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Take a look at data from OKCupid here These data points tell us a lot about contemporary social and cultural change, such as the embrace of Juneteen


Take a look at data from OKCupid here These data points tell us a lot about contemporary social and cultural change, such as the embrace of Juneteen

APA Style 550 words

Take a look at data from OKCupid here (Links to an external site.). These data points tell us a lot about contemporary social and cultural change, such as the embrace of Juneteenth as a holiday and shifts in ideas surrounding gender and sexuality. Look through this data and find two examples of data points that illustrate the formation of families and family structure. In your post, explain how the data points demonstrate social patterns in marriage and family formation. (For example, I would pick the post from October 15, 2017 that tells us people want to find a partner that agrees with them on faith and climate change. I would then explain how this shows: 1 – the importance of common values and worldviews in finding a partner—and possibly making a family unit, but also 2 – how our ways of measuring values and worldviews is changing.)

Any two articles from the link can be used once it relates to the prompt above

The example provided can not be used

Sociology of


Angela Barian

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 2

Sociology of Families



‘Traditional families’ & the nostalgia trap

Evolution of the American family

Divorce and the typical American family


Mate selection in the 21st century

The cohabitation revolution

The wedding industrial complex

Fertility and reproduction


The division of household labor

Parenting in the modern world

Intimate-partner violence

Divorce and remarriage


Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 3


 How do you make a family?

Sebastian Stadil was single. After a

breakup with his girlfriend, he was eager to

move on and find “the one.” But as “a fat,

bald, short guy whose only quality is that he

isn’t an ax murderer,” Sebastian decided to try

to increase his chances of finding a mate. He

went to the dating app Tinder and wrote a

program that would “swipe right” on everyone.

In other words, Sebastian expressed interest in

every single person who passed by his phone’s

screen. By the time he finished his experiment

at “engineering love,” Sebastian went on 150

dates in four months. Despite all these dates,

he says he didn’t find his soul mate through his

Tinder experiment.1 Sebastian Stadil is still


Even though Sebastian failed in his quest,

a recent study showed that the number of

couples who meet online has soared. More

people now meet online than through family, church, or even college.2 In fact, for both same-

sex and heterosexual couples, more people meet online than any other method.3 But is this

really that different from older, more “traditional” ways of finding a partner? What is traditional

in terms of families, anyway? How do families come together — and come apart? And how

do societies shape even the most personal aspects of our lives, like love and marriage? These

are the types of questions family sociologists investigate.

In this chapter, we’ll explore these questions and more by looking at the work of a wide

range of scholars, social commentators, and critics. Some of them study family structure and

formation over hundreds of years and across the globe. Some investigate how housework gets

divided. Some are interested in how race, class, and gender affect who we marry and how

our children are raised. Some study how family traditions we take for granted can result in

social control and domination. But all of these researchers stress that the family isn’t a rigid,

unchanging institution, always and everywhere the same. Instead, it’s a dynamic, constantly

Dating apps have become popular in recent years.


Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 4

evolving social institution, interpreted through the lens of lived experience and shaped by

power dynamics.

I have two goals for this chapter. The first is

to introduce you to the ways that the

institution of the family changes us. This

“cornerstone of American society”4 shapes

how we live and relate to one another. What

family forms are most common, and where?

What is a “traditional” family? How do we

meet our spouses? How can we explain that

the U.S. currently has the lowest teen

pregnancy rate in over three decades? Do

rich and poor parents raise their children

differently? These are some of the questions

we’ll tackle.

The second goal of the chapter is to consider how the family changes. People don’t

always follow social norms, so “the family” is constantly changing, in sometimes inconsistent,

contradictory ways. Why are there more single women than married women in the U.S. now,

for the first time in history? Is the legalization of same-sex marriage comparable to the

legalization of interracial marriage? Why do Baby Boomers have the highest divorce rates?

So as you read, imagine how individuals and social structure intersect to create the

families we know — and love.


Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 5


 What are some different ways of defining the family?

 How did different family systems throughout history interact to create what we currently

understand to be a family?

 What do American families look like today?

