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First, read chapter 2, and make sure you understand how these theories are used and applied in the field of Family Science.

For example, the attachment theory is often misapplied; so make sure you understand how it is used when observing and explaining relationships and family dynamics.

Next, identify and describe an example you found in your own life or in the media like TV or a movie (cannot be hypothetical) that highlights the themes associated with 3 of the 9 different perspectives and frameworks.  Therefore, you will present 3 examples.

Each example must come from a different situation, interaction, relationship, or observation.  In other words, don’t use the same interaction/relationship with for instance your parent or sibling and describe it from different perspectives.

Here are the options:

Family Ecology Perspective

Family Life Course Development Framework

Structure-Functional Perspective

Interaction-Constructionist Perspective

Exchange Theory

Family Systems

Feminist Theory

Biosocial Perspective

Attachment Theory

This is not to be an arduous assignment, but to give you the opportunity to apply what you are learning to everyday life and using these different “lenses” from the theoretical perspectives presented in chapter 2 to explain and understand relational dynamics. Most students complete this assignment in 1 to 2 pages. As long as the criteria are met, the length is not an issue.

Exploring rElationships
and FamiliEs
Learning Objectives
Science: TranScending
PerSOnaL exPerience
The Blinders of Personal Experience
Demonstrate how scientific
knowledge differs from that gained
through personal experience.
Discuss various theoretical
perspectives on families, noting
their main contributions and
Describe why rules for research
are essential to science.
Discuss the most common
data-gathering techniques.
Describe some ethical principles
associated with scientific research.
Recognize that social scientists
from across the globe research
families worldwide.
Issues for Thought: Studying Families
and Ethnicity
Scientific Norms
TheOreTicaL PerSPecTiveS
On The FamiLy
The Family Ecology Perspective
The Family Life Course Development Framework
The Structure–Functional Perspective
The Interaction–Constructionist Perspective
A Closer Look at Diversity: Hetero-Gay Families
Exchange Theory
Family Systems Theory
Conflict and Feminist Theory
The Biosocial Perspective
Attachment Theory
Facts About Families: How Family Researchers Study
Religion from Various Theoretical Perspectives
â–² DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock.com
The Relationship Between Theory and Research
deSigning a ScienTiFic STudy:
SOme BaSic PrinciPLeS
Cross–Sectional Versus Longitudinal Data
Deductive Versus Inductive Reasoning
Quantitative Versus Qualitative Research
Defining Terms
Samples and Generalization
Data-Collection Techniques
The Ethics of Research on Families
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
“What’s happening to the family today?”
“What’s a good family?”
“How do I make that happen?”
In Chapter 1 we said that the best decisions are informed ones made consciously. Throughout this textbook we, your authors, point out many facts that are
supported by evidence about relationships and families.
We base what we write on published information that
we trust is accurate. We provide citations to the sources
of our information, then give the complete reference
that goes with each citation in the reference section at
the back of this book. If you wish, you can find the article or book that we’ve cited, then read it for yourself
and see whether you agree with our interpretation.
Where does the information in the article or book
come from? Mainly, it results from social scientists’ use of
theoretical perspectives and research methods designed
to explore family life. Family research occurs globally,
and for the most part researchers worldwide employ
similar theories and methods. In this chapter, though, we
will focus on the United States. This chapter invites you
into the world of social science so that you can understand and share this way of examining family life.
First we’ll discuss how science differs from simply
having an opinion or a strongly held belief. Next we
will examine various theoretical perspectives used by social scientists. After that we’ll explore some important
things to know about scientific research, then discuss
various ways that family scientists gather data. Throughout, we need to keep in mind that studying a phenomenon as close to our hearts as family life can be a knotty
The Blinders of Personal experience
Although personal experience provides us with information, it may also create blinders. We may assume that
our own family is normal or typical. If you grew up in
a large family, for example, in which a grandparent or
an aunt or uncle shared your home, you probably assumed (for a short time at least) that everyone had a big
family. Perceptions like this are usually outgrown at an
early age. However, some family styles may be taken for
granted or assumed to be universal when they are not.
In looking at family customs around the world,
we can easily see the error of assuming that all marriage and family practices are like our own. Common American assumptions about family life not only
fail to hold true in other places but also frequently
don’t even describe our own society well. Lesbian or
gay male families; black, Latino, and Asian families;
Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Latter-day Saints (Mormon),
Islamic, Buddhist, and nonreligious families; upper-class,
middle-class, and lower-class families; urban and rural
families—all represent differences in family lifestyle.
Nevertheless, the tendency to use only our experiential
knowledge as a yardstick for measuring things is strong.
Therefore, science has developed norms for transcending
the blinders of personal experience. The central aim of
scientific investigation is to find out what is actually going
on as opposed to what we assume is happening. Science
can be defined as “a logical system that bases knowledge
on . . . systematic observation” and on empirical evidence—
facts we verify with our senses (Macionis 2006, p. 15).
The central purpose of the scientific method is to overcome
The great variation in family forms and the variety of social settings for family life mean that few of us can rely
only on firsthand experience when studying families. Although we “know” about the family because we have lived
in one, the beliefs we have about the family based on personal experience may not tell the whole story. We may also
be misled by media images and common sense—what
“everybody knows.” For instance, “everybody knows” that
teenagers in families that eat dinner together regularly
are happier and less likely to abuse drugs or be otherwise
delinquent. But a recent study designed to closely examine this assumption found that this “fact” held true only
when the parent-adolescent relationship was strong and
positive. When that relationship was weak or fraught with
conflict, family dinners were of little benefit (Meier and
Musick 2014). What “everybody knows” can actually be a
misrepresentation of the facts.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com
Science: TranScending
PerSonal exPerience
Does this family look like yours? If “yes” or
“somewhat yes,” in what ways do these folks look
like your family? If not, how does your family look?
Researchers work to get actual facts about families,
not stereotyped images. Some American families do
look like this one, but—as discussed in Chapter 1—
they are not the numerical majority.
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issues for Thought
Studying Families and Ethnicity
How social scientists go about objectively researching families across a variety of races, ethnicities, and immigrant
or nativity statuses becomes an increasingly apparent issue to ponder in the
United States today. As men and women
from diverse race/ethnic backgrounds
have come into the field of family studies, they have pointed out how often
limited and sometimes biased our theoretical and research perspectives have
been (Lopez 2015). For many years,
research on African Americans focused
almost exclusively on poor, singleparent households in the inner city and
ignored middle-class blacks (Hymowitz
2006). Overlooking many other topics,
research on Latinos often investigated
Mexican immigrants’ assumed “patriarchal” culture (Baca Zinn and Wells
2007; Taylor 2007).
In his book Orientalism (1979),
social theorist Professor Edward
W. Said noted that European and then
American scholars have long presented people from the Middle East in
ways that stereotyped Arabs as exotic,
