Family Problems and Problem Families. By: Leslie J. Miller. Table of Contents. Click to go to…. Home Page. Agenda. Problem Families then and Now. Problematizing the Hidden Injustices of Normal Family Life. Conclusions. Agenda. Scramble Challenge Handout Discussion
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By: Leslie J. Miller
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Problem Families then and Now
Problematizing the Hidden Injustices of Normal Family Life
To present a discussion of family problems that are responsive to the insights that have emerged from two fields of scholarship: Feminist studies and The Sociology of Deviance and Control
The Study of Social Problems is the Study of that Problematizing Process
Outlines the historical process that produced the modern ideal of the domestic family and reviews some attempts to enforce it by regulating alternative or unfit forms
Though efforts to reform the unfit family have taken various guises over the last century, the image of the “normal family” is still regularly invoked to justify the social control of a whole range of more or less discredited alternatives
Many feminists have argued that we should abandon the labelling of alternative arrangements as immoral, evil or unhealthy and except the reality of many forms instead of just one
Develops the insights of feminist scholars more directly
One consequence of the rise of the domestic ideal was to focus on those families that failed to measure up
The main point Miller emphasizes in part two is that these long hidden aspects of family life represent forms of conduct that are currently being raised as problems by feminists and many others
Family realities such as the unrecognized and unpaid labour of housewives, the “normal” violence of routine, the structural impoverishment of women are presently being targeted by various groups wanting to raise their visibility and thus society’s recognition of them as urgent social problems
Social historians agreed that over the 18th and 19th century in Northern Europe, there arose in the burgeoning middle class, a cult of domesticity that made the new form an object of veneration
Until the 18th century, the family existed as a political and public body, with little or no private character
Towards the end of the 18th Century, the “domestic” or “intimate” modern form of the family emerged and became the normal standard of living
Example: The Baby Bonus
Began as a state payment to any mother who was willing to raise illegitimate children in her own family, became a mechanism which allowed the state to oversee the physical and moral hygiene of the bourgeoisie and later the poor, family by measuring it against the standard of the new idealp.135
The Ethos of Domesticity had its origin in European societies, where privilege accorded to the new ideal, that worked to produce a moral distinction between the respectable middle-class family and the work-class family, who were seen as deficient and a threat to the public order
The “Slum” Family:
During the years of rapid immigration between 1860 and the First World War, critics reserved the greatest concern for the urban slum families, where the threat to the child was considered the greatest
Middle-Class definition of a slum family focused on the “Idle Youth” who were marginally employed as bootblacks and newsboys, neither going to school or work, just roaming the streets p. 137
Solutions to this would become the “problem of juvenile delinquency”, and included some things as training schools or orphanages, that were seen to install the child into a better home
During the last half of the 19th Century, children’s wages provided an important part of family income
In comparison with the modern family, good parenting came to imply the complete segregation of the child from the adult world of paid labour
There was a general belief that working-class girls should be at home, rather then at dance halls or theatres, for example
The Feminization of Poverty: Women face higher risks of poverty than men, which is considered a significant long-term trend
1)State intervention continues to almost always be directed towards society’s most marginalized communities, and are conducted in a way that often provokes humiliation, confusion and often violence. How does the treatment of lower-class families differ in comparison to upper-class families, with respect to state intervention and control?
2)Family violence is presently seen as violence of different kinds, including violence against children, women, the elderly and amongst children(siblings). Why do you feel that victims of domestic violence, in particular women and children, are reluctant to pursue justification when the abuser is a family member, and not when the abuser is a stranger?