 and 18. Male children were more likely to be killed than female children, about 11% were stepchildren


Types of Relationship Abuse – Emotional Abuse

Nonphysical behavior designed to:

Denigrate the partner

Reduce the partner’s status

Make the partner feel vulnerable to being controlled by the partner

Known as psychological abuse, verbal abuse, or symbolic aggression can be just as bad sexual/physical abuse.

Emotionally abusive behaviors

Making personal decisions for the partner



Types of Relationship Abuse – Emotional Abuse (continued)

Refusing to talk to the partner as a way of punishing the partner

Throwing a temper tantrum and breaking things

Acting jealous when the partner was observed talking or texting a potential romantic partner

Revenge porn
: Posting nude photos of ex-partner

Legislation action is being considered by some states

28 states have revenge porn laws


Reasons for Violence and Abuse in Relationships

Cultural factors

Violence in the media

Acceptance of corporal punishment

Corporal punishment: Use of physical force on a child to correct or control his/her behavior

Community factors

Social isolation and poverty

Inaccessible or unaffordable community services


Reasons for Violence and Abuse in Relationships (continued 1)

Individual factors

Dependency and jealousy

Need to control

Unhappiness and dissatisfaction

Jekyll-and-Hyde personality – Sudden mood changes

History of aggressiveness

Quick involvement

Blaming others for problems


Individual factors associated with domestic violence and abuse include psychopathology, personality characteristics, and alcohol or substance abuse. A number of personality characteristics have also been associated with people who are abusive in their intimate relationships. Some of these characteristics follow:

Dependency—therapists who work with batterers have observed that they are overly dependent on their partners. Because the thought of being left by their partners induces panic and abandonment anxiety, batterers use physical aggression and threats of suicide to keep their partners with them.

Jealousy—along with dependence, batterers exhibit jealousy, possessiveness, and suspicion.

Need to control—abusive partners have an excessive need to exercise power over their partners and to control them.

Unhappiness and dissatisfaction—abusive partners often report being unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives, both at home and at work. They may take out their frustration with life on their partner.

History of aggressiveness—abusers often have a history of interpersonal aggressive behavior. They have poor impulse control and can become instantly enraged and lash out at the partner.

Quick involvement—because of feelings of insecurity, the potential batterer will rush his partner quickly into a committed relationship. If the woman tries to break off the relationship, the man will often try to make her feel guilty for not giving him and the relationship a chance.

Blaming others for problems—abusers take little responsibility for their problems and blame everyone else.

Jekyll-and-Hyde personality—abusers have sudden mood changes so that a partner is continually confused. Explosiveness and moodiness are the norm.

Isolation—an abusive person will try to cut off a partner from all family, friends, and activities. Isolation may reach the point at which an abuser tries to stop the victim from going to school, church, or work.

Alcohol and other drug use—whether alcohol reduces one’s inhibitions to display violence, allows one to avoid responsibility for being violent, or increases one’s aggression, it is associated with violence and abuse (even if the partner is pregnant).

Criminal/psychiatric background—Eke et al. (2011) examined the characteristics of 146 men who murdered or attempted to murder their intimate partner. Of these, 42% had prior criminal charges, 15% had a psychiatric history, and 18% had both. Shorey et al. (2012) identified the mental health problems in men arrested for domestic violence and found high rates of PTSD, depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social phobia.

Impulsive—Miller et al. (2012) identified one of the most prominent personality characteristics associated with aggression/abuse.


Child Abuse

Forms of child abuse:


Physical abuse

Sexual abuse

Psychological maltreatment

Medical neglect

Infants are the most likely victims of child abuse.

Shaken-baby syndrome

Poor economy, unemployment and general dissatisfaction with life

All socioeconomic and education levels experience abuse.

Younger parents, drug/alcohol users are more likely to abuse children.

Can lead to long-term effects: physical, mental, emotional effects.