mysterious, and dangerous. Following in Said’s footsteps, media scholar
Professor Jack Shaheen examined
more than 1,000 American studio films
depicting Arabs or Arab Americans.
He found an unchanging and rigid
stereotype that presents an image of
“barbarism” and “buffoonery.” In addition, it may be that much of the
scholarly marriage and family literature in the United States focusing on
Arab families tends to view this ethnically and religiously diverse group as
monolithic and through the lens of
Euro-American superiority (Beitin,
Allen, and Bekheet 2010).
Later, following the negative reaction to the earlier, limited portrayal of
race/ethnic family differences, researchers began to report on the strengths of
families of color, multiracial families,
and multi-ethnic families, pointing to
strong extended-family support, more
egalitarian spousal relationships, and
class, regional, and rural–urban diversity
(Gottlieb, Pilkauskas, and Garfinkel
2014). For example, a substantial proportion of African American single-mother
households contain other adults who take
part in raising the children (Taylor 2007).
As another example, Annette Lareau
(2003a) points to the rich family life of
working- and lower-class children whose
parents are less focused on educational
and achievement goals and activities and
hence have considerable time to spend
with relatives. Research on extendedfamily ties illuminates the great amount
of instrumental help that Hispanic extended families provide to their members. This means that workplace policies
that presume only nuclear-family members need the flexibility to provide family care does not take into account the
real lives of Hispanic families (Sarkisian,
Gerena, and Gerstel 2006).
Furthermore, research now using
a comparative approach has shown us
that the same family phenomenon may
have different outcomes in different
racial/ethnic settings. For example,
communication processes vary by family types, with multiracial and multiethnic families developing unique
forms of communication that assist
researchers’ blinders or biases. (“Issues for thought:
Studying Families and Ethnicity,” addresses race/ethnic
bias in research.) Scientific researchers are ever cognizant
of the need to gather data that accurately correspond with
reality (Babbie 2014; Umberson et al. 2015). “We must be
dedicated to finding the truth as it is rather than as we
think it should be” (Macionis 2006, p. 18, italics in original).
in maintaining solidarity among the
family members (Soliz, Thorson, and
Rittenour 2009, p. 829).
Today’s research on family and ethnicity tends to be more complex and
sophisticated than in the past. Concern
about family fragility and individual
disorganization is balanced by recognition of diversity and of community and
family strengths. Multiple influences on
race/ethnic families are acknowledged:
(1) mainstream culture, (2) ethnic settings, and (3) the negative impact of
disadvantaged neighborhoods or family circumstances that can produce
behaviors that are inappropriately
viewed as a “minority culture” (S. Hill
2004). Structural influences—that is,
economic opportunity—are seen as a
powerful influence on family relations
and behavior. The role of “agency,” or
the initiative of families, is recognized:
“What happens on a daily basis in family relations and domestic settings also
constructs families. . . . Families should
be seen as settings in which people are
agents and actors, coping with, adapting to, and changing social structures to
meet their needs” (Baca Zinn and Wells
2007, p. 426; see also S. Hill 2004).
Critical Thinking
Does your family heritage or your observation of families make you think of
family patterns that seem different from
people’s assumptions about families?
How might your insights or observations
help researchers learn more about families in a variety of family sociocultural
Scientific norms
To transcend personal biases, scientists follow certain
norms (Babbie 2014; Merton 1973 [1942]). Of course,
researchers are expected to be honest and to never fabricate results. Scientists are expected to publish their research. Publishers are required to evaluate submissions
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
only on merit, never taking into account the researcher’s
social characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, religion, or institutional affiliation.
To accomplish this, publishers have reviewers, or “referees,” who evaluate submissions “blind” (without knowing the name or anything else about the researcher
submitting the article for publication).
Publishing allows research results to be reviewed
and critiqued by others. In this way, science becomes
cumulative: Findings from various research projects
build on one another. Over time, a particular conclusion will be seen to have more evidence behind it than
others (e.g., Amato 2012; Carey 2012; Marks 2012). It
is well established, for example, that marriage carries
many benefits for the individual, the couple, and their
children (Waite and Gallagher 2000; Wilcox et al. 2011;
Wilcox Marquardt, Popenoe, and Whitehead 2011). It
has also been well established that the arrival of children is associated with at least an initial decline in marital happiness, probably from less leisure time as well
as the challenges of child raising and concomitant
modifications to the couple’s relationship (Clayton and
Perry-Jenkins 2008; Margolis and Myrskylä 2015).
This last is a conclusion that is not so pleasing to
hear, but an important scientific norm involves having objectivity: “The ideal of objective inquiry is to let
the facts speak for themselves and not be colored
by the personal values and biases of the researcher”
(Macionis 2006, p. 18). To do this, scientists use rigorous methods that follow a carefully designed research
plan. We return to a discussion of scientific methods
later in this chapter.
“In reality, of course, total neutrality is impossible
for anyone” (Macionis 2006, p. 18). However, following
standard research practices and submitting the results
to review by other scientists is likely in the long run to
correct the biases of individual researchers. At the same
time, there are many visions of the family and relationships; what an observer reads into the data depends
partly on his or her theoretical perspective.
TheoreTical PerSPecTiveS
on The Family
Theoretical perspectives are ways of viewing reality. As
tools of analysis, they are equivalent to lenses through
which observers view, organize, and then interpret
what they see. A theoretical perspective leads family
researchers to identify those aspects of families and
relationships that interest them and suggests possible
explanations for why patterns and behaviors are the
way they are.
There are several different theoretical perspectives
on the family. It is useful to think of each as a point of
view. As with a physical object such as a building, when
we see a family from different angles, we have a better
grasp of what it is than if we look at it only from a single
fixed position. Often theoretical perspectives on relationships and families complement one another and
may appear together in a single piece of research. We’ll
point to examples throughout this chapter. In other instances, the perspectives appear contradictory, leading
scholars and policy makers into heated debate.
In this section, we describe nine theoretical perspectives related to families:
1. family ecology perspective
2. the family life course development framework
3. the structure–functional perspective
4. the interaction–constructionist perspective
5. exchange theory
6. family systems theory
7. conflict and feminist theory
8. the biosocial perspective
9. attachment theory
We will see that each perspective illuminates our understanding in its own way. Table 2.1 presents a summary of
these theoretical perspectives. (Chapter 10’s Table 10.1
applies several of these theoretical perspectives to the
topic of unpaid household labor.)
The Family ecology Perspective
The family ecology perspective explores how a family is
influenced by the surrounding environment. The relationship of work to family life, discussed in Chapter 10,
is one example of an ecological focus. Sociologists
might look at how nonstandard work schedules, such
as working nights or split shifts, or having consistent
health insurance benefits affect family relationships, for
example (Davis et al. 2008; Lombardi and Coley 2013).
We use the family ecology perspective throughout this
book when we stress that, although society does not determine family members’ behavior, it does present constraints for families as well as opportunities. The concept
of sociological imagination, introduced in Chapter 1, is in
line with the family ecology perspective. Families’ lives
