Social Factors and Family Issues

Family Breakdowns and Re-Formations ~ Divorce and Post-Divorce

Cherlin (1995) says deep respect for individualism and a strong commitment to religious values affect divorce rates in America. From this understanding, two social-structural factors that affect divorce in America include religion and family expectations. Similarly, two individualistic factors that affect divorce include the sense of happiness and economic independence of women.

According to Cherlin (1995), the consequences of divorce include a rise in single-parent families, the development of low-self esteem, and a rise in delinquency levels among children.

The challenge with studying stepfamilies is the lack of social norms and expectations that would define such social units as legitimate parent-child unions (Cherlin, 1995).

Cherlin (1995) investigates the effect of stepfamilies on children by focusing on girls (mostly). He says that most girls raised in stepfamilies tend to abandon their homes at an early age (Cherlin, 1995).

The provision of community resources, provision of financial support to children, and the enforcement of child support policies are the three solutions that can ease the risk of father absence on children (McLanahan, 1997).

Evaluations of children’s well-being could be misleading because of methodological issues and marked divergence in long-term outcomes of children’s well-being (Kelly & Emery, 2003).

The stranger model treats stepparents as legal strangers to the children, while the dependency model regards stepparents as supportive entities to children’s well-being. The stranger model is more appropriate for children because it offers more social security for children (Bray, 1999).

Negativists, volunteers, and reformers view stepfamilies differently. In detail, negativists view such families as “trouble”, while volunteers view such families as adoptive. Lastly, reformers say that the law should give more rights to stepfamilies.

Crohn (2004) used a representative sample of 19 participants (all women). They hailed from middle-class families and had a median age of about 23 years.

Crohn (2004) explains that all the stepmothers shared a mutual characteristic of being close and understanding with their daughters.

A grounds-based divorce is one that identifies a specific reason for divorce (such as adultery or cruelty), while a no-fault divorce occurs when both parties have irreconcilable differences.

The unintended consequence of no-fault divorce was its role in opening a floodgate for divorces (where people could get “easy” divorces). This consequence was more serious for women and children because it increased divorce rates, thereby leading to increased cases of wife abandonment and loss of complete parental support for children.

Other Challenges to Family Formation ~ Domestic Violence and Institutionalizations

Cherlin (2013) says two types of domestic violence include a battle for power and authority and physical or mental injuries. Participants are often family members or people who have an intimate relationship.

Since people “hide” domestic violence, it is often difficult to know how big or small it is. However, the rate of reporting domestic violence influences how we understand the phenomenon (Cherlin, 2013).

Controlling the behavior of others, acting out (in anger), and disciplining partners are the three theoretical perspectives that influence why people hurt others (Cherlin, 2013).

Men often perpetrate intimate terrorism to control the behavior of women (this type of conflict may not be violent). Similarly, men also perpetrate violent resistance. This way, they try to control the behavior of a partner. Both genders may also perpetrate common couple violence. It often occurs as a show of anger by partners (Cherlin, 2013).

The goal of intimate terrorism is to control, the behavior of a partner. Violence and the infliction of injury is a strategy used to achieve this objective.

The issue of intimate violence became a public matter when the number of cases involving such abuses increased and the formulation of public policies about such matters began.

Mandatory arrest policies have not been in the interest of victims because, sometimes, officers approach domestic abuse cases with preconceived ideas about domestic relationships, thereby affecting the quality of their interventions (Cherlin 2013). Sometimes, it is also difficult to collect enough evidence about domestic violence.

Frequent moves, frequent separations, and the risk of injury and death are the main stresses for military families.

Military families often cope with their family stresses by holding on to strong belief systems, depending on organizational support, and relying on effective communication processes for their sanity (Cherlin 2013).

According to the film, A Sentence Apart, incarcerations affect family functioning by constraining financial support, limiting proper communication among family members, and destabilizing children’s upbringing.

Troubled family life is often associated with poverty because low-income families tend to have many stresses, which manifest as troubled families. For example, domestic violence is common in low-income societies because people act out on their life stresses through such violence. We should however understand that reporting domestic violence is subject to several cultural factors.

Different types of institutionalizations have the same effect on families because they use the same policies on families. However, their effects on families differ, depending on the social issues they address.

Social factors and family: gender

Sociologists differentiate sex and gender by using sex as a biological term, while gender denotes masculine and feminine traits (Cherlin 2013).

Children learn about gender by orienting themselves to social norms. The three theories advanced by (Cherlin 2013), for gender socialization, include media socialization, school socialization, and family socialization.

The movement of women in the labor force has altered family life because it has created economic independence for women. Women now marry late in life and can take care of themselves (and the children) without the help of men. This trend has increased the number of divorces and single-parent families.

Families are increasingly managing spillover housework by contracting the services of other people, such as nannies and house helps, to supplement their domestic absenteeism.

People understand gender as a socially guided behavior because we learn feminine and masculine characteristics through observation (learning social expectations and values expected of each gender), as opposed to a natural quality, which children are innately born with.

Risman & Seale (2008) used interviews as the main research approach for collecting data regarding the strengths of gender stereotypes across their sample population.

Risman & Seale (2008) said that most of the girls sampled were careful to perceive their feminism through bodily displays. They also said the boys were careful not to cross social norms to avoid being perceived as gay (Risman & Seale, 2008).

Fathers matter in early childhood because they are an important addition to a child’s cognitive and emotional growth.

Cabrera, Shannon & Tamis-LeMonda (2007) say, fathers’ parenting styles are different from mothers’ parenting styles because fathers have a better effect on children’s emotional control (than mothers do).

People pay attention to social traits and values because they outline what people expect of us in the family and in society.

Differences in parental roles between fathers and mothers and varying expectations of boys and girls reflect gender differences in the family.

References

Bray, J. (1999). Step families: the Intersection of Culture, Context and Biology. Monographs for the Society for Research in Child Development, 64(4), 210-218.

Cabrera, N., Shannon, J., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. (2007). Fathers’ Influence on their Children’s Cognitive and Emotional Development: From Toddlers to Pre-K. Applied Development Science, 11(4), 208-213.

Cherlin, A. (1995). Parental Divorce in Childhood and Demographic Outcomes in Young Adulthood. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University.

Cherlin, A. (2013). Public and Private Families: An Introduction. New York, US: McGraw-Hill.

Crohn, H. (2004). Young Women Recall Their Positive Relationships with Their Mothers and Stepmothers. New York, US: Adelphi University.

Kelly, J., & Emery, R. (2003). Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and resilience perspectives. Family Relations, 52(4), 352-362.

McLanahan, S. (1997). Father Absence and the Welfare of Children. Web.

Risman, B., & Seale, E. (2008). BeTwixt and BeTween: Gender Contradictions in Middle School. Boston, MA: Sheraton Boston and the Boston Marriott Copley Place.