What makes a family? The answer

depends on when and where you’re asking

the question. In North America, children are

less likely to live with two parents than they are

in parts of the Middle East or Asia.5 In Europe in

the 1600s, “family” sometimes referred to a

man and his children – but not his wife.6 And

the Mosuo people of China, an ethnic group

living close to the border of Tibet, don’t

necessarily consider marriage to be a part of a

family at all; in their tradition of zuo hun, or

“walking marriages,” women and their lovers

may have children, but sibling groups raise

them.7 All men in the family are referred to as “uncles.”8 Clearly, there is no one definition of

family. But in modern America, we can say that a family refers to a group of people who are

connected by blood, a sexual relationship, or the law.

A number of traditions contribute to what we call a family. In the book To Kill a

Mockingbird, the character Jem says, “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose

your family.”9 Jem is sort of correct; you can’t control who is born into your family. But we do

have some control over who makes up our family: The most basic form of human relationship is

referred to as kinship, and it includes relationships defined by blood, affinity (affection), and

adoption. In other words, our kin are made up of people like our parents, sisters and brothers,

aunts and uncles, and also people to whom we choose to be related.

The Mosuo, who often call themselves Na, practice

“walking marriages.” (Source)

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

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How do we create a family? One way is through

marriage, a socially sanctioned union that includes legal

rights and responsibilities of the spouses to each other, their

children, and the larger society. Another is through

adoption, the process of parents voluntarily choosing to

have a legal parent-child relationship with a child who isn’t

related to them by blood. In the last 50 years in the U.S., the

number of blended families, a family with a step-parent,

step-sibling, or half-sibling, has been on the rise. Almost 40%

of new marriages involve a partner who has been married

before.10 At the same time, the number of two-parent

families is declining. In fact, we’ve made so many changes

that in the United States, there is no longer a single

dominant family form.11

Societies exert control over how families form and

grow through social norms that evolve over time and place.

For example, some societies are matrilineal; they determine

kinship between generations through the mother’s line. In

these societies, women may get their names from their mothers, as well as property and titles.

Remember the Mosuo? They are a matrilineal society: lineage is traced through female

ancestors, and property is passed down through women.12 Conversely, patrilineal societies

determine kinship, names, property, and titles through the male line. The broader Chinese

family system is patrilineal: names, kinship, and property pass from father to son. The Chinese

family system also practices patrilocal residence, a system in which a wife moves in with her

husband’s family after getting married.13

Some norms are considered universal – that is, they exist in virtually all societies. One of

these is the incest taboo, the cultural prohibition against sexual activity between relatives.

According to anthropologists who gathered longitudinal data (gathered at different points in

time) on family formation around the globe, the incest taboo is one of only a few universal

taboos. All cultures have rules about which kinship relations are appropriate and inappropriate

as sexual partners. But that doesn’t mean the content of the rules is the same. For example,

while contemporary Americans would never consider marrying their siblings, Cleopatra, who

ruled Egypt from 51 to 30 BCE, was married to two of her younger brothers (at different


Kinship can be defined by blood,

affinity, and adoption. (Source)

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

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Figure 1: Diversity in Family Forms15

Other family variations that may seem strange

or “wrong” to us were exceedingly common at other

times and in other places. For example, though

societies have been more disapproving in the past

century or so, polygamy, or having multiple spouses at

the same time, used to be much more common. The

more frequent type of polygamy is polygyny, in which

one man has multiple wives. Less common is

polyandry, where one woman has multiple husbands;

it is still practiced in Tibet.16 Before the Industrial

Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, polygyny was

accepted in 75% of the upper classes in traditional

societies.17 This makes polygamy the most common

form of marriage found in world history! While in

contemporary American society, the idea of having

multiple spouses at once might sound unusual or even

immoral, in other cultures, people find it completely

normal. Have you ever heard the saying, “a woman’s

work is never done?” In Botswana, they say, “Without

co-wives, a woman’s work is never done.”18

The point? Defining “the family” is much more

complicated than it seems at first, and there is no

single, universal, unchanging version of it.

