Chapter Two (page 28 to page 49) Exploring Relationships and Families Science: Transcending Personal Experience The Blinders of Personal Experience We assume that our own family is normal or typical. For example, if you grew up with a large family, you probably assumed that everyone had a big family. Family customs all around the world are completely different. Scientific Investigation: Removing Blinders Science- a logical system that based knowledge on systematic observation. Empirical evidence- facts we verify with our senses Scientific Norms- in order to transcend personal biases, scientists follow certain norms. Expected to be honest, never fabricating results Expected to publish their research Theoretical Perspectives on the Family Theoretical perspectives- ways of viewing reality Helps lead family researchers to identify those aspects of families and relationships that interest them and suggest possible explanations for why patterns and behaviors are the way they are. Nine Theoretical Perspectives Family Ecology The family life course development framework The stricture-functional perspective The interaction-constructionist perspective Exchange theory Family systems theory Conflict and feminist theory The biosocial perspective Attachment theory The Family Ecology Perspective Explores how the surrounding environment influences a family. The relationship of work to family life is an example of an ecological focus. Might look at how nonstandard work schedules affect family relationships. Every family is embedded in “a set of nested structures, each inside the next, like a set of Russian dolls.” At the foundation is the natural physical-biological environment (climate, climate change, soil, plants, animals). Social cultural environment consists of human-made things (cultural artifacts), such as bridges and iPhones. all parts are interrelated and influence one another. Family ecologists stress the importance of neighborhoods to well-being Children in poor neighborhoods are at a greater risk for negative social, educational, economic, and health outcomes Contributions and Critiques of the Family Ecology Perspective This perspective first emerged in the late 19th century, a period marked by the concern about family welfare. Resurfaced in the 1960s with the war on poverty, a program directed toward the elimination of the high levels of poverty that then existed. Challenges the idea that family satisfaction or success depends solely on individual effort. A possible disadvantage is that it is so broad and inclusive that virtually nothing is left out. The Family Life Course Development Framework Focuses on the family itself as a unit of analysis. Family Life Course is based on the idea that the family changes in fairly predictable ways over time. Typical stages of the family life course The addition or subtraction of family members (through birth, death, and leaving home) The various stages that the children go through Changes in the family’s connections with other social institutions (retirement from work, child entering school) Traditionally assumed that families begin with marriage The newly established couple stage ends when the arrival of the first baby thrusts the couple into families of preschoolers stage. Then into families of primary school children Then into families with adolescents Then into families in the middle years (children into adulthood) Then into aging families (adjusting to retirement) Role Sequencing- the order in which major life course transitions should take place is important to this perspective. The normative order hypothesis proposed that the work-marriage-parenthood sequence is the best for mental health and happiness. “on-time” transitions- occur when they are supposed to, not too early and not late. Emerging adulthood is a stage in individual development that precedes and affects entry into the family life course. Contributions & Critiques of the Family Life Course Development Framework Directs our attention to how particular life course transitions affect relationships and family interaction. Researchers look into how transitions to parenthood or from cohabitation to marriage affect the time that partners spend on housework. Due to economic, ethnic, and cultural differences, two families in the same life cycle stage may be very different. For this reason, the family development perspective is somewhat less popular now than it once was. The Structure-Functional Perspective Investigates how a given social structure functions to fill basic societal needs. Social structure refers to the ways that families are patterned or organized; the form that a family may take. The perspective encourages researchers to ask how well a particular family structure performs a basic family function. Example would be research on how well single parents or cohabiting couples perform the function of responsible child rearing. Functional alternatives- alternate structures that might perform a function traditionally assigned to the nuclear family Fictive kin- relationships “based not on blood or marriage but rather on religious rituals or close friendship ties, that replicates many of the rights and obligations usually associated with family ties.” Can serve as a functional alternative to the nuclear family. The word dysfunction emerged from the structure-functional perspective as a focus on social patterns or behaviors that fail to fulfill basic family needs. Contributions and Critiques of the Structure-Functional Perspective Families are an important social institution performing essential social functions. It can be interpreted as encouraging us to examine ways in which functional alternatives to the heterosexual nuclear family may perform basic functions. Since it dominated family sociology during the 1950s, it has given us an unrealistic image of smoothly working families characterized only by shared values. It has been generally understood to define the heterosexual nuclear family as the only “normal” or “functional” family structure. As a result, many social scientists, particularly feminists, rebuke this perspective. The vast majority of family sociologists today rarely reference this perspective directly. The Interaction-Constructionist Perspective Focuses on interaction, the face-to-face encounters and relationships who act in awareness of one another. Explores the daily conversation, gestures, and other behaviors that go on in families. Family identity, traditions, and