Sociology Of Family And Marriage

Sociology Of Family And Marriage

A family is a basic unit in society that consists of blood related persons living together. However, this definition is not totally applicable in today’s complementary society due to variations in family relations (Henslin, 2010). Historically, the family structure types were nuclear and extended. The nuclear family consisted of two parents and children. The extended family incorporated grandparents, cousins, auntie uncle and other blood relative. Today, these family types have evolved to include, godparents, single parent families and adopted children (Henslin, 2010).

Marriage is the union of unrelated male and female in an Eros relationship and is usually initiated by a ceremony. Marriage is very important as it forms the basis of a family. However, marriage has been modified to include same sex unions. Amid partner’s death and free will, divorce, a rampant phenomenon in society today is another major factor contributing to marriage diversity (Henslin, 2010). Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. It has resulted in single parent families. Other family structure variations include polyandry where a woman has multiple husbands or polygamy where a man woman has multiple wives. Modern American unions are mostly monogamous.

Cultural factors like gender, ethnicity, age and race shape family structures and processes. Culture defines inheritance, partner selection, descent, and power (Henslin, 2010). For example, in some cultures, one’s marriage partner is chosen for them while in others the interested party has liberty to choose. In other cultures, endogamy, the practice of marrying within group is advocated while in others it is a taboo (Henslin, 2010). In some cultures, male dominate over women while in others male rule over men. Nevertheless, female dominance in the family also called matriarchy is not historically recorded. Most western societies adapt a bilateral family system where the child relates to both parents’ families. Contrary, other societies use the patrilineal system where descent is traced to the father’s side while others matrilineal system where descent is solely traced to mother’s family. Contemporary American family patterns adopt equal decent identification among the parent although many customs reflect a patrilineal system (Henslin, 2010). The family unit is universal because it has similar functions globally. The key functions of a family include socialization, sexual control, care and protection, provision, reproduction and recreation.

With exception of collective family functionalities like socialization, inequalities in responsibilities are a major concern with family and marriage. Some functions are believed to be women, for example raising children while providence is in most cases is a man’s responsibility. Division of responsibilities is a major source of family conflict in modern American families (Henslin, 2010). Other sources of conflict include finances, children disciplining techniques and use of leisure time. In search of conflict and beliefs and concerns solutions, symbolic interaction perspective is used. A symbolic interaction perspective is a belief that interactions within family and marriage built on collective comprehension of symbols, language and objects (Henslin, 2010). For example, the symbolic interaction perspective theory can be used to examine the relevance of same sex marriages compared to normal different sex marriage or the meaning of marriage. Symbolic integrationists believe that mutual activities help build emotional connections, and that marriage and family relationships are negotiable (Henslin, 2010).

The main family elements include love and courtship, marriage, childbirth, child upbringing, and the family in later life but not in the given order (Henslin, 2010). It is common for an unmarried person to have a child. There is also a possibility of people marrying for reasons not love. For example, in the United State today, people marry for money or to raise a child a major contributor to the increase in divorce rates (Henslin, 2010). Moreover, these elements are affected by age, education, social class, race-ethnicity, sex, and religion. For example love is the basis of marriage in western culture. In the modern society, there are no age restrictions on marriage. Persons can marry or get marriage at any age (Henslin, 2010). Partner choice is also highly linked to the above named factors. Educated persons are likely to marry educated partners. Since interactions are usually restricted by social status, persons of the same social class are likely to marry within the social class. Economic disparity has led to persons working multiple jobs or working overtime (Henslin, 2010). The situation has restrained socialization to work places therefore working people are likely to partner with colleagues.

Social class also affects child upbringing in that working parents are likely to use physical punishments while middle class parents are more likely to encourage growth through self expression, control and experience (Henslin, 2010). In addition, most career women are likely to marry late and get fewer children. Race and ethnicity have also brought about distinctive characteristics between pure race families like Native-American and Latinos and racially mixed families like African-American and Asian-American families (Henslin, 2010).

Controversies have raised from the increase in one-parent, childless and same-sex marriage families. Children of single parent families lack attention because the parent is too busy providing (Henslin, 2010). They lack parent participation and guidance that leaves them susceptible to crime as a way of seeking attention. Research also shows that such children are more likely to follow the single parent family life cycle. A key function of marriage is reproduction. However, in the United States today, some couples choose to remain childless (Henslin, 2010). Critics’ especially religious persons refer this as an abuse of Gods purpose of marriage. Supporters of childless marriage argue on grounds that love tops all relationships; children are just a result of love. Same sex marriages have had equal concerns especially since no children can be born of such marriages. They are considered immoral especially since bible history talks of none such unions.

General family patterns in America today are cohabiting, single motherhood, divorce and postponement of first marriages. Cohabitation is a permanent or long term union of two unmarried individuals in a sexual relationship (Henslin, 2010). Reasons for couple’s cohabitation include test of marriage compatibility, fiscal reasons and the want to remain single. Cohabiting is a form of union for illegal unions like same sex marriages or already married persons. Cohabiting unions vary on whether the child’s parents are biological or not (Henslin, 2010). Divorce rates have increased in the United States raising concern because of the effect they have on children. Some of these effects include, lack of parental attention, guilt and the likely hood of cycle continuity. Such children have no choice of sides and are tied to routines. The density of these problems is reduced by placing the child on the side with more economic capability. In addition, the view of divorce across genders is diverse (Henslin, 2010)

In conclusion, family and marriage institutions are a source of love, security, protection and companionship. However, family is also a root of evils like battering, adultery, incest, child violation, and marital rape. The trend of marriage and family in the USA is changing to embrace cohabitation, single motherhood, remarriage and increased number of married working women. The patterns are changing to embrace cohabitation, solitary motherhood, remarriage and increased number of married working women.


Henslin, J, M (2012) Social Problems: A Down-To-Earth Approach. New Jersey: Pearson College Division, Publisher.

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