‘Traditional’ families & the nostalgia trap

When you hear “the traditional family,” what image comes to mind? Who are

the people? What do they look like? If you imagined an old TV show (perhaps Leave It to

Beaver) with a nuclear family – a married couple and their dependent children – you wouldn’t

be alone. That is one of the most popular understandings of a “traditional” American family: a

working father, a stay-at-home mother, and two children. Often, this popular image of the

family is White and middle-class as well.

Or maybe your image was different, like the Pritchetts in the TV show Modern Family, a

family that is not only blended but has adopted children, a May-December relationship (a

relationship with a large age gap between partners), and same-sex marriage.

Source: Pew Research Center, 2015

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

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The image of the traditional, eternally happy nuclear family is shaped in part by popular

culture, politics, and news media. But this image is mostly a fiction. Widely varying formal and

informal norms guided what is considered appropriate behavior in families at various times

and places:

• In Europe in the 1700s, the age of sexual consent was ten.19

• During the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, American

cultural anxieties linked “deviant” sexual behavior to treason, or an act

against the state.20 This included being gay, having children out of

wedlock, and simply not getting married by the time it was expected!

• In colonial America, stepfamilies were pretty common, mostly because

people died from diseases, leaving their spouses to remarry.21

• Until fairly recently, husbands in the U.S. were believed to have a right

to have sex with their wives, and so could not be prosecuted for raping

their spouse. Marital rape didn’t become a crime in all 50 states until


• In late-1800s America, many parents sent their children to work 12-hour

shifts in hot and crowded sweatshops, mines, and factories. Some of

these children were as young as six years old.22

• In the 1800s and early 1900s, doctors encouraged pregnant women to

drink alcohol for morning sickness, to calm their nerves, and to help

invigorate and strengthen them for labor and childbirth.23

• Until fairly recently, American married couples couldn’t get divorced

without proving that one (and only one) of the spouses had violated

the vows of marriage by committing adultery, mental cruelty, or other

such acts.24 If the judge found that both spouses had acted improperly

and so were both “at fault,” the judge could deny the divorce.

• For the last 150 years, the American family has been slowly but steadily

shrinking. But the coming decade will probably be the first in a while to

buck that trend; households are now increasing in size for the first time

since 1850–60.25

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

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Typically, what people mean when they talk about the

“traditional” family is 1950s America. But even this image of the

happy 1950s nuclear family is largely a fiction. For example, while

stay-at-home moms might seem to have been the rule in 1950s

and 1960s America,26 there were important differences by race

and class. Dual-earner partnerships, where both spouses work for

income, have been common in African American families going

back hundreds of years. In fact, Blacks were at the forefront of

creating what we now know as a “modern egalitarian marriage,”

where both spouses work outside the home and do housework

and childcare.27 From the 1800s through today, the financial

challenges facing working-class and poor families dictated that

everyone had to contribute to running the household.28 As family

historian Stephanie Coontz noted, “Contrary to popular

belief, Leave it to Beaver was not a documentary.”29

Obviously, one of the biggest problems with longing

for a “return to a simpler time” is that this perfect family

never really existed. Indeed, some families looked like the

family in Leave It to Beaver. But the American family has

never taken only one form. Families have always been

changing and adapting – and often struggling – and

connections between people tend to help families during

these struggles. Imagining that it was all so much easier

“back then” blinds us to the strategies families have used

for generations that have made them so resilient.

In addition, there is evidence that Americans are just

fine with the changing American family. According to a

Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2019,

“three-in-ten U.S. adults think it’s a good thing that there is

growing variety in the types of family arrangements people

live in, while about half as many (16%) say this is a bad

thing. The largest share (45%) don’t think it makes a

difference.”30 As you can see in the chart on the left, this

represents a change over the course of the last decade: in

general Americans are moving away from concern and

toward acceptance.

The cast of Leave It to

Beaver, a TV show that aired

from 1957-1963. (Source)

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 10

Evolution of the American family

“Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell

you, brother: you can’t have one without the other.” So goes the old Frank Sinatra song.31 In

order to get married, should you be in love with your partner? That may sound like a stupid

question. Americans today tend to choose our partners based on feelings of affection and

connection. Cultural notions even regard love as the primary driver of a successful relationship.

