Family

The Nature of a Family

In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence.

Learning Objectives

Differentiate between conjugal family and consanguineal family

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • As a unit of socialization, the family is an object of analysis for sociologists, and is considered to be the agency of primary socialization.
  • A conjugal family includes only the husband, wife, and unmarried children who are not of age. This is also referred to as a nuclear family.
  • Consanguinity is defined as the property of belonging to the same kinship as another person.
  • A matrilocal family consists of a mother and her children, independent of a father. This occurs in cases when the mother has the resources to independently rear children, or in societies where males are mobile and rarely at home.
  • The model of the family triangle, husband-wife-children isolated from the outside, is also called the Oedipal model of the family and it is a form of patriarchal family.
  • A matrilocal family consists of a mother and her children.
  • The model, common in the western societies, of the family triangle, husband-wife-children isolated from the outside, is also called the Oedipal model of the family and it is a form of patriarchal family.

Key Terms

  • matrilocal: living with the family of the wife; uxorilocal
  • A conjugal family: a family unit consisting of a father, mother, and unmarried children who are not adults
  • consanguinity: a consanguineous or family relationship through parentage or descent; a blood relationship

Families

In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies, it is the principal institution for the socialization of children. Occasionally, there emerge new concepts of family that break with traditional conceptions of family, or those that are transplanted via migration, but these beliefs do not always persist in new cultural space. As a unit of socialization, the family is the object of analysis for certain scholars. For sociologists, the family is considered to be the agency of primary socialization and is called the first focal socialization agency. The values learned during childhood are considered to be the most important a human child will learn during its development.

Conjugal and Consanguineal Families

A “conjugal” family includes only a husband, a wife, and unmarried children who are not of age. In sociological literature, the most common form of this family is often referred to as a nuclear family. In contrast, a “consanguineal” family consists of a parent, his or her children, and other relatives. Consanguinity is defined as the property of belonging to the same kinship as another person. In that respect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person.

Other Types of Families

A “matrilocal” family consists of a mother and her children. Generally, these children are her biological offspring, although adoption is practiced in nearly every society. This kind of family is common where women independently have the resources to rear children by themselves, or where men are more mobile than women.

Common in the western societies, the model of the family triangle, where the husband, wife, and children are isolated from the outside, is also called the oedipal model of the family. This family arrangement is considered patriarchal.

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Adults and Child: As a unit of socialization, the family is the object of analysis for sociologists of the family.

The Functions of a Family

The primary function of the family is to perpetuate society, both biologically through procreation, and socially through socialization.

Learning Objectives

Describe the different functions of family in society

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • From the perspective of children, the family is a family of orientation: the family functions to locate children socially.
  • From the point of view of the parents, the family is a family of procreation: the family functions to produce and socialize children.
  • Marriage fulfills many other functions: It can establish the legal father of a woman’s child; establish joint property for the benefit of children; or establish a relationship between the families of the husband and wife. These are only some examples; the family’s function varies by society.

Key Terms

  • family: A group of people related by blood, marriage, law or custom.
  • Sexual division of labor: The delegation of different tasks between males and females.

The primary function of the family is to ensure the continuation of society, both biologically through procreation, and socially through socialization. Given these functions, the nature of one’s role in the family changes over time. From the perspective of children, the family instills a sense of orientation: The family functions to locate children socially, and plays a major role in their socialization. From the point of view of the parents, the family’s primary purpose is procreation: The family functions to produce and socialize children. In some cultures marriage imposes upon women the obligation to bear children. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bride wealth signifies a woman’s requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face substantial threats of physical abuse and reprisals.

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Family Background Matters: From the perspective of children, the family is a family of orientation: The family functions to locate children socially, and plays a major role in their socialization. From the point of view of the parents, the family is a family of procreation: The family functions to produce and socialize children

Other Functions of the Family

Producing offspring is not the only function of the family. Marriage sometimes establishes the legal father of a woman’s child or the legal mother of a man’s child; it oftentimes gives the husband or his family control over the wife’s sexual services, labor, and property. Marriage, likewise, often gives the wife or her family control over the husband’s sexual services, labor, and property. Marriage also establishes a joint fund of property for the benefit of children and can establish a relationship between the families of the husband and wife. None of these functions are universal, but depend on the society in which the marriage takes place and endures. In societies with a sexual division of labor, marriage, and the resulting relationship between a husband and wife, is necessary for the formation of an economically productive household. In modern societies marriage entails particular rights and privilege that encourage the formation of new families even when there is no intention of having children.

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Chilean Family: In societies with a sexual division of labor, marriage, and the resulting relationship between a husband and wife, is necessary for the formation of an economically productive household.