Effects of Abuse

On victims

Violence is associated with symptoms of PTSD

Loss of interest in activities/life

Feeling detached from others

Inability to sleep


Intimate partner violence increases:

Risk for unintended pregnancy/multiple abortions

Levels of anxiety and drug abuse

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

The Rape of Mr. Smith


A reason many victims of rape did not come forward was lack of institutional support. Have students read “The Rape of Mr. Smith” (can be found on the Internet) and discuss. This story speaks of stranger rape, why would intimate partner violence or rape be even more difficult to reveal?


Challenges Families Face

Divorce and Remarriage

In 1960, divorce was generally uncommon, (9.1/1000)

Dramatic increase after the 1960’s due to liberalization of divorce laws, women increasingly entering the workforce.

Decrease now attributed to increased age at which people get married and increased level of education.

Divorce is cyclical


Vast majority occur after divorce, not death of a spouse

Most people remarry within 5 years of divorce

Lack many of the classic courtship rituals of first marriage

Macro Factors Contributing to Divorce

Increased economic independence of women

Changing family functions and structure

Liberal divorce laws/social acceptance

No-fault divorce: Neither party is identified as the guilty party or the cause of the divorce

Prenuptial agreements and the Internet

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

Debate: Yes or No?

Should no-fault divorce laws be allowed?


Divide the class in two, with each side (Yes versus No) sitting on opposite sides of the room. If the class is large, assign a small group of students come up to the front of the class and debate the issue, while the rest of the class watches. Open up the class for discussion after 10 minutes of points/counterpoints. Debates work well if the students are given time to research their assigned perspective for presentation (i.e., homework).


Macro Factors Contributing to Divorce (continued 1)

Fewer moral and religious sanctions

More divorce models

Mobility and anonymity

Social class, ethnicity, and culture

Discussion: How many divorces are socially acceptable for one individual?


Micro Factors Contributing to Divorce

Growing apart/differences

Falling out of love

Limited time together

Low frequency of positive behavior

Having an affair

Poor conflict resolution skills

Changing values

Onset of satiation

Having the perception that one would be happier if divorced

Consequences of Divorce for Spouses and Parents

Payment of child support and alimony

Depends on prenuptial or postnuptial agreements

Postnuptial agreement: Agreement made after the wedding with regard to the division of money after divorce

Fathers’ are separated from their children

Physical custody: Distribution of parenting time between divorced spouses

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

Litigation of Divorce and Child Custody Issues


Find out when the local court tries domestic cases. Ask students to go to court when domestic cases are being heard and write a description of the tactics used by attorneys and their general impressions of the proceedings.


Consequences of Divorce for Spouses and Parents (continued)

Alienation of children from the other parent

Parental alienation syndrome: Children are preoccupied with deprecation and/or criticism of a parent

Denigration is unjustified and/or exaggerated

Parental alienation: Estrangement of a child from a parent due to one parent turning the child against the other

The most telling sign that children have been alienated from a parent is the irrational behavior of the children, who for no properly explained reason say that they want nothing further to do with one of the parents. Indeed, such children have a lack of ambivalence toward the alienation, lack of guilt or remorse about the alienation, and always take the alienating parent’s side in the conflict.

Children who are alienated from one parent are sometimes unable to see through the alienation process and regard their negative feelings as natural. Such children are similar to those who have been brainwashed by cult leaders to view outsiders negatively.


Effects of Divorce on Children

Positive effects

Compassion and tolerance

Exposure to different family values, tradition, and lifestyles

Less reliance on parents for making decisions

Quality time with parents

Improved relationship with father and/or mother

Greater appreciation for siblings and friends


Effects of Divorce on Children (continued)

Negative effects

Lower psychological well-being

Low grades, dropping out of college

Earlier sexual behavior

Higher rates of alcohol/marijuana use

Exhibition of depressive symptoms or antisocial behavior

Less commitment in romantic relationships

Discussion: What are the best interests of the child?