and choices are affected by economic, educational, religious, and cultural institutions, as well as by historical
circumstances such as the development of the Internet,
war, recession, and immigration patterns.
Every family is embedded in “a set of nested structures, each inside the next, like a set of Russian dolls”
(Bronfenbrenner 1979, p. 3). Each “nested structure”
includes events, social policies, social characteristics,
and culture—structures that exist outside families and
influence them. We can think of these various outside
influences as radiating outward from the family as follows: (1) the neighborhood; (2) the workplace; (3) the
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Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
ta b l E 2 . 1
Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
Key concePTs
currenT research
Family Ecology
The ecological context of the family
affects family life and children’s
Natural physical-biological
Social-cultural environment
Effect on families of economic
inequality in the United States
Race/ethnic and immigration status
Effect on families of the changing
global economy
Family policy
Neighborhood effects
Family Life Course
Families experience predictable
changes over time.
Family life course
Developmental tasks
“On-time” transitions
Role sequencing
Emerging adulthood
Timing of employment, marriage,
and parenthood
Pathways to family formation
The family performs essential
functions for society.
Social institution
Family structure
Family functions
Functional alternatives
Cross-cultural and historical
Analysis of emerging family
structures in regard to their
comparative functionality
Critique of contemporary family
By means of interaction, humans
construct sociocultural
The internal dynamics of a group of
interacting individuals construct
the family.
Role making
Social construction
of reality
Symbolic meaning assigned to
domestic work and other family
Deconstruction of reified
Exchange Theory
The resources that individuals bring
to a relationship or family affect
the formation, continuation,
nature, and power dynamics of a
Social exchanges are compiled
to create networks and social
Rewards and costs
Family power
Social networks
Social support
Family power
Entry and exit from marriage
Family violence
Network-derived social support
Systems Theory
The family as a whole is more than
the sum of its parts.
Family therapy
Family efficacy and crisis
Family boundaries
Feminist Theory
Gender is central to the analysis of
the family.
Male dominance in society and
in the family is oppressive of
Male dominance
Power and inequality
Work and family
Family power
Domestic violence
Deconstruction of reified gender
Deconstruction of definition
of marriage as necessarily
Advocacy of women’s issues
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Chapter 2
ta b l E 2 . 1
Exploring Relationships and Families
Key concePTs
currenT research
Evolution of the human species
has put in place certain biological
endowments that shape and
limit family choices.
Evolutionary heritage
Genes, hormones, and brain
Inclusive fitness
Connections between biological
markers and family behavior
Evolutionary heritage explanations
for gender differences, sexuality,
reproduction, and parenting
Development of research methods
that can explore the respective
influences of “nature” and
Early childhood experience with
caregiver(s) shape psychological
attachment styles.
Secure, insecure/anxious, and
avoidant attachment styles
Attachment style and mate
choice, jealousy, relationship
commitment, separation, or
community, town, or city; (4) the state, including state
laws and policies; (5) the country, including national
laws and policies; (6) the world, especially in an era of
globalism; and (7) Earth’s physical environment. All
parts of the model are interrelated and influence one
another (Bubolz and Sontag 1993; and see Figure 2.1).
Earth’s physical environment—climate and climate
change, soil, plants, animals—provides an essential
backdrop against which all family living is played out.
Family ecologists stress the interdependence of all the
on fam
physical environm
ty, town,
m Workplace
h b o rh o
n th
F i g U r E 2 . 1 Various outside influences radiate
outward from the family, influencing it and being
influenced by it.
world’s families—not only with one another but also
with our planet’s physical environment (Trask 2013).
International social scientists have begun to note the
phenomenon of environmental migrants or climate refugees
as people in some parts of the world move to escape
natural disasters of previously unknown proportions
or rising sea waters that threaten small ocean islands
(Laczko 2010). Although it is crucial, the interaction
of families with the physical environment is beyond the
scope of this text. Our interest centers on families in
their sociocultural environments. The social–cultural
ecology of families may be examined historically. Ways
that historical periods affect individuals, relationships,
and families are explored in Chapter 1.
This perspective also analyzes the non–climate-related
environments of contemporary families at various levels from the global to the neighborhood (Trask 2013;
Yu 2015). On the global level, for instance, changing coffee
or sugar prices at your grocery store impact families in coffee- or sugar-growing regions of the world (Alvarez 2010;
Valkila, Haaparanta, and Niemi 2010). Closer to home, the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States
and the subsequent ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
have been part of a global conflict affecting American family life in many ways (Lundquist and Xu 2014; Wadsworth
and MacDermid 2010). As a second example, the Great
Recession that began in late 2007 ended many jobs filled
by immigrants, who consequently wrestled with decisions
about returning to their home countries (Schuman 2009).
More generally, economic globalization—with the increasing outsourcing of jobs to regions with lower labor costs—
has affected breadwinning and consumption in many
American families (Preston 2015).
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Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
Hero Images Inc./Superstock
On the national level, American policies and culture emphasize military intervention worldwide but
seem unable to adequately care for returning veterans, thus affecting many military families (Finkel 2013;
Wadsworth and MacDermid 2012). Minimum wage
legislation at the federal, state, and city levels affects everyday family life. For example, as we write, minimumwage breadwinners in many states earn the federally
mandated $7.25 per hour. Some states and cities, however, have enacted legislation that has increased the
minimum wage, with earners in some regions making
as much as $15 per hour (Doyle 2015). Meanwhile,
families are impacted by federal Head Start, food assistance, and other programs designed to help those
in poverty. The national Social Security program, coupled with Medicare, greatly influences elderly family
members’ retirement and housing choices.
Sometimes researchers compare the relative effects
of various countries’ family environments. One fairly
recent study compared how some European countries’
national policies regarding men’s and women’s paid
work, as well as financial support for families, have affected couples’ fertility decisions and family households’ division of labor (Billingsley and Ferrarini 2014;
Cooke and Baxter 2010). We return to this discussion in
Chapters 3 and 10.
Furthermore, family ecologists often stress the importance of workplace, town or city, state, and national policies on family living (Kalil et al. 2014). Arizona legislation
that focuses on deporting undocumented immigrants
has affected many families in that state (Brown 2013;
All else being equal, residing in a supportive and
helpful neighborhood translates into less family
stress than otherwise. Meanwhile, families need
to participate in the neighborhood in order to help
create a cooperative environment for themselves.
This group is planting a community garden. People
in this neighborhood join together in activities that
benefit families who live there.
Simpson 2015). On the community level, the availability
of reasonably priced mass transit affects access to work.
Community gardens, worked by neighborhood residents and often established in formerly vacant city lots,
improve people’s food and nutritional options.
Neighborhoods impact family well-being as well
(Bowen et al. 2008). Homeless children and those raised
in poor neighborhoods are at greater risk for negative
social, educational, economic, and health outcomes,