commitment emerge through interaction, with the development of relationships and the generation of rituals (recurring practices defined as special and different from the everyday.) This point of view examines how family members interact with the outside world in order to manage family identity. This approach explores ways that people, by interacting with one another, construct (create) meanings, symbols, and definitions of events or situations. As people “put out” or externalize meanings, these meanings come to be reified, or made to seem real. Once it has been reified, people internalize it and take it as “real” rather than viewing it as a human creation. Newlyweds take it for granted that a honeymoon should follow their wedding; they don’t think about how the idea of a honeymoon is socially constructed. Unlike the structure-functionalism, the interaction-constructionist perspective focuses on the processes through which family forms are constructed and maintained. Postmodern theory can be understood as a special focus within the interaction-constructionist perspective. Largely analyzes social discourse or narrative (public or private, written or verbal statements or stories) A principal goal involved debunking essentialism (the idea that categories really do exist in nature and are not simply reifications. Examples would be the analyses of the concepts of gender/race. Contributions and Critiques of the Interaction-Constructionist Perspective Alerts us to the idea that much in our environment is neither “given” nor “natural” but socially constructed by humans. Critics argue that the research typically associated with this perspective (qualitative research) lacks objectivity. It is virtually impossible to conduct traditional social science research in the absence of agreed-upon social categories. Exchange Theory Applies an economic perspective to social relationships. A basic premise is that when engaged in social exchanges, individuals prefer to limit their costs and maximize their rewards. An individual’s dependence on and emotional involvement in a relationship affected her or his relative power in the relationship. Principle of Least Interest is when the partner with less commitment to the relationship is the one who has more power. The one with more resources and options can use them to bargain and secure advantages in relationships. Relationships based on exchanges that are equal or equitable thrive, whereas those in which the exchange balance feels consistently one-sided are more likely to dissolve or be unhappy. Social Network Theory (a middle range subcategory within the exchange perspective) examines how social networks provide individuals with social capital (or resources such as friendship or people with whom to exchange favors) that result from their social contacts. Social capital is similar to financial capital (money) because it’s like we’re “spending” our capital to acquire rewards. Contributions and Critiques of Exchange Theory It leads us to recognize that inequality, or an unfavorable balance of rewards and costs, gradually erodes positive feelings in a relationship. Encourages us to recognize the social capital brought about by membership in social networks. It is subject to criticism that it assumes a human nature that is unrealistically rational and even cynical at heart about the roles of loves & responsibility. Family Systems Theory Views the family as a whole, or system, comprised of interrelated parts and demarcated by boundaries. Applied to family first by psychotherapists and was then adopted by family scholars. A system is a combination of elements or components that are interrelated and organized into a whole. Systems seek equilibrium (stable balance and symmetry). Interested in how family systems process information, deal with challenges, respond to crises, and regulate contact with the outside world. Family Boundaries are ideas about who is in and who is outside the family system. Family boundary ambiguity- it is unclear who is/is not in the family. Contributions and Critiques of Family Systems Theory When working with families in therapy, this perspective has proven useful. By understanding how their family system operates, individuals can make desired personal and/or family changes. It may make visible the hidden motivations behind certain family patterns. Doctors were puzzled by the fact that death rates were higher among kidney dialysis patients with supportive families. Rather than seeing only the influence of parents on children, they also do research on the family by exploring how the children influence the system. A criticism is that it does not take sufficient note of a family’s economic opportunities, racial/ethnic and gender stratification, and other features of the larger society that influence internal family relations. Conflict and Feminist Theory The conflict theory is the opposite of the structure-functional theory. Not all of a family’s practices are good; not all family behaviors contribute to family well-being. It calls attention to power- more specifically, unequal power. Because power within the family derives from power outside it, conflict theorists are keenly interested in the political and economic organization of the larger society. Karl Marx analyzed class conflict by applying it to a colleague’s family. The conflict perspective attributed family and marital problems to class inequality in capitalist society. Although Marx focused on economic classes, the emerging feminist movement applied conflict theory to the sex/gender system. To relationships and power differentials between men and women in the larger society and in the family. The central focus of the feminist theory is on gender issues. The mission of the theory is to use knowledge to actively confront and end the oppression of women and related patterns of subordination based on social class, race/ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. The feminist perspective has contributed to political action regarding gender and race discrimination in wages, sexual harassment, divorce laws that disadvantage women, rape, abortion, and the inclusion of contraception in health insurance. It has embraced post-modern analyses, deconstructing formerly taken-for-granted concepts such as gender dichotomy (the idea that there are naturally two very distinct genders) or that marriage must naturally be heterosexual. Contributions and Critiques of Feminist