Studying Marriage and the Family

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Theory and Research. Marriage and Family is a scientific disciplineHow does the Science of Marriage and Family affect us?. Theory and Research. What is Theory?A set of logically organized statements that seeks to explain problems, actions and behaviors.Theories guide our thinking, research and

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Studying Marriage and the Family

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1. Studying Marriage and the Family Chapter 2 Part 1: Theory

2. Theory and Research Marriage and Family is a scientific discipline How does the Science of Marriage and Family affect us?

3. Theory and Research What is Theory? A set of logically organized statements that seeks to explain problems, actions and behaviors. Theories guide our thinking, research and applications. Research Based on Scientific Investigation Multiple methods.

4. Why are Theories and Research Important? Knowledge Understanding our Self and our Family Policy Issues Program Development

5. Theory: Ecological perspective Urie Bronfenbrenner proposed “interlocking” systems that shape developmental growth. The microsystem The mesosystem The exosystem The macrosystem The chronosystem Critique: Does not explain how and when changes occur….suggests everything affects everything.

6. Ecological Model of Development

7. Theory: Symbolic-Interaction Symbolic interaction theory explores subjective, interpersonal meaning and how we communicate using symbols and shared meanings. The meaning we assign to people, things, or situations are central to our behavior. Roles: help us to decide how to behave and interact Critique: Tends to ignore broader influences on family functioning and may have unrealistic views of everyday life.

8. Theory: Social Exchange Social exchange theory is based on the idea that any social interaction is based on the efforts to minimize costs and maximize rewards. Equitable relationships thrive. Change occurs when costs are greater than rewards. Critique: Social exchange theory places too much weight on rational decision making and may not account for groups which do not place as much value on individual behavior.

9. Theory: Family Life Course Development perspective Family life course development theory explores the changes that families experience over the lifespan. Specific focus is placed on developmental tasks. On time tasks…off time tasks Critique: Some researchers feel stage models are “artificial” and are often restricted to nuclear and stable families, ignoring single-parent and gay and lesbian families.

10. Stages of the Family Life Cycle

11. Theory: Structural-Functional Structural functional theory explores the relationship between the family and the larger society. Family is a subsystem of society. It structures itself to survive and fulfill functions that support society. Instrumental roles & expressive roles are often assigned by gender. Traditional roles are seen as best. Goal is to preserve order and stability. Critique: Conservative perspective that may be ignoring social changes. Difficult to test and often abstract.

12. Theory: Conflict perspective Conflict theory is based on the ways people struggle over power and compete for scarce resources. Conflict in fundamental in relationships Changes in traditional roles are seen as natural, inevitable and sometimes desirable, resulting from changes in society. Society is seen as a system of inequality which causes tension between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Critique: Overemphasizes clash and coercion and focuses on institutional or macro level rather than personal choice or micro level.

13. Theory: Feminist perspectives Feminist theories examine how gender impacts relationships and institutions such as politics, religion, education and families. There are different types of feminism, including liberal, radical, and global. Family and gender roles are socially constructed. Feminist theory has contributed to better understanding of family diversity, family violence, and parental roles and rights. Critique: Feminists often rely more heavily on qualitative research methods rather than quantitative methods. Many feminists are part of an “old girl” network.

14. Theory: Family Systems Family systems theory views families as functioning units that solve problems, make decisions and achieve collective goals. There are subsystems within each family. Each systems attempts to maintain a homeostasis. Focus is often placed on how families communicate, how patterns evolve and how individual personalities affect other family members. Critique: Some researchers have suggested family systems theory is too general and does not provide much insight on how the family functions.

15. Studying Marriage and the Family Chapter 2 Part 2: Methods

16. Research Issues: What is real? Subjectivity and personal bias Objectivity, replication, and precision of measurement. Ethics

17. The Ethics and Politics of Family Research Most professional organizations subscribe to codes of ethics to help protect human research subjects. Researchers must adhere to these ethical standards both in collecting data and in reporting the results. Political issues can affect both research agendas and reporting procedures.

18. Methods: Surveys Surveys are used to systematically collect information. Questionnaires and interviews can be face to face, by telephone, or mailed. Focus groups can be used to explore issues before launching a larger research project Strengths: Surveys are inexpensive and quick. Face to face interviews have high response rates. Weaknesses: Mailed questionnaires have low response rates. Data may be falsified on self report surveys.

19. Methods: Clinical Research Clinical research focuses on individuals or small groups of people who seek help from mental health professionals. The case study approach provides in-depth information and descriptions of individuals and families. Strengths: Case studies are usually based on long-term counseling where clinicians may offer insights about family dynamics. Weaknesses: Case studies are often consuming, expensive, and not representative.

20. Methods: Field Research Field researchers collect data by systematically observing people in their natural surroundings. When researchers interact naturally, but do not reveal their identities as researchers, they are participant observers. When researchers study phenomena without being part of the situation they are non-participant observers. Strengths: Field research can provide a more in-depth understanding and can be more flexible than other types of research. Weaknesses: Field research can be time-consuming and expensive, as well as providing difficult role challenges for the investigator.

21. Methods: Secondary Analysis Researchers who use secondary analysis are using data that was collected by someone else. Sources may include historical documents, public records, letters and diaries, and/or official statistics. Strengths: Secondary analysis tends to be accessible, convenient, and inexpensive, and can provide good ways to explore longitudinal information. Weaknesses: Secondary data may not include all the information required or may have missing information. It may also not include the data the researcher is looking for.

22. Methods: Experiments Experiments examine cause and effect relationships under controlled conditions. Typically a researcher tests a hypothesis. Experimental designs are rare in family research, but more common in medical and psychological studies. Strengths: Experiments are usually inexpensive and can be replicated, which strengthens the researcher’s confidence in the reliability and/or validity of the study. Weaknesses: Often experimental designs can not be generalized to larger populations. They typically rely heavily on student populations for participants.

23. Methods: Evaluation research Evaluation research is used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of social programs. Evaluation research is applied research in the sense that it assesses a specific program for a specific agency or organization. Strengths: Evaluation research can have important practical applications and outcomes. Weaknesses: Often politics can play a role in determining how evaluation research is used and interpreted.

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