as well as early and indiscriminate death from gun violence (Conger, Conger, and Martin 2010; Edin and Kissane 2010; Gültekin 2012). Mothers raising children
amid neighborhood poverty express fears about letting
them play outdoors (Kimbro and Schachter 2011).
Whether in the neighborhood, workplace, community,
or broader society, culture can influence families. For
example, a review of the literature that examined marital well-being among U.S. couples of Mexican origin
concluded that navigating the often contradictory expectations of two cultures—Mexican and Anglo—can
produce challenges that may help to explain relatively
high divorce rates among Mexican American couples
(Helms, Supple, and Proulx 2011).
Ecologists have also examined the sociocultural settings
of relatively privileged families (Swartz 2008). Examining the kinds of economic and social advantages enjoyed
by the middle and upper levels of society is uncommon
but needs to be encouraged. It may provide insight into
the conditions that would enable all families to succeed.
Moreover, elements in the social–cultural environment of
upper-socioeconomic-level families—excessive achievement pressure or the isolation of children from busy,
accomplishment-oriented parents—can be problematic.
For instance, “the silence (in the community and in academia) surrounding domestic violence in affluent communities jeopardizes the health and safety of [affluent,
victimized] mothers and their children . . .” (Haselschwerdt
2012, p. F16). The ecology perspective helps to identify
factors that are important to societal and community support for all families. Exploring family life through this perspective leads to interest in family policy (the various laws
and other regulations and procedures that impact families), which is discussed in Chapter 1.
Contributions and Critiques of the Family ecology
perspective This perspective first emerged in the late
nineteenth century, a period marked by concern about
family welfare. The family ecology model resurfaced in
the 1960s with the War on Poverty, a federal program directed toward eliminating existing high levels of poverty.
The family ecology perspective makes an important contribution today by challenging the idea that family satisfaction or success depends solely on individual effort.
Furthermore, the perspective turns our attention to family social policy—what may be done about social issues or
problems that affect relationships and families.
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
Nikada/E+/Getty Images
A possible disadvantage of the family ecology perspective is that it is so broad and inclusive that virtually nothing is left out. One research agenda can hardly account
for the family’s sociocultural environment on all levels
from the global to the neighborhood. More and more,
however, social scientists are exploring family ecology in
concrete settings. For example, Canadian researchers
Phyllis Johnson and Kathrin Stoll (2008) investigated
how Sudanese refugee men continued to enact the
African breadwinner role for their families while resettling alone in western Canada.
The Family life course
development Framework
Whereas family ecology analyzes relationships, families,
and the broader society as interdependent parts of a
whole, the family life course development framework
focuses on the family itself as the unit of analysis (Sassler
2010; White and Klein 2008). The concept of the family
life course is central here, based on the idea that the family changes in fairly predictable ways over time.
Typical stages in the family life course are marked by
(1) the addition or subtraction of family members
(through birth, death, and leaving home), (2) the
various stages that the children go through, and
(3) changes in the family’s connections with other social
institutions (retirement from work, for example, or a
child’s entry into school). Each stage has requisite developmental tasks that must be mastered before family members
transition successfully to the next stage. Therefore, this
perspective has tended to assume that families perform
better when life course stages proceed in orderly fashion.
Traditionally, this perspective assumed that families
begin with marriage. The newly established couple stage
ends when the arrival of the first baby thrusts the couple
into the families of preschoolers stage, which is followed
later by the families of primary school children stage and
the families with adolescents stage (Crosnoe and Cavanagh
2010). Families in the middle years help their offspring
enter the adult worlds of employment and their own
family formation. Later, parents return to a couple focus with the time and money to pursue leisure activities
(if they are fortunate). Still later, aging families must
adjust to retirement and perhaps health crises or debilitating chronic illness. The death of a spouse marks the
end of the family life course (Aldous 1996).
Role sequencing, the order in which major life course
transitions take place, is important to this perspective.
The normative order hypothesis proposes that the work–
marriage–parenthood sequence is thought to be best
for mental health and happiness (Jackson 2004; Wilcox,
Marquardt et al. 2011a). Then, too, “on-time” transitions—
those that occur when they are supposed to, rather than
“too early” or “late”—are generally considered most
likely to result in successful role performance during
According to the family life course development
framework, this father is in the families of primary
school children stage. Like other family life course
stages, this stage has particular tasks that need to
be performed—tasks for which previous life course
stages, if completed successfully, have helped to
prepare him.
subsequent life course stages (Booth, Rustenbach, and
McHale 2008; Hogan and Astone 1986). The concept
of delayed exits and the term boomerang kids imply that
young adult children have not left the parental home
“on time” or for good (Sandberg-Thoma, Snyder, and
Jang 2015).
Emerging adulthood is a stage in individual development that precedes and affects entry into the family life
course. The concept conveys a sense of ongoing development, a period “when the scope of independent exploration of life’s possibilities is greater for most people
than it will be at any other period of the life course”
(Arnett 2000, p. 469). Transition to adulthood is now
completed more gradually and later than it has been in
the past—usually by age 30 (Arnett 2004; Furstenberg
2008). A principal reason for this change: As discussed
in Chapter 1, it takes longer today to earn enough to
support a family (Gibson-Davis 2009). Emerging adulthood is further explored in Chapters 6 and 7.
In addition to examining the transition to adulthood, researchers using the family life course development framework also extensively study the various
transitions, or “pathways,” to family formation (Amato
et al. 2008). “The scope of research on intimate partnering now includes studies of ‘hooking up,’ Internet
dating, visiting relationships, cohabitation, marriage
following childbirth, and serial partnering, as well as
more traditional research on transitions into marriage”
(Sassler 2010, p. 557). In this vein, researchers note “the
continued ‘decoupling’ of marriage and childbearing”
(Smock and Greenland 2010). Researchers—noting
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Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
that “experiences of young people between 18 and 25
who are homeless might not resemble the traditional
college students who are often the population studied
in emerging adult research”—have combined the family life course with the family ecology perspectives to
investigate emerging adulthood among youth living on
the street (Williams and Sheehan 2015, p. 129). Other
life course researchers have tackled the question of how
lifelong childlessness affects well-being (Umberson, Pudrovska, and Reczek 2010). Thus, the family life course
development framework meets the postmodern family.
Contributions and Critiques of the Family Life
Course Development Framework The family life
course development framework directs attention to
various stages that relationships and families encounter
throughout life. Hence, this perspective encourages us
to investigate various family behaviors over time. For instance, research consistently finds that women are more
likely to work on maintaining family relationships.
Building on this research, three Belgian sociologists
asked, “Is this true for all life stages?” They found the
answer to be yes (Bracke, Christiaens, and Wauterickx
2008). As another example, researchers looked at reasons for calling telephone crisis hotlines across the life
course. They found that “issues of loneliness increased
with age whereas depression-related calls decreased”
