Social Factors and Family ~ Social Class
As Cherlin (2009) explains, the four-class model splits young adults into residing with parents, adults of various residential statuses, semi-independent, and independent young adults. The three status groups include marital status groups (i.e., married/not married), poverty status groups (e.g., rich/poor/average), and age status groups (e.g., children/young adults/adults/senior citizens).
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A poverty line is defined as the point at which the family’s income is equal to the currently accepted cost of living. The term is used in defining the financial state (e.g., “below the poverty line” means “poor”).
In 2010, 21% of white children, 39% of Black children, and 35% of Hispanic children lived in families that were below a poverty line (Cherlin, 2013).
According to Cherlin, in poorly-educated families, the chances for poverty and divorce are considerably higher, since people without proper education are unlikely to find a job that will satisfy the needs of the entire family.
As Cherlin explains, the kin network is often considered a way out for the families that live beyond the poverty line, yet, in fact, the kin network often discourages the family members to search for a well-paid job and, therefore, makes the family even less capable of surviving on its own.
Among the governmental programs on helping families, the following must be mentioned: 1) relationship-skills program (enhancing more trustworthy relationships); 2) the program promoting marriage and fatherhood; 3) the program helping young married couples having or being about to have a child.
There is a considerable gap between the families of “blue collars” and “white collars.” According to Cherlin, the rates of family violence are considerably lower among “white collars,” yet the latter have higher rates of divorce.
Cherlin proves in a very impressive manner that people who received high education build much stronger families.
As Gerson and Jacobs explain, the employees with higher education are more likely to spend extra hours at work and, therefore, spend less time with their family members (Gerson & Jacobs, 2006).
Gerson claims that the people who are forced to work in the environment of work-home crunch experience the pressure of order deadlines at work, the pressure of chores at home, and the pressure of guilt spawned by the lack of communication with family members (Gerson & Jacobs, 2006).
In working-class families, conflicts occur over financial issues; in wealthier families, the issue of gender roles is topical; the “white collars” are highly subjected to conflicts with family members due to extended working hours and lack of communication with family (Williams, 2010).
Not all single mothers whose families are beyond the poverty line receive financial aid – some are disconnected from the given services; thus, such women are referred to as “disconnected” (Blank, 2007).
Blank offers to give the disadvantaged women additional help by offering them the Temporary and Partial Work Waiver Program (Blank, 2007).
Social class can be measured by the amount of annual family income, the job position, and the education obtained.
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Both family background and social class concern the education obtained by parents, the amount of family income, and the family capital.
As a rule, four types of family capital are distinguished, including 1) human capital, i.e., the capacities of each family member capable of working; 2) social capital, i.e., the level of family institutionalization; 3) cultural capital, i.e., education and family roots; 4) work.
Social factors in the Family: Race/ethnicity and Immigrant Status
The percentage of children living in a single-parent family is extremely high in the USA, making almost ¼ of the entire number of families. The highest number of single-parent families is among African American and Latin citizens.
As Cherlin explains, the decline in the marriage rates among African Americans can partially be explained by the reduction of job opportunities in the XXI century (Cherlin, 2013).
It is worth keeping in mind that the patterns of the Hispanic family’s development are quite diverse (Cherlin, 2013a). However, there are also common tendencies. For example, in both Mexican American and Puerto Rican families, kin relationships are expected to be extremely well-developed.
Cherlin makes it very clear that the lack of social capital affects the Asian American and Native American groups directly by reducing the number of opportunities for the latter to build strong families.
Since in several cases, to provide for the wife and children, African Americans resort to breaking the law and, consequently, get arrested, the number of marriages among African Americans is decreasing rapidly – women are unwilling to be married to an imprisoned man.
As Dreby explains, the children whose parents are migrant and are temporarily absent do not accept the fact of this absence – for a child, a parent is always there, “even when physically absent” (Dreby, 2010, 52).
It would be wrong to claim that Laureau diminishes the role of race in children’s social interactions; however, Laureau proves in a very graphic manner that social status is a much more influential factor in the process of building relationships for children (Laureau, 2002).
Laureau stresses that both white and Black middle-class parents traditionally resort to the so-called “concerted cultivation” (Laureau, 2002, 748) style. The given approach presupposes that parents train the necessary social skills in their children with the help of specific activities. As for the American and Black American population belonging to the working class, the strategy known as “accomplishment of natural growth” (Laureau, 2002, 748), which presupposes that children are practically left to themselves in their games, is used.
