CHAPTER 1: FAMILY COMMITMENTS: Making Choices in a Changing Society




What is a family:

· Traditionally, both law and social science have specified that the family consists of people related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

· Common household, economic interdependency, and sexual and reproductive relations

· U.S. Census Bureau defines a family as two or more people who share a household, reside together, and are related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

· Burgess and Locke: “primary group”. Any group in which there is a close, face-to-face relationship. For them, family interaction occurred primarily in the context of traditional (heterosexual, married-couple, gender-differentiated) social roles, rather than in emphasizing spontaneity, individuality, and intimacy.


· OTHER DEFINITIONS The collective body of persons who live in one house, and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children, and servants, and, as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.

· Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe, clan, or race; kindred; house; as, the human family; the family of Abraham; the father of a family.

Definitions of the family on the Web

· a social unit living together; "he moved his family to Virginia"; "It was a good Christian household"; "I waited until the whole house was asleep"; "the teacher asked how many people made up his home"

· primary social group; parents and children; "he wanted to have a good job before starting a family"

· people descended from a common ancestor; "his family has lived in Massachusetts since the Mayflower"

· class: a collection of things sharing a common attribute; "there are two classes of detergents"

· an association of people who share common beliefs or activities; "the message was addressed not just to employees but to every member of the company family"; "the church welcomed new members into its fellowship"

· (biology) a taxonomic group containing one or more genera; "sharks belong to the fish family"

· kin: a person having kinship with another or others; "he's kin"; "he's family"

· syndicate: a loose affiliation of gangsters in charge of organized criminal activities

New Definitions of the Family


· Family is defined in terms of benefits by employers

· Domestic partners

· Extended families

NOTE: Review the Issues for Thought Box on page 4 “Pets as Family”


The Freedom and Pressures of Choosing

· People need to understand themselves in the context of the larger society.

· Choices depend on alternatives that exist in their social environment and on cultural values and attitudes toward those alternatives

· Staying single longer is a more comfortable choice today than 30 or 40 years ago

· Social factors can influence personal choices by expanding people’s options. Example reproductive technology.

· Social factors can also limit people’s options. For example, higher education is more important than marriage influencing a delay in marriage.


Making Choices

· Choosing by default: choices made when people are not aware of alternative choices.

· Choosing knowledgeably: recognizing as many options or alternatives as possible. Also recognizing the social pressures that may influence personal choices, cultural norms, and socially prescribed beliefs, values, and standards.


Note:   Review Figure 1.2:   The cycle of knowledgeable decision making.  This diagram illustrates the process of making a knowledgeable decision by showing the connection between the environment and the individual. Part of the process requires becoming aware of your values and choosing to act consistently with them. By clarifying one’s values, one is able to cut through the ambivalence and make a decision. 


A Family of Individuals


· Family Values : togetherness, loyalty, and stability focus on the family as a whole.

· Familism : placing family wellbeing over individual interests and preferences

· Boundaries : can be physical and/or psychological between themselves and the rest of the world. The boundaries reflect the families’ personal space. The family makes the decision on who can or cannot enter.

· The archival family function  is another way families create a place to belong. The function is to create, store, preserve and pass on particular objects, events, or rituals that members consider relevant to their personal identity as a family. Examples are photos, artifacts from infancy, and symbols of recognition and/or achievement.

· Family Decline : refers to a perspective that self-indulgence of the baby-boom generation has resulted in less commitment to family and the values associated with family. The perspective believes the focus is on the individual as opposed to the family as one.

· Family Change : refers to an alternative perspective to family decline. The perspective is that the family has changed but the family remains important. Families were broken up due to illness, death, divorce, remarriages, etc. The family has remained important; it is the composition of the family that has changed. An example is single parents.