(Ingram et al. 2008).
Furthermore, this perspective directs our attention
to how particular life course transitions affect family
interaction. For example, researchers have investigated
how transitions to parenthood or from cohabitation to
marriage affect the time partners spend on housework
(Baxter, Hewitt, and Haynes 2008; Yavorsky, Dush, and
Schoppe-Sullivan 2015). This perspective also prompts
researchers to look at interactions among family members who are in different life course stages such as a
study of ongoing affection between grandparents and
young adults (Monserud 2008).
Critics note remnants of the traditional tendency
within this perspective toward assumptions of life course
standardization, possibly suggesting a white, middleclass bias. Moreover, because of economic, ethnic, and
cultural differences, two families in the same life cycle
stage may be very different. For these reasons, the family development perspective is perhaps somewhat less
popular now than it was half a century or more ago,
although the perspective is still used.
The Structure–Functional
The structure–functional perspective investigates how
a given social structure functions to fill basic societal
needs. As discussed in Chapter 1, families are principally accountable for three vital family functions: to
raise children responsibly, to provide economic support,
and to give family members emotional security. Social
structure refers to the ways that families are patterned or
organized—that is, the form that a family may take.
As discussed in Chapter 1, there is no typical American family structure today. Instead, families evidence a
variety of forms including same-sex families, cohabitating families, single-parent families, and transnational
families whose members bridge and maintain relationships across national borders. The structure–functional
perspective encourages researchers to ask how well a
particular family structure performs a basic family function. For example, there is considerable research into
how well single mothers, cohabitating couples, or unmarried nonresident fathers perform the function of
responsible child rearing (Bellamy, Thullen, and Hans
2015; Carlson 2006; Manning and Lamb 2003). Results
of this research are explored in Chapters 6, 7, and 14.
The structure–functional perspective may encourage a family researcher to think in terms of functional
alternatives—alternate structures that might perform
a function traditionally assigned to the nuclear family
(Nelson 2013). A study among recent immigrants found
that 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. Results
showed that “functions include assuring the spiritual
development of the child and thereby reinforcing cultural continuity, exercising social control, providing
material support, and assuring socioemotional support” (Ebaugh and Curry 2000, pp. 189, 199). Recent
research on black lesbian couples found that in the absence of felt support for their relationship from parents
and extended biological kin, the women looked for support among fictive kin in gay and lesbian communities
(Glass and Few-Demo 2013).
The term dysfunction emerged from the structure–
functional perspective (Merton 1968 [1949]) as a focus
on social patterns or behaviors that fail to fulfill basic
family needs. Obviously, domestic violence is dysfunctional in that it opposes the family function of providing emotional security. Although the term dysfunctional
family is often used by laypeople and in counseling psychology, sociologists seldom use the term, which is considered too vague and imprecisely defined.
The structure–functional perspective might also
encourage one to ask, “Functional for whom?” when
examining a particular social structure (Merton 1968
[1949]). For instance, traditional male authority and
higher prestige may be functional for fathers—and
in some cultures for brothers—but not necessarily for
mothers or sisters. Separating may seem to be functional for one or both of the adults involved, but it’s not
necessarily so for the children (Amato 2000, 2004).
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
Contributions and Critiques of the Structure–
Functional perspective Virtually all social scientists
agree on the one basic premise underlying structure–
functionalism: that families are an important social
institution performing essential social functions. The
structure–functional perspective encourages us to ask
how well various family forms do in filling basic family
needs. Furthermore, the perspective can be interpreted
as encouraging us to examine ways in which functional
alternatives to the heterosexual nuclear family may perform basic family functions.
However, as it dominated family sociology in
the United States during the 1950s, the structure–
functional perspective gave us an unrealistic image of
smoothly working families characterized only by shared
values. Furthermore, the perspective once argued for
the functionality of specialized gender roles: the instrumental husband-father who supports the family economically and wields authority inside and outside the family,
and the expressive wife-mother-homemaker whose main
function is to enhance emotional relations at home and
socialize young children (Parsons and Bales 1955).
Then, too, the structure–functional perspective
has generally been understood to define the heterosexual nuclear family as the “normal” or “functional”
family structure. As a result, many social scientists, particularly feminists, rebuke this perspective (Anderson
and Sabatelli 2007; Stacey 2006). The vast majority of
family sociologists today rarely reference structure–
functionalism directly.
The interaction–constructionist
As its name implies, the interaction–constructionist perspective focuses on interaction, the face-to-face encounters
and relationships of individuals who act in awareness of
one another. Often this perspective explores the daily
conversation, gestures, and other behaviors that go on in
families (Glass and Few-Demo 2013). By means of these
interchanges, something called “family” appears (Berger
and Kellner 1970). 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 (Byrd 2009; Oswald and Masciadrelli 2008).
Sometimes this perspective explores family rolemaking as partners adapt culturally understood roles—
for example, uncle, mother-in-law, grandmother, or stepfather—to their own situations and preferences. One
study looked at how older Chinese and Korean immigrants remade family roles on immigrating to the United
States (Wong, Yoo, and Stewart 2006). A Korean grandmother described remaking her mother-in-law role:
Once I immigrated I realized there are cultural differences
between the U.S. and Korea especially when it comes to
family dynamics. For example, I can’t always say what I
would like to say to my daughter-in-law. I follow the American ways and have given up trying to tell her what to do. . . .
I would like to tell my daughter-in-law to punish the grandchildren when they misbehave. But in America, us elders
do not have the right to say this. I just keep these thoughts
to myself. (p. S6)
This point of view also examines how family members
interact with the outside world in order to manage family (Glass and Few-Demo 2013). An example is a study of
interaction strategies used by couples who had chosen to
remain childfree. Feeling potentially stigmatized, some
claimed that they were biologically unable to have children. Others aggressively asserted the merits of a childfree
lifestyle (Park 2002). The couples worked to construct
how others would define their not having children.
reality as Constructed This approach explores ways
that people, by interacting with one another, construct,
or create, meanings, symbols, and definitions of events
or situations. A respondent in the study of Chinese and
Korean immigrants saw family photographs as symbols
of her changing (reconstructed) family role:
My children got married and started to have a family of
their own. . . . We are now no longer the center, but on the
peripheries of their families. Even when we take pictures,
we don’t stand in the center but on the side. It’s totally
different in China. Even when we took pictures, parents
would be pictured in the middle. (Wong, Yoo, and Stewart
2006, p. S6)
The study of black lesbians mentioned earlier found
that biological extended kin sought to “relabel” a
lesbian family member as asexual or just going
through a phase that she will get over (Glass and FewDemo 2013).
As people “put out” or externalize meanings, these
meanings come to be reified, or made to seem real.
Once a meaning or definition of a situation is reified,
people internalize it and take it for granted as “real”
rather than viewing it as a human creation (Berger
and Luckman 1966). For example, many newlyweds