The results of the aforementioned child-rearing styles are strikingly different. the children growing up in the environment of “accomplishment of natural growth” are usually used to be independent, which is a definite advantage, yet lack motivation in studying, which results in poor job opportunities. As for “concerted cultivation,” it usually leads to children developing various useful skills, yet often leads to parents’ taking a “frenetic” pace (Laureau, 2002, 748) and developing individualism cultivation.
Unlike personal racism, which presupposes that a person has prejudices against a certain race, institutional racism involves manipulations on an HR level so that the people of certain ethnicity/races should not be offered the same job opportunities and freedoms as the rest of the employees.
Some African American, Mexican American, and Puerto Rican families in the United States have faced the issues of racism caused by prejudices that some Americans have against the given nationalities. When being under the pressure of not only national prejudices, but also poverty issues caused by belonging to a low social class, and facing such obstacles in their career as gender profiling, the members of the aforementioned families feel that having a family is putting them under unbearable stress; in most cases, divorces ensue.
Social Factors and Family: Age
Over the past few years, the tendency to spend more time with their grandchildren has been spotted among the residents of the USA, Cherlin notices. Grandparents are willing to participate in their grandchildren’s lives and help the parents raise the kids.
As a rule, multigenerational ties and family assistance are both considered positive factors in family growth. However, when offered in large quantities, outside assistance contributes to parents’ developing irresponsibility and dependency on others.
There are four basic predictions about family change:
- The closer genetic relatives family members are, the better they cooperate in child-rearing;
- Family members tend to have fewer instances of sexually related aggression than any other social groups;
- Family members are more capable of rearing children than any other social group;
- If the father is not certain about his biological relationship with his son, the concern of the former for the son’s well-being drops (the given principle was coined by Bengtson).
By saying that the family structure in the USA has shifted from pyramid to beanpole, Bengtson (2001) means that the number of children per family has dropped considerably.
Newman (2009) stresses that old men feel lonelier than old women due to increasing job insecurity and health concerns.
As long as fertility rates are high and mortality rates are low, old people make the most of the population. When fertility rates are low and mortality rates are high, the opposite phenomenon can be observed.
Aging society is likely to switch the role of a family from nurturing children to taking care of the elderly.
In my personal opinion, a family is a social group that exists within a society and is influenced by the moods in the society, yet is not necessarily open to communications with society. In other words, a family may work as a closed system, yet social trends and principles shape the roles of family members and shape a family’s priorities.
The given conclusion aligns with the ideas that the course lectures offer; according to the latter, a family works as a social institution and is susceptible to the influences from the outside, i.e., social trends, morals, and principles, even if these trends, morals, and principles do not seem to be reasonable. A long history of the family in the U.S. has shaped people’s ideas of what a family is, and changing it is practically impossible for a single person.
Bengtson, V. L. (2001). Beyond the nuclear family: The increasing importance of multigenerational bonds. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(1), 1–16.
Blank, R. M. (2007). Improving the safety net: Single mothers who face serious barriers to work. Future of Children, 17(2), 183.
Cherlin, A. (2009). Blue-collar blues, white-collar weddings. Marriage go-round: The state of marriage and the family in America today. New York City, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 159–181.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013). Public and private families: An introduction (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013a). Public and private families: A reader (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Dreby, J. (2010). Ofelia and German Cruz: Migrant time versus child time. In J. Dreby (Ed.), Divided by borders: Mexican immigrants and their children (pp. 35–57). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Gerson, K. & Jacobs, J. (2006). The work-home crunch. In A. Skolnick & J. Skolnick (Eds.), Family in transition (14th ed.) (pp. 350-359). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Lareau, A. (2002). Invisible inequality: Social class and childrearing in Black families and white families. American Sociological Review, 67(5), 747–776.
Newman, A., (2009) Obesity in older adults. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, (14)1, n. p.
Williams, J. C. (2010). The odd discontent: Our family-hostile public policy. In K. Christensen & B. Schneider (Eds.), Workplace flexibility: Realigning 20th-century jobs for a 31st century workforce (pp. 23–54). Ithaca, NY: IRL Press.