Family Structures

The traditional family structure consists of two married individuals providing care for their offspring, but this is becoming more uncommon.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the statistical data regarding types of family composition and living arrangements

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The nuclear family is considered the ” traditional ” family. The nuclear family consists of a mother, father, and their biological children.
  • A single parent is a parent who cares for one or more children without the assistance of the other biological parent.
  • Step families are becoming more familiar in America. Divorce rates, along with the remarriage rate are rising, therefore bringing two families together as step families.
  • The extended family consists of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Key Terms

  • nuclear family: a family unit consisting of at most a father, mother and dependent children.
  • Family Structure: a family support system involving two married individuals providing care and stability for their biological offspring.
  • extended family: A family consisting of parents and children, along with either grandparents, grandchildren, aunts or uncles, cousins etc.

The traditional family structure in the United States is considered a family support system which involves two married individuals providing care and stability for their biological offspring. However, this two-parent, nuclear family has become less prevalent, and alternative family forms have become more common. The family is created at birth and establishes ties across generations. Those generations, the extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, can all hold significant emotional and economic roles for the nuclear family.

Nuclear Family

The nuclear family is considered the “traditional” family and consists of a mother, father, and the children. The two-parent nuclear family has become less prevalent, and alternative family forms such as, homosexual relationships, single-parent households, and adopting individuals are more common. The nuclear family is also choosing to have fewer children than in the past. The percentage of married-couple households with children under 18 has declined to 23.5% of all households in 2000 from 25.6% in 1990, and from 45% in 1960. However, 64 percent of children still reside in a two-parent, household as of 2012.

Single Parent

A single parent is a parent who cares for one or more children without the assistance of the other biological parent. Historically, single-parent families often resulted from death of a spouse, for instance during childbirth. Single-parent homes are increasing as married couples divorce, or as unmarried couples have children. Although widely believed to be detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of a child, this type of household is tolerated. The percentage of single-parent households has doubled in the last three decades, but that percentage tripled between 1900 and 1950. In fact, 24 percent of children live with just their mother, and 4 percent live with just their father. The sense of marriage as a “permanent” institution has been weakened, allowing individuals to consider leaving marriages more readily than they may have in the past. Increasingly single parent families are a result of out of wedlock births, especially those due to unintended pregnancy.

Step Families

Step families are becoming more common in America. Divorce rates, along with the remarriage rate are rising, therefore bringing two families together as step families. Statistics show that there are 1,300 new step families forming every day. Over half of American families are remarried, that is 75% of marriages ending in divorce, remarry.

Extended Family

The extended family consists of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In some circumstances, the extended family comes to live either with or in place of a member of the nuclear family. About 4 percent of children live with a relative other than a parent. For example, when elderly parents move in with their children due to old age, this places large demands on the caregivers, particularly the female relatives who choose to perform these duties for their extended family.

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The traditional family in the U.S.: An American family composed of the mother, father, children, and extended family.

Kinship Patterns

Kinship refers to the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of most humans in most societies.

Learning Objectives

Explain how the concept of kinship is used in anthropolgy

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In biology, kinship typically refers to the degree of genetic relatedness or coefficient of relationships between individual members of a species.
  • One of the founders of the anthropological relationship research was Lewis Henry Morgan, in his Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (1871). The most lasting of Morgan’s contributions was his discovery of the difference between descriptive and classificatory kinship.
  • Ideas about kinship in sociology and anthropology do not necessarily assume any biological relationship between individuals, rather just close associations.
  • A unilineal society is one in which the descent of an individual is reckoned either from the mother’s or the father’s line of descent.
  • With matrilineal descent individuals belong to their mother’s descent group. Similarly, with patrilineal descent, individuals belong to their father’s descent group.
  • The Western model of a nuclear family consists of a couple and its children.
  • With patrilineal descent, individuals belong to their father’s descent group.
  • The Western model of a nuclear family consists of a couple and its children.

Key Terms

  • affinity: A natural attraction or feeling of kinship to a person or thing.
  • descent: Lineage or hereditary derivation.
  • kinship: relation or connection by blood, marriage, or adoption

Kinship is a term with various meanings depending upon the context. In anthropology, kinship refers to the web of social relationships that form an important part of human lives. In other disciplines, kinship may have a different meaning. In biology, it typically refers to the degree of genetic relatedness or coefficient of relationships between individual members of a species. In a more general sense, kinship may refer to a similarity or affinity between entities on the basis of some or all of their characteristics.

System of Kinship

One of the founders of anthropological relationship research was Lewis Henry Morgan, who wrote Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (1871). Members of a society may use kinship terms without being biologically related, a fact already evident in Morgan’s use of the term “affinity” within his concept of the “system of kinship. ” The most lasting of Morgan’s contributions was his discovery of the difference between descriptive and classificatory kinship, which situates broad kinship classes on the basis of imputing abstract social patterns of relationships having little or no overall relation to genetic closeness.

