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Studying Marriage and the Family. Theoretical Frameworks for Understanding Families Methods and Techniques in Family Research Ethical and Political Issues in Family Research. Why are theories and research important in our everyday lives?. (1) what we don 't know can hurt us

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studying marriage and the family

Studying Marriage and the Family

Theoretical Frameworks for Understanding Families

Methods and Techniques in Family Research

Ethical and Political Issues in Family Research

why are theories and research important in our everyday lives
Why are theories and research important in our everyday lives?
  • (1) what we don 't know can hurt us
  • (2) theories and research help us understand and explain ourselves and our families and
  • (3) they assist us in engaging in critical thinking and informed decision making.
theoretical frameworks for understanding families
Theoretical Frameworks for Understanding Families
  • A theory is a set of statements that explain why a phenomenon occurs.
  • Ecological perspective- studies the relationship and adaptation of human groups, such as families, to their social environment.
There are four interlocking systems that mold developmental growth:
    • microsystem (behaviors, roles and relationships that influence a child's daily life),
    • mesosystem (the relationship between settings),
    • exosystem (settings or events that a child does not experience directly but that can affect his or her development) and
    • macrosystem (ideological system within a culture or subculture).
The main weaknesses of this theory are that:
    • (1) it explains growth but ignores decay
    • (2) it does not clarify how and when environments produce change and
    • (3) it does not explain how the interactions between the four systems affect nontraditional families.
theoretical frameworks for understanding families1
Theoretical Frameworks for Understanding Families
  • The structural-functionalist approach examines the relationship between the family and the larger society as well as the internal relationships among family members.
  • Anything that interferes with the fulfillment of social functions is seen as dysfunctional. Functions can be both manifest-recognized or intended or latent-not recognized or intended. In the traditional family, the husband plays the instrumental role and the wife plays the expressive role.
This approach has been criticized for
    • (1) being so conservative in its emphasis on order and stability that it ignores social change and
    • (2) failing to show how families interact on an everyday basis and
    • (3) examining the family narrowly through white, male, middle class lenses.
Conflict theory examines the ways in which groups disagree, struggle over power and compete for scarce resources. Rather than seeing change or conflict as bad or dysfunctional, conflict theorists see conflict as natural and inevitable. On a macro level, conflict theorists see society not as cooperative and stable, but as a system of inequality in which groups compete for scarce goods and services.
Conflict theorists have been criticized for:
    • (1) overemphasizing conflict and coercion at the expense of studying order and stability and
    • (2) emphasizing institutional processes instead of personal choices and constraints.
Feminist theories are the offspring of conflict theory. Feminist theories examine how gender roles shape relations between women and men.
  • Three categories of feminism are
    • (1) liberal feminism (emphasizes social and legal reform to create equal opportunities for women),
    • (2) radical feminism (considers male domination a major cause of women's inequality) and
    • (3) global feminism (focuses on how the intersection of gender with race, social class and colonization exploits women in the developing world).
Criticisms of feminism include the fact that:
  • (1) feminists participate in an "old girl network" that hasn't always welcomed conflicting points of view from African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Muslim, working class, or disabled women in either research or therapeutic settings and
  • (2) most feminist research uses qualitative research (based on observations and interviews) rather than quantitative research (based on an assignment of numbers to observations by counting and measuring).
Symbolic interaction theory.
  • Symbolic interactionists examine how our ideas, beliefs and attitudes shape our daily lives.
  • Common criticisms suggest that this theory:
    • (1) ignores the impact of macro social structures,
    • (2) overlooks the irrational and unconscious aspects of human behavior, and
    • (3) provides an unrealistic view of everyday life.
Social-exchange theory.
  • This theory posits that people make decisions and choices based on perceived costs and rewards in an attempt to maximize rewards and reduce costs.
  • Critics accuse that exchange theory:
    • (1) puts too much weight on rational behavior and
    • (2) is limited in explaining behavior that is motivated by immediate costs or rewards.
Life course development theory.
  • This theory examines the changes that families experience over the life-span, suggesting that as family members progress through various stages and events over the life course, the accomplish developmental tasks.
  • According to the classic model, the family life cycle begins with marriage and ends with the death of one or both partners. Over time, developmental theories have begun to incorporate the developmental stages of different types of families, like single parent families, childless couples, stepfamilies, and grandparent- grandchild families.
Critics suggest that the theory:
    • (1) provides artificial stages of development because life processes are not always clean and neat
    • (2) is limited to examining nuclear, heterosexual and stable families and
    • (3) ignores sibling relationships.
The family systems theory, the final micro perspective, views the family as a functioning unit that solves problems, makes decisions, and achieves collective goals.
  • Family systems theorists are interested in the rules that hold families together.
Some critics argue that the family systems theory:
    • (1) has generated a lot of terminology without much insight into how the family functions
    • (2) may no be applicable to healthy families as it originated in the study of dysfunctional families and
    • (3) generates research findings that are not generalizable to larger groups.
methods and techniques in family research
Methods and Techniques in Family Research
  • Social scientists use six major research methods to answer questions about the family: surveys, clinical research, field research, secondary analysis, experiments and evaluation research.
  • Surveys are used to systematically collect data from respondents.
Researchers typically draw a sample, a group of people that are representative of the population under study.
  • Surveys employ questionnaires or interviews to collect data from the sample. In interviews, the respondent and the researcher interact directly, either face to face or by telephone.
Clinical research studies individuals or small groups who seek help from mental health professionals and other scientists.
  • In field research, researchers collect data by systematically observing people in their natural surroundings.
  • In participant observation, researchers interact naturally with the people they are studying but do not reveal their identities as researchers.
  • In nonparticipant observation, researchers study phenomena without being part of the situation.
In secondary analysis, research is data that was collected by someone else.
  • Experiments investigate cause and effect relationships under strictly controlled conditions. A researcher tests a prediction or hypothesis that one variable causes another.
  • Evaluation research measures the efficiency and effectiveness of social programs in both the public and private sectors. Evaluation research is applied, providing program administrators with information to improve or initiate services.
ethical and political issues in family research
  • Researchers may encounter ethical and political dilemmas. Because so much research relies on human subjects, the federal government and many other professional organizations have set up codes of ethics to protect research participants.