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Marriage and Family in America: Needs , Myths, and Dreams. Ch. 1. Science: Transcending Personal Experience. The Blinders of Personal Experience Scientific Investigation: Removing the Blinders. The Blinders of Personal Experience.

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science transcending personal experience
Science: Transcending Personal Experience
  • The Blinders of Personal Experience
  • Scientific Investigation: Removing the Blinders
the blinders of personal experience
The Blinders of Personal Experience
  • Personal experience provides a certain way to “know”family/things.
  • However, it can also act as blinders.
  • Personal experiences and assumptions regarding family may limit the ability to study and understand fairly the experience of family.
  • Science provides norms for transcending the blinders of personal experience.
scientific investigation removing blinders
Scientific Investigation: Removing Blinders
  • The central aim of scientific investigation is to find out what is actually going on, as opposed to what we assume is happening.
  • Science can be defined as “a logical system that bases knowledge on…systematic observation” and on empirical evidence--facts we can verify with our senses.
  • The central purpose of the scientific method is to overcome researchers’ blinders, or biases.
theoretical perspectives on the family
Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
  • The Structure-Functional Perspective
  • Systems Theory
  • Exchange Theory
  • Symbolic Interaction Theory
  • Conflict Theory
  • The Relationship Between Theory and Research
facts about families
Facts about Families:

Critical Thinking:

  • Think of a family-related topic and consider how you might study it.
  • What theoretical perspective would you use to help frame your research questions?
  • What research methods and data-gathering techniques would you use?
the relationship between theory and research
The Relationship Between Theory and Research
  • Theory directs research questions and suggest useful concepts.
  • Theoretical perspectives help interpret data and explain facts.
  • Subsequent understanding from research can be used to modify, support, or challenge existing theory.
doing family research
Doing Family Research
  • The variation in family forms and the variety of social settings for family life mean that few of us can rely on firsthand experience in studying the family.
  • Our experiential reality—beliefs we have about the family—may not be accurate.
  • Agreement reality—what members of a society agree is true—may misrepresent the actual experience of families.
the need for intimacy we are social creatures
The Need for Intimacy: We are Social Creatures


Well-Being and Intimacy

myths about family life
Myths About Family Life

We’ve Lost the Extended Family

Opposites Attract

People Marry Because They Love Each Other

Having Children Increases Marital Satisfaction

A Good Sex Life Is the Best Predictor of Marital Satisfaction

Happily Married People Don’t Have Conflict

Half of all Marriages End in Divorce

changing patterns of intimate relationships
Changing Patterns of Intimate Relationships

Premarital Sex

Births to Unmarried Women

Living Alone


Delayed Marriage

Birth Rates

Household Size

Employed Mothers


facts about families american families today
Facts About Families: American Families Today
  • Marriage is important to Americans. About 90 percent of American adults are or have been married, or say that they want to marry.
  • Fewer people are married today. Fifty- eight percent of adults were married in 2008, compared to 61 percent in 1990. Twenty-six percent have never married; 10 percent are divorced, and 6 percent widowed.
  • People are postponing marriage. In 2009, the median age at first marriage was 25.9 for women and 28.1 for men, as compared with 20.8 for women and 23.2 for men in 1970.
  • Cohabitation is an emergent family form as well as a transitional lifestyle choice. The number of cohabitating adults has increased more than ten- fold since 1970.
  • Fertility has declined. After a high of 3.6 in 1957, the total fertility rate— the average number of births that a woman will have during her lifetime— has been at about 2 over the past twenty years.
  • Parenthood is often postponed. About 19 percent of women reach their forties without bearing a child.
facts about families american families today cont d
Facts About Families: American Families Today (Cont’d)
  • Same-sex couples—some of them legally married—are increasingly visible. About 565,000 same-sex couple households existed in 2008 (Gates 2009b). It’s estimated that about one-fifth of male same-sex partner households and one-third of female same-sex households include children.
  • The divorce rate is high. The divorce rate doubled from 1965 to 1980. Then it dropped, having fallen more than 30 percent since 1980.
  • The remarriage rate is has declined in recent decades but remains significant. Among the divorced, about 52 percent of men and 44 percent of women remarry. In 2004, 12 per- cent of all adult men and 13 percent of women had been married twice. Three percent of men and of women had married three or more times.
  • There are more families with members over age sixty-five today than in the past. The proportion of Americans over age 65 is about 13 percent, and that figure is projected to reach 20 percent by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau 2010b, Table 8).
relaxed institutional control over relationship choices
Relaxed Institutional Control over Relationship Choices

-Family is understood to be a social institution.

-Social institutions are patterned and largely predictable ways of thinking and behaving that are organized around vital aspects of group life and serve essential social functions.

-Choices in regard to family have become less predictable, and individuals have differing ideas about one’s obligations to family and society.

-We are witnessing an ongoing social trend that involves increasingly relaxed institutional control over relationship choices.

-How we view this change can be understood via two different perspectives:

  • Family Decline Perspective
  • Family Change Perspective
family decline perspective
Family Decline Perspective

Critics have described the relaxation of institutional control over relationships and families as “family decline” or “breakdown.”

Claims that cultural change toward excessive individualism and self-indulgence has led to high divorce rates and could undermine responsible parenting.

Additionally, fewer family households contain children, thus reducing the child-centeredness of society, and overall, weakening the institution of marriage.

family change perspective
Family Change Perspective

Others agree that changes have occurred with family, but argue that change represents the historical evolution of family as a social construct.

Advocates argue that we need to view the family from an historical standpoint.

Families in the past experienced similar challenges in regards to the consequences of illness, death, social class, and race/ethnicity upon the ability to meet the functions of a family.

family change perspective1
Family Change Perspective

Today’s family forms need to be seen as historically expected adjustments to changing conditions in the wider society, including the decline in manufacturing jobs, the need for more education, the entry of women into the labor force, and the increased insecurity of middle- and even upper-class jobs.

Economic trends as well as cultural change accounts for subsequent changes in the family.

Family is an “adaptable institution” and, as such, changes in response to larger social change.

facts about families focus on children
Facts About Families: Focus on Children

1. At any given time, a majority of children live in two-parent households.

  • In 2008, 70% of children under eighteen lived with two parents—and 68%, with two married parents.
  • 26% of children lived with only one parent (23% with mother; 4% with father).

2. Individuals experience a variety of living arrangements throughout childhood.

  • A child may live in an intact two-parent family, a single-parent household, with a cohabitating parent, and in a remarried family in sequence.
  • About half of all American children are expected to live in a single-parent household at some point in their lives, most likely in a single-mother household.

3. Children are more likely to live with a grandparent today than in the recent past.

  • In 1970, 3% of children lived in a household containing a grandparent, but by 2008 that rate had more than doubled, to 9%.
  • In about a quarter of the cases, grandparents had sole responsibility for raising the child, but many households containing grandparents are extended family households that include other relatives as well.

4. Although most parents are employed, children are more likely than the general population to be living in poverty.

  • The poverty rate of children has stood at about 18% over the past ten years, whereas that of the general adult population is about 12% and that of the elderly, about 10%.
  • The child poverty rate is lower now than its peak of 22.3% in 1983, but higher than in 1970.
number of americans living alone
Number of Americans Living Alone

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau 1987:45 and 2010a.

birth rate per 1 000 population 1910 2008
Birth Rate per 1,000 Population: 1910-2008

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau Web site and Centers for Disease Control 2010.