The saying “love conquers all,” common in popular culture, reflects a belief that the existence

of companionate affection, based on a deep emotional commitment, can help a couple

weather any storm.

But according to family sociologist Andrew Cherlin, we may take the link between love

and marriage for granted. Before the 20th century a lot of people would have been puzzled

by our modern belief that “you can’t have one without the other.”32 At that time, Americans

needed their spouses for financial security – to tend to the homestead, to care for children, to

bring home money. And while you may fall out of love, you never fall out of the need to feed

and clothe yourself. So at that time, marrying for love seemed risky and foolish.33 As Stephanie

Coontz says in How Love Conquered Marriage, “[f]or most of history it was inconceivable that

people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love….”

Depending upon the culture and time period, love in a marriage was seen as a pleasant by-

product, a distraction, or even a threat to society itself.34But just because people didn’t marry

for love, it didn’t mean they didn’t fall in love. For many societies, love was and is important. It

just wasn’t considered necessary for a successful marriage.

Moral concerns about family forms and how they affect society are as old as families

themselves. In the U.S., a narrative has emerged that the family is in a cultural and moral crisis.

This isn’t a new argument. For decades, some politicians, journalists, and sociologists have held

up the family as a central social institution through which we can gauge cultural values. For

example, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan reflected upon the importance of families in a

radio address, saying, “all those aspects of civilized life that we most deeply cherish—freedom,

the rule of law, economic prosperity and opportunity—…all these depend upon the strength

and integrity of the family.”35

Advocates for the so-called traditional family point out ways families are changing.

They have noted that as cultural values changed, traditional nuclear families have become

less common. They argue these changes in family form indicate cultural, social, and moral

decline. For example, in a 2008 op-ed, then-Senator from Kansas Sam Brownback wrote:

…[W]e need to rebuild the family and renew the culture in America…Marriage

is in crisis. Divorce and adultery, cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births, and a

mentality that views children as a burden are all part of the problem…The best way to

reduce poverty, fight crime and improve education is to rebuild the family…We need

a culture that knows right from wrong, encourages virtue and discourages vice.36

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 11

For their part, sociologists debate how to interpret family change. Take the fact that

more kids are growing up in single-parent households. According to the U.S. Census, while the

majority (69%) of America’s children live in families with two parents, 23% live with a single

mother, making it “[t]he second most common family arrangement.” This is a change from

1960, when 87% of children lived with two married parents and only 9% lived with a single

parent.37 How do sociologists interpret this fact? What are its effects?

It’s more complicated than it may seem at first. Single parents are more likely than

married parents to be younger, to have less education, and to be from more disadvantaged

backgrounds. The challenge for researchers is to determine whether single parenthood itself

has any impact on children’s outcomes, or whether it is all of those background factors that

are truly important to children’s successful development.38 In other words, is single parenthood

simply correlated (that is, associated) with worse outcomes for children, or does it cause worse

outcomes? Sociologist Sara McLanahan argues that even when controlling for a wide range

of background factors, there is evidence that growing up without a father results in a number

of disadvantages for children. These disadvantages include increased likelihood of dropping

out of college, having a child before turning 20, and being neither employed nor in school in

their teens and 20s. McLanahan and other researchers argue that children who grow up with

a single parent are denied a number of important social and economic resources. This

impedes their chances of success.39

Figure 2: Children Living with Two Parents, One Parent, and Other Relatives, 1960-2016

Source: U.S. Census data

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

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Other scholars make a case for the negative consequences of family changes. David

Popenoe has argued that the family as an institution continues to weaken. He claims that our

culture no longer places a central focus on the importance of the family, and that self-

fulfillment has taken its place; we’re investing less time, money, and energy into our families

and investing more in ourselves. Popenoe suggests that this harms children and families in

catastrophic ways that signal the “end-of-the-line” for families as we know them.40