Kinship systems as defined in anthropological texts and ethnographies were seen as constituted by patterns of behavior and attitudes in relation to the differences in terminology for referring to relationships as well as for addressing others. Many anthropologists went so far as to see, in these patterns of kinship, strong relations between kinship categories and patterns of marriage, including forms of marriage, restrictions on marriage, and cultural concepts of the boundaries of incest.

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Mahrams Chart: Family chart. Note that not all relatives are shown in the chart (specially at step-relatives).

Biological Relationships

Ideas about kinship do not necessarily assume any biological relationship between individuals, rather just close associations. Malinowski, in his ethnographic study of sexual behavior on the Trobriand Islands, noted that the Trobrianders did not believe pregnancy to be the result of sexual intercourse between the man and the woman, and they denied that there was any physiological relationship between father and child. Nevertheless, while paternity was unknown in the “full biological sense,” for a woman to have a child without having a husband was considered socially undesirable. Fatherhood was therefore recognized as a social role; the woman’s husband is the “man whose role and duty it is to take the child in his arms and to help her in nursing and bringing it up”; “Thus, though the natives are ignorant of any physiological need for a male in the constitution of the family, they regard him as indispensable socially. ”

Descent and the Family

Descent, like family systems, is one of the major concepts of anthropology. Cultures worldwide possess a wide range of systems of tracing kinship and descent. Anthropologists break these down into simple concepts about what is thought to be common among many different cultures. A descent group is a social group whose members have common ancestry. An unilineal society is one in which the descent of an individual is reckoned either from the mother’s or the father’s line of descent. With matrilineal descent, individuals belong to their mother’s descent group. Matrilineal descent includes the mother’s brother, who in some societies may pass along inheritance to the sister’s children or succession to a sister’s son. With patrilineal descent, individuals belong to their father’s descent group. Societies with the Iroquois kinship system are typically uniliineal, while the Iroquois proper are specifically matrilineal. The Western model of a nuclear family consists of a couple and its children. The nuclear family is ego-centered and impermanent, while descent groups are permanent and reckoned according to a single ancestor.

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Kinship Systems: A broad comparison of (left, top-to-bottom) Hawaiian, Sudanese, Eskimo, (right, top-to-bottom) Iroquois, Crow and Omaha kinship systems.

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Cousin Tree kinship: Family tree showing the relationship of each person to the orange person. Cousins are colored green. The genetic kinship degree of relationship is marked in red boxes by percentage (%).

Authority Patterns

The three main parenting styles in early child development are authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive.

Learning Objectives

Describe the four different styles of parenting

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child, from infancy to adulthood.
  • Authoritarian parenting styles can be very rigid and strict.
  • Authoritative parenting relies on positive reinforcement and infrequent use of punishment.
  • Permissive parenting is a parenting style in which a child’s freedom and their autonomy are valued and parents tend to rely mostly on reasoning and explanation.
  • An uninvolved parenting style is when parents are often emotionally absent and sometimes even physically absent.

Key Terms

  • Uninvolved Parenting: The parenting style used when parents are often emotionally absent and sometimes even physically absent.
  • Authoritarian parenting: Parenting that relies on a rigid set of rules.
  • Authoritative parenting: Parenting that relies on positive reinforcement and infrequent use of punishment. Parents are more aware of a child’s feelings and capabilities, and support the development of a child’s autonomy within reasonable limits.

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child, aside from the biological relationship. Parenting is usually done by the biological parents of the child in question, although governments and society take a role as well. In many cases, orphaned or abandoned children receive parental care from non-parent blood relations. Others may be adopted, raised in foster care, or placed in an orphanage.

Parenting Styles

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three main parenting styles in early child development: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. These parenting styles were later expanded to four, including an uninvolved style. These four styles of parenting involve combinations of acceptance and responsiveness on the one hand, and demand and control on the other. Authoritarian parenting styles can be very rigid and strict. Parents who practice authoritarian style parenting have a strict set of rules and expectations and require rigid obedience. If rules are not followed, punishment is most often used to ensure obedience. There is usually no explanation of punishment except that the child is in trouble and should listen accordingly. Authoritative parenting relies on positive reinforcement and infrequent use of punishment. Parents are more aware of a child’s feelings and capabilities and support the development of a child’s autonomy within reasonable limits. There is a give-and-take atmosphere involved in parent-child communication, and both control and support are exercised in authoritative style parenting.

Permissive parenting is most popular in middle class families. In these family settings a child’s freedom and their autonomy are valued and parents tend to rely mostly on reasoning and explanation. There tends to be little, if any, punishment or rules in this style of parenting and children are said to be free from external constraints.

An uninvolved parenting style is when parents are often emotionally absent and sometimes even physically absent. They have little to no expectation of the child and regularly have no communication. They are not responsive to a child’s needs and do not demand anything of them in terms of behavioral expectations. They provide everything the child needs for survival with little to no engagement.

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Father and Child: Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child, from infancy to adulthood.