take it for granted that a honeymoon should follow
their wedding; they don’t think about the fact that the
idea of a honeymoon is socially constructed (Bulcroft
et al. 1997). Sociologists James Holstein and Jaber
Gubrium (2008) combine this perspective with the family life course development framework to investigate
how individuals gradually construct their life course.
Unlike structure–functionalism, in which analysis begins with one or more family forms that are understood
as given, the interaction–constructionist perspective focuses on the processes through which family forms are
constructed and maintained. For instance, we typically
think of the “battered woman” as having been abused
by a male, thereby maintaining the social construction of domestic life as heterosexual (VanNatta 2005).
Copyright 2018 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203
Our values and beliefs about divorce,
childbearing outside marriage, and singleparent families can also be understood
as socially constructed (Thornton
2009). Exposing the ways that symbols
and definitions are constructed is called
deconstruction, a process typically identified with postmodern theory.
Lawrence Migdale/Photo Researchers, Inc./Science Source
Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
theory Postmodern
theory can be understood as a special
focus within the broader interaction–
constructionist perspective (Kools 2008).
Having gained recognition in the social
sciences since the 1980s, postmodern theory largely analyzes social discourse or narrative (public or private, written or verbal
This African American family is celebrating Kwanzaa, created in the
statements or stories). The analytic purpose is to demonstrate that a phenome1960s by Ron Karenga and based on African traditions. An estimated
non is socially constructed (Gubrium and
10 million black Americans now celebrate Kwanzaa as a ritual of family,
Holstein 2009). A principal goal involves
roots, and community. The experience of adopting or creating family
debunking essentialism—the idea that catrituals fits the interaction–constructionist perspective on the family.
egories really do exist in nature and are
not simply reifications. Examples include
analyses of the concepts of gender and race (see Chapter 1).
then what? “If everything is socially constructed, then
Formerly taken for granted as essentially “real,” these catwe gain nothing by employing the term. It has become
egories are now generally recognized—at least within the
a mantra that explains very little” (Stacey 2006, p. 481).
social sciences—as social constructions. Chapter 3 further
Moreover, it is virtually impossible to conduct tradiexplores the social construction of gender.
tional social science research in the absence of agreedWhen applied to relationships, postmodern theory
upon social categories (Cockerham 2007).
posits that beliefs about what constitutes a “real” family are nothing more than socially fabricated narratives,
exchange Theory
having been constructed through public discourse
(Barton and Bishop 2014). (“A Closer Look at Diversity:
Exchange theory applies an economic perspective to
Hetero-Gay Families” illustrates the social construction
social relationships. A basic premise is that when inof a postmodern family form, along with examples of
dividuals are engaged in social exchanges, they prefer
relevant discourse, or narrative.)
to limit their costs and maximize their rewards. Chapter 1 discusses making informed decisions as a process
Contributions and Critiques of the Interaction–
of “deciding” rather than “sliding.” According to exConstructionist perspective The interaction–
change theory, which also emphasizes decision making,
constructionist perspective alerts us to the idea that
we choose among options after calculating potential remuch in our environment is neither “given” nor “natuwards against costs and weighing our alternatives. Those
ral,” but socially constructed by humans—those in the
of us with more resources, such as education or good
past and those around us now. In this way, the perspecincomes, have a wider range of options from which to
tive can be liberating. If a social structure, definition,
choose. This orientation examines how individuals’ pervalue, or belief is oppressive, it can be challenged: Consonal resources, including physical attractiveness and
structed by human social interaction, phenomena can
personality characteristics, affect the formation and
also be changed by such interaction. Social movements
continuation of relationships.
advocating legalization of same-sex marriage proceed
According to this perspective, an individual’s depenfrom this beginning point. At the family level, this perdence on and emotional involvement in a relationship
spective leads researchers to focus on family members’
affects her or his relative power in the relationship.
interaction patterns, along with emergent definitions,
When alternatives to a relationship seem slim, one
symbols, rituals, and the consequences thereof.
wields less power in the relationship. According to the
Critics ask, “Where do we go from here?” (Wasserman
principle of least interest, the partner with less commit2009). Once the taken-for-granted is deconstructed,
ment to the relationship is the one who has more power
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a closer look at diversity
Hetero-Gay Families
Increasingly we inhabit a postmodern
world. Three social scientists tell us
about a family form that is known in
Israel but may sound new to us: the
hetero-gay family. In this case, a single
heterosexual woman who desires
motherhood but not marriage conceives (typically via artificial insemination) one or more children with a
gay man. Although they do not reside
together, both birth parents actively
share financial and parental caregiving
responsibilities. Virtually always the
children live with their mothers.
Researchers Segal-Engelchin, Erera,
and Cwikel (2012) interviewed a small
sample of ten Israeli women in heterogay families. Seven had one child and
three had two children shared with the
same father. Although the mothers
could have been heterosexually active,
none of them happened to be romantically involved at interview time. Five of
the study participants’ co-parents were
living with an intimate male partner;
the other five were single gay men. The
children ranged in age from 5 months
to 9 years.
This path to parenthood is assisted in Israel by the Alternative Parenting Center, a nongovernmental
organization established in 1994 for
that purpose. The center introduces
prospective co-parents and then provides them guidance from their decision to become co-parents through
conception, pregnancy, delivery, and
the arrival of the newborn into the
family unit. The parents negotiate
a shared-parenting agreement that
determines parental rights and responsibilities, including the child’s
primary residence, visitation schedules, and child support. Equally
shared co-parenting is foreseen to be
The study participants’ discourse
around constructing this family form
involved wanting to start a family and
the strong belief that having both
a mother and a father was best for a
child, but not wanting an ongoing
sexual—one woman said “sexually
charged”—relationship with a heterosexual male. As one explained,
In a relationship between a straight
woman and a gay man, it’s an advantage not to have sexual tension. And
it’s really easy; it makes the whole
thing devoid of emotional baggage,
devoid of sexual baggage, I mean, we
both know ahead of time that we can’t
fall in love; all that’s left is for us to be
friends. (p. 397)
(Waller 1951). Those with more resources and options
can use them to bargain and secure advantages in relationships. People without resources or alternatives to
a relationship typically defer to the preferences of the
other and are less likely to leave (Sprecher, Schmeeckle,
and Felmlee 2006). From this point of view, responses
to domestic violence and decisions to separate or divorce are affected by partners’ relative resources.
The relative resources of participants shapes power
and influence in families and impacts household communication patterns, decision making, and division of
labor. Relationships based on exchanges that are equal
or equitable (fair, if not actually equal) thrive, whereas
those in which the exchange balance feels consistently
one-sided are more likely to dissolve or be unhappy.
Dating relationships, marriage and other committed
The mothers emphasized that children
need a “father figure”:
The more I thought about going to the
sperm bank . . . and asking and checking
with women who did do it through the
sperm bank, whose kids are a bit older,
the more I decided that I wanted a father for my kid. Kids constantly search