Theoretical Perspectives Women’s domestic work was largely invisible in social science until the feminist perspective began to treat household labor as work that has economic value. It brought to light issues of wife abuse, marital rape, child abuse, and other forms of domestic violence. However, some people think that it is too political, value-laden, or adversarial to be considered a valid academic approach. As some feminist theory embraces postmodernism, it is subject to the same criticisms as postmodernism. The Biosocial Perspective Characterized by “concepts linking psychosocial factors to physiology, genetics, and evolution.” It argues that human physiology, genetics, and hormones predispose individuals to certain behaviors. Much of contemporary human behaviors evolved in ways that enable survival and continuation of the human species. Nonbiological parent figures are less likely to invest money and time in their children’s development and future prospects. The biosocial perspective explains this by arguing that parents “naturally” protect the carriers of their genetic material. Biosociologists emphasize that biological predisposition does NOT mean that a person’s behavior cannot be influences or change by social structure. Nature (genetics, hormones) and Nurture (culture, social relations) interact to produce human attitudes and behavior. Research on testosterone levels in married couples found high levels of testosterone to be associate with poorer marital quality when their roles overload was high, but with better marital quality when role overload was low. Contributions and Critiques of the Biosocial Perspective Researchers have employed this point of view to examine such phenomena as gender differences, sexual bonding, mate selection, jealousy, parenting behaviors, marital stability, and male aggression against women. Once used to justify gender inequality as biologically based. Evolutionary perspectives have been the basis of criticism of nonreproductive sexual relationships and the employment of mothers as contrary to nature. Attachment Theory Proposes that during infancy and childhood a young person develops a general style of attachment to others. Once an attachment style is established, they apply this style to their adult lives when they grow up. A child’s primary caretakers evoke a style of attachment in him or her. The three basic attachment styles are Secure (children who can trust that a caretaker will be there to attend to their practical and emotional needs) Insecure/Anxious (children who feel uncared for or abandoned) Avoidant (children who feel uncared for or abandoned) In adulthood, secure attachment involves trust that the relationship will provide ongoing emotional and social support. An insecure/anxious style entails concern that the beloved will disappear, a situation referred to as “fear of abandonment.” An avoidant style dodges emotional closeness with anyone. Contributions and Critiques of Attachment Theory It prompts us to look at how personality impacts relationship choices. It also encourages us to ask what kind of parents best encourages a secure attachment style, rather than the other two. Critics argue that an attachment style might depend on the situation in which a person finds him or herself rather than on a consistent personality characteristic. One’s attachment style can be changed over time. The Relationship Between Theory and Research Theory should be used to help direct research questions and to suggest useful concepts. At other times, to interpret data that has already been gathered, scientists ask themselves what theoretical perspective best explains the facts. Doing Family Research Designing a Scientific Study: Some Basic Principles Some research is designed to gather historical data. Research can also be cross-cultural which is comparing one or more aspects of family life among different societies. Will the study be cross-sectional or longitudinal? Cross-sectional- gather data at once, giving us a snapshot-like, one time view of behaviors or attitudes. Longitudinal- provide long-term info as researchers continue to gather data over an extended period of time. Deductive, inductive, or both? Deductive-begins with a hypothesis that has been deduced from a theoretical point of view. Inductive- observe detailed facts, then induce, to arrive at generalizations grounded in the observed data. They do not begin with a preconceived hypothesis. Will the study be mainly quantitative or qualitative? Quantitative- gathers, analyzes, and reports data that can be quantified or understood in numbers. Qualitative- gathers, analyzes, and reports data primarily in words or stories. Will the sample be random and the data generalizable? Generalized- applied to a population of people other than those directly questioned Data Collection Techniques Interviews and questionnaires, naturalistic observation, focus groups, experiments, and laboratory observation, case studies. Questions can be STRUCTURED (close-ended) or UNSTRUCTURED (open ended) In naturalistic observation (also called “participant observation” or “field research”), the researcher spends extensive time with respondents and carefully records their activities, conversations, gestures, and other aspects of every day life. Often accompanies the interaction-constructionist theory Focus groups are a form of qualitative research In an experiment, subjects from a pool of similar participants are randomly assigned to groups (experimental and control) that are then subjected to different experiences (treatments). The advantage to case studies are the vivid detail and realistic flavor that enable us to experience vicariously the family life of others. The Ethics of Research on Families Researchers must do nothing that would negatively impact respondents. Researchers must also show respect to those being studied. To help accomplish these standards, most research plans must be reviewed by a board of experts called an institutional review board (IRB). The IRB scrutinizes each research proposal for adherence to professional ethical standards for the protection of human subjects. These standards include informed consent (the research participants must be apprised of the nature of the research and then give their consent), lack of coercion, protection from harm, confidentiality, the possibility of compensation, and the possibility of eventually sharing research results with participants/appropriate audiences.