Student Projects and Classroom Activities

Minimizing Negative Effects of Divorce on Children


Do this activity before assigning Chapter 14. Divide students into small groups (four to six students per group). Ask each group to assign someone to be the note taker and spokesperson for the group. Give students the following directions:


Suppose a good friend or sibling was going through a divorce and came to you for advice on how to minimize the negative effects of the divorce on the children. What advice would one offer?


Allow 15 minutes for the small groups to work together on this activity. Ask the spokesperson from each group to share the advice given in their group. The instructor may write in abbreviated fashion each piece of advice on the board. Use students’ advice to generate class discussion.


Reasons for Remarriage

Love and companionship

Emotional and financial security

Help in rearing children

Desire to provide social father or mother for one’s children

Escape from the stigma associated with the label and legal threats regarding the custody of children


Using Film in the Classroom


Popular Entertainment Films:

Le Divorce (2003)


Content: This is a story of two sisters, one of whom is going through a divorce.


Assignment: Discuss how a divorce can sometimes focus on the acquisition of a specific object in the marriage and how this conflict is symptomatic of the larger issue of not being able to negotiate differences.


Child Support

In comparing only non-custodial parents, women are less likely to make support

Function of women earning less than men

1998: Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act

Felony to refuse to provide support payments to a child living in another state

Remarriage: Problems of
Blended Families

3 out of 4 people who divorce remarry, most within four years

More than 1/3 of all marriages are remarriages for at least one partner

Blended families: Families in which children live with some combination of biological parents and stepparents

Stability in Remarriages

Remarriages are more likely than first marriages to end in divorce in the early years

Men and women report significant difficulties in roles

Lower marital satisfaction is reported in remarriages

Spouses are likely to remain married because they want to and not because they fear divorce

Fox and Shriner (2014) studied remarried couples involved in premarital education and found that they feared another marital failure, which in conjunction with stepfamily formation, promoted attachment insecurities.

Student Projects and Classroom Activities



Have students interview someone they know who has been remarried about their second marriage. Was the ceremony as elaborate? Was it a remarriage for both partners? If not, did that cause conflict at the beginning? Do they refer to their spouse as their “second” (or “third”, etc.) husband/wife? What conflict could this cause?


Remarriage: Problems of
Blended Families

Blended family problems

Children learn a new social environment

Parent and sibling relationships

Managing relationship with ex-spouse

Stepparent families have high rate of physical and sexual abuse

Greater likelihood for divorce than for couples in first marriages

Theoretical perspectives on marriage/family: Functionalist

Functionalists: Families play a key role in stabilizing society, perform certain functions that allow society to prosper/develop.

Functions of families

Replenish society with socialized members

Promote emotional stability of spouses

Provide economic support

Physical care

Regulate sexual behavior

Status placement

Social control

Murdock: sexual, reproductive, educational, economic

Theoretical perspectives on marriage/family: Functionalist

Conflict: Highlight the role of power in the family structure.

Household division of labor

Views individuals in relationships to be competing for resources

Regards conflict to be necessary for the change and growth of individuals, marriages, and families

Helps understand choices with regard to mate selection and jealousy

Symbolic Interactionism: Views family as a symbol, something that is not objective but something that is defined/developed subjectively.

Member give meaning to each other’s behavior

Feminist Framework: Views family as contexts of inequality and oppression for women

Stages of Family Life

Duvall’s Stage Theory

Stage Family Type Children

1 Marriage Family Childless

2 Procreation Family Children ages 0 to 2.5

3 Preschooler Family Children ages 2.5 to 6

4 School-age Family Children ages 6–13

5 Teenage Family Children ages 13–20

6 Launching Family Children begin to leave home

7 Empty Nest Family “Empty nest”; adult children have left home

Family Life Course

Residency and Lines of Descent

Bilateral Descent: pattern of tracing kinship (one’s traceable ancestry based on blood, marriage or adoption)

Unilateral descent: tracing kinship through one parent only

Patrilineal (father), matrilineal (mother)

Patrilocal residence: newly married couples move in with, or near to, the husband’s relatives/family

Matrilocal residence: newly married couples move in with or neat to the wife’s relatives/family


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