for a father figure . . . and when it’s the
sperm bank and there’s nothing, there’s
just one big emptiness! . . . I wanted a
dad who’s active, who’ll want his kids.
I wanted a father that the kids will also
know is their dad. ( p. 395)
Equally important, the mothers in
this study wanted an explicitly understood and absolutely fair division of
childcare labor. They were convinced
that marriage would likely limit their
personal independence and result in
an unfair division of household and
childcare responsibilities.
Critical Thinking
How do hetero-gay families illustrate 1) postmodern thinking, and 2)
postmodern family living? What are
some advantages of this family form
that are pointed out in these women’s narratives? What might be some
partnerships, divorce, and even parent-child relationships show signs of being influenced by participants’
relative resources (Nakonezny and Denton 2008).
Israeli research combined three theoretical perspectives—family life course, interaction–constructionist,
and exchange theory—to examine how adult grandchildren in Israel defined themselves in their grandparents’
social support networks (Even-Zohar and Sharlin 2009).
The authors found that the grandchildren constructed
caregiving and other supportive expectations for themselves based largely on how much the grandparent had
done for the grandchild over the family life course.
Social Networks Exchange theory also focuses on
how everyday social exchanges between and among
individuals accumulate to create social networks.
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Elizabeth drives Juan to the airport,
Juan babysits for Maria, Maria proofreads an assignment for Elizabeth,
and so forth until a network of social
exchanges emerges. The Internet offers opportunities for building social
networks ranging from the local to
the international level, such as those
on Facebook.
Among other things, social network
theory, a middle-range subcategory
within the exchange perspective,
examines how social networks provide individuals with social capital, or
resources (friendship, people with
whom to exchange favors), that result from their social contacts. Social
capital is analogous to financial capital, or money, inasmuch as we can
“spend” it to acquire rewards, such
as a romantic partner, a job, or emotional support (Benkel, Wijk, and
Molander 2009; Wejnert 2008).
David Young-Wolff/PhotoEdit
Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
Even before the Great Recession that began in late 2007, delayed
marriage, high housing costs, and other serious financial pressures,
such as student loan debt, made it more common for young adults to
continue living with their parents or to move back home. The recession
accelerated this trend. Family systems theory tells us that when an
adult child moves back home, the family system changes and the entire
Contributions and Critiques of
exchange theory The exchange
system of family roles need to readjust in order to maintain balance and
perspective provides a framework
restore equilibrium.
from which to draw specific hypotheses about weighing alternatives and
making decisions regarding relationships. Furthermore,
Furthermore, systems seek equilibrium, or stable balance and symmetry. Change in one of the parts sets in
this perspective leads us to recognize that inequality, or
motion a process to restore equilibrium. For example,
an unfavorable balance of rewards and costs, gradually
in the body system, if one hand becomes disabled, the
erodes positive feelings in a relationship. The perspecother must adjust to do the work of both. In family dytive also encourages us to recognize the social capital
namics, this tendency toward equilibrium puts pressure
brought about by membership in social networks. Exon each member to retain his or her fairly predictable
change theory is subject to the criticism that it assumes
a human nature that is unrealistically rational and even
role. A changing family member is subtly encouraged
cynical at heart about the roles of love and responsibility.
to revert to her or his original behavior within the family system. For change to occur, the family system as a
whole must change. Indeed, that is the goal of family
Family Systems Theory
therapy based on systems theory. The family may see
one member as the problem, but if the psychologist
Family systems theory views the family as a whole, or
draws the whole family into therapy, the family system
system, comprising interrelated parts (the family memshould begin to change.
bers) and demarcated by boundaries. Originating in
Social scientists have moved systems theory beyond
natural science, systems theory was applied to the family
its therapeutic origins to employ it in a more general
first by psychotherapists and was then adopted by family
analysis of families. They are especially interested in
how family systems process information, deal with chalA system is a combination of elements or components
lenges, respond to crises, and regulate contact with
that are interrelated and organized into a whole. Like
the outside world. For example, a 2013 study used
an organic system (the body, for example), the parts of
this perspective to better understand communication
a family compose a working system that behaves fairly
among participants in family-operated businesses (Von
predictably. The ways in which family members respond
to one another can show evidence of patterns. For
Schlippe and Frank 2013). As another example, reexample, whenever Jose sulks, Oscar tries to think of
searchers have looked at how parents’ feelings of comsomething fun for them to do together.
petition at work and home affect others in the family
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
system—that is, their children (Schneider, Wallsworth,
and Gutin 2014). Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, researchers have just recently become interested in the
understudied role of sibling relations within a family
system (Senguttuvan, Whiteman, and Jensen 2014).
Moreover, family systems researchers have elaborated
and explored concepts such as family boundaries (ideas
about who is in and who is outside the family system).
This perspective also prompts researchers to investigate
such things as family boundary ambiguity in which it is unclear who is and is not in the family. Stepfamilies have
been researched from this point of view: Do children
of divorced parents belong to two (or more) families?
To what extent are former spouses and their relatives
part of the family (Boss 1997; Stewart 2005a)? Finally,
sociologist Laura Enriquez (2015) undertook a study
that combined family systems theory with the ecological
perspective. She examined how undocumented status
for some, but not all, family members affected everyone
in the mixed-status family system. Undocumented status is an ecological individual characteristic, a result of
national law.
Contributions and Critiques of Family Systems
theory When working with families in therapy, this
perspective has proven very useful (Boss 2015). By
understanding how their family system operates, individuals can make desired personal or family changes.
Systems theory often gives family members insight into
the effects of their behavior. It may make visible the
hidden motivations behind certain family patterns. For
example, doctors were puzzled by the fact that death
rates were higher among kidney dialysis patients with
supportive families. Family systems theorists attributed
the higher rates to the unspoken desire of the patients
to lift the burden of care from the close-knit family they
loved (Reiss, Gonzalez, and Kramer 1986).
Envisioning the family as a system can be a creative
perspective for research. Rather than seeing only the influence of parents on children, for example, system theorists are sensitized to the fact that this is not a one-way
relationship and have explored children’s influence on
family dynamics (Crouter and Booth 2003).
A criticism of systems theory is that it does not sufficiently consider a family’s economic opportunities,
race/ethnic and gender stratification, and other features of the larger society that influence internal family
relations. When used by therapists, systems theory has
been criticized as tending to diffuse responsibility for
conflict by attributing dysfunction to the entire system
rather than to culpable family members within the system. This situation can lead to “blaming the victim,” as
well as making it difficult to extend social support to
victimized family members while establishing legal accountability for others, as in situations involving incest
or domestic violence (Stewart 1984).
conflict and Feminist Theory
We like to think of families as beneficial for all members.