But this interpretation is debated. Sociologists like Judith Stacey share a concern for the

fate of children but see a different source for the family distress we see today. Stacey argues

that our society has failed to support the family. She points to economic decline and

reductions to many public assistance programs, resulting in a less secure safety net for

struggling families. Stacey suggests that scholars like Popenoe confuse the impacts of this lack

of social support with cultural decline, and that the nuclear family is not natural – in fact, no

single family is the “natural” form. 41 Instead, diversity is natural.42 Despite this, we idealize the

nuclear family both in policy and rhetoric. According to Stacey, instead of preferring one

family form over all others, we should support what works for each family.43

Unmarried fathers face stereotypes about their commitment to their families. (Source)

Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 13

Often, “absentee fathers” are blamed for the rise of single-parent families; Kathryn Edin

and Timothy Nelson note, “…unwed fatherhood is denounced as one of the leading social

problems of our day.”44 Unmarried fathers are portrayed as irresponsible men who are only

interested in sex. The stereotype of these men is that they “flee the scene” when their partners

get pregnant, that they simply don’t care. These stereotypes often intersect with race, as

African American men are often viewed as being primarily responsible for the situation.

However, a lot of these “absentee fathers” may play a larger role in their child’s life

than previous generations of fathers who were present physically, but not emotionally or

otherwise. Edin and Nelson’s study of 110 White and Black inner-city fathers shows that fathers’

involvement is highly dynamic; most of the fathers were in relationships of some degree of

seriousness when their partners got pregnant, and most took the pregnancy very seriously.

Many were eager to be fathers and showed a strong longing to parent their children and be a

good example for them. While many of the fathers didn’t provide a lot in the way of financial

support, they rejected the idea that this should be the primary way of judging them as fathers.

These men meant well – as many noted, they were “doing the best they can” – but for some

of them, cultural changes in the idea of the family, financial difficulties, and a lack of

institutionalized support such as guaranteed visitation rights made it difficult to stay involved in

their children’s lives.45

Divorce and the typical American family

Have you ever heard that half of all marriages end in divorce? As it turns out, that’s only

part of the story. It’s no longer true that 50% of all marriages end in divorce, the legally

recognized termination of a marriage; in fact, it hasn’t been true for some time. The U.S.

divorce rate actually hit a 40-year low in 2018, with 15.7 divorces per 1000 married women,

down from a high of 22.8 divorces per 1000

married women in 1980.46 This decline

occurred across racial groups, educational

levels, and total years married.47

What happened? The divorce rate

peaked during the 1970s and early 1980s.

That means Baby Boomers, the generation

born after World War II, have divorced the

most. There are multiple reasons for this. The

1970s saw the emergence of no-fault

divorce, which allowed couples to divorce

without having to prove that one of them

broke their marriage vows or acted

irresponsibly. This made it much easier to get Source: National Center for Family & Marriage


Sociology of Families (Fall 2021)

Page 14

a divorce. At the same time, feminist consciousness-raising groups became popular. These

groups led some women to challenge longstanding divisions of housework and childcare that

resulted in gender inequality. Additionally, as women increasingly entered the workforce,

more married women became economically independent. This economic independence

made it more likely that women could leave an unhappy, unequal, or abusive marriage. Each

of these factors may have contributed to higher divorce rates in the 1970s and 1980s.

Though the divorce rate in the U.S. has declined overall, among those over 50 years old,

the rate has doubled in the last 30 years, a phenomenon researchers refer to as gray

divorce.48 Jocelyn Crowley argues that many of these divorces happen after decades

together. She attributes this phenomenon to a couple of factors. First, changes in individual

priorities led Americans to understand marriage through a different lens than previous

generations and to focus more on personal contentment and fulfillment than previous

generations. Second, Crowley notes that there has been a dramatic increase in life

expectancy among Americans, so couples have more years to spend together than in the

past. Divorce affects older men and women differently: in general, divorced men over 50 may

have a better financial situation to lean on; on the other hand, women enjoy a greater

amount of social support to lean on after a gray divorce. Ultimately, Crowley argues that

these costs are not a given. Instead, they reflect the social and political realities we have

constructed; smart public p

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