For decades, sociologists ignored the politics of gender
and differentials of power and privilege within relationships and families. Beginning in the 1960s, conflict and
feminist theorizing and activism began to change that
oversight as issues of latent conflict and inequality were
brought into the open.
A first way of thinking about the conflict perspective
is that it is the opposite of structure–functional theory.
Not all of a family’s practices are good; not all family
behaviors contribute to family well-being. Family interaction can include domestic violence as well as holiday
rituals—sometimes both on the same day.
Conflict theory calls attention to power—more specifically, unequal power. It explains behavior patterns such
as the unequal division of household labor in terms of
the distribution of power between husbands and wives.
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.
The conflict perspective traces its intellectual roots
to Karl Marx, who analyzed class conflict. Applied to
the family by Marx’s colleague, Friedrich Engels (1942
[1884]), the conflict perspective attributed family and
marital problems to class inequality in capitalist society.
In Engels’s view, a culture of competition inherent in
capitalist society encourages harmful spousal and family
In the 1960s, a renewed interest in Marxism sparked
the application of the conflict perspective to families in
a different way. Although Marx and Engels had focused
on economic classes, the emerging feminist movement
applied conflict theory to the sex/gender system—that
is, to relationships and power differentials between men
and women in the larger society and in the family.
Although there are many variations, the central focus
of the feminist theory is on gender issues. A unifying
theme is that male dominance in the culture, society,
families, and relationships is oppressive to women. Patriarchy, the idea that males dominate females in virtually
all cultures and societies, is a central concept (HesseBiber 2007).
Unlike the perspectives described earlier, which
were developed primarily by scholars, feminist theories
emerged from political and social movements over the
past fifty years. As such, the mission of feminist 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, gender
identity, or sexual identity/orientation.
The feminist perspective has contributed to political action regarding gender and race discrimination in
wages, sexual harassment, divorce laws that disadvantage
women, rape and other sexual and physical violence
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Theoretical Perspectives on the Family
against women and children, and reproductive issues,
such as abortion rights and the inclusion of contraception in health insurance. Feminist perspectives promote
recognition of women’s unpaid work, the greater involvement of men in housework and childcare, efforts
to fund quality day care and paid parental leaves, and
transformations in family therapy so that counselors
recognize the reality of gender inequality in family life
and treat women’s concerns with respect (Few-Demo
2014). The feminist perspective has combined with the
family life course development framework to analyze
aging and gender issues (Ross-Sheriff 2008).
Since the publication of Naomi Wolf’s 1991 classic,
The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against
Women, feminist theory has given considerable attention to eating disorders and body image issues (Latham
2008). For example, a study that combines the feminist
with the interaction–constructionist perspective investigated the process through which a young woman internalizes an identity as a “fat girl” and thereby socially
“unfit,” or unacceptable for romantic relationships
(Rice 2007). Feminist scholars also consider whether a
decision to have cosmetic surgery evidences a woman’s
agency or the unrecognized influence of a patriarchal
construct of feminine beauty (Tiefer 2008).
In recent years, feminist theory has embraced
postmodern analyses, deconstructing formerly takenfor-granted concepts such as gender dichotomy (the idea
that there are naturally two very distinct genders) or the
idea that marriage must naturally be heterosexual (Dreger and Herndon 2009). Having co-opted a pejorative
term from the popular culture, some feminists refer to
this kind of analysis as queer theory (Eaklor 2008; Stacey
2006). From the feminist perspective, championing
the traditional heterosexual nuclear family at the cost
of both heterosexual and lesbian women’s equality and
well-being is unconscionable (Harding 2007).
Contributions and Critiques of Feminist theoretical perspectives By calling attention to women’s
experiences, feminist theory has encouraged us to see
things about relationships and family life that had been
overlooked before the 1960s. 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. The feminist perspective brought
to light issues of wife abuse, marital rape, child abuse,
and other forms of domestic violence.
According to some social scientists, feminist theory is
too political, value laden, or adversarial to be considered
a valid academic approach (Landau 2008; Lloyd, Few,
and Allen 2007). The concept of patriarchy has been
criticized as being unscientifically vague and ahistorical. Posited to exist in virtually all societies, patriarchy
loses meaning as an analytic category when it minimizes
differences between America in the twenty-first century
and ancient Rome, where husbands allegedly had lifeand-death power over women. Moreover, inasmuch as
some feminist theory embraces postmodernism, it is
subject to the same criticisms as postmodernism, which
were described previously.
The Biosocial Perspective
The biosocial perspective is characterized by “concepts linking psychosocial factors to physiology, genetics, and evolution” (Booth, Carver, and Granger 2000,
p. 1018). This perspective argues that human physiology,
genetics, and hormones predispose individuals to certain behaviors (Bearman 2008). In other words, biology
interacts with the social environment to affect much of
human behavior and, more specifically, many familyrelated behaviors (Salvatore and Dick 2015). “[Q]uantitative genetic studies have increasingly . . . found major
interplay between genetic and nongenetic [environmental] factors, such that the outcomes cannot sensibly be attributed just to one or the other, because they
depend on both” (Rutter 2002, pp. 1–2).
According to the biosocial (or evolutionary psychology) perspective, much of contemporary human behavior evolved in ways that enable survival and continuation
of the human species. Successful behavior patterns are
encoded in the genes, and this evolutionary heritage is transmitted to succeeding generations. The survival of one’s
genetic material into future generations is paramount.
Hence human behavior has biologically evolved to be
oriented to the survival and reproduction of all close kin
who carry those genes (D’Onofrio and Lahey 2010).
Evolutionary explanations are offered for many
contemporary family patterns. For instance, research
suggests that children are more likely to be abused by
nonbiologically related parents or caregivers than by
biological parents. Nonbiological parent figures are less
likely to invest money and time in their children’s development and future prospects (Case, Lin, and McLanahan
2000; Wilcox, Marquardt, et al. 2011). The biosocial
perspective explains this by arguing that parents “naturally” protect the carriers of their genetic material. Accordingly, although he acknowledged that there were
many successful stepfamilies and adoptions, sociologist
David Popenoe (1994) found that these family forms
were not supported by our evolutionary heritage. He
concluded that “we as a society should be doing more
to halt the growth of stepfamilies” (p. 21).
From its early days, some proponents of the biosocial perspective have held that certain human behaviors, because they evolved for the purpose of human
survival, were both “natural” and difficult to change. It
has been asserted, for example, that traditional gender
roles evolved from patterns shared with our mammalian ancestors that were useful in early hunter–gatherer
societies. Gender differences—males allegedly more
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
aggressive than females, and mothers
more likely than fathers to be primarily
responsible for childcare—are seen as anchored in hereditary biology (Rossi 1984;
Udry 1994, 2000).
However, biosociologists emphasize
that biological predisposition does not
mean that a person’s behavior cannot be
influenced or changed by social structure
(Bearman 2008; Salvatore and Dick 2015).
“Nature” (genetics, hormones) and “nurture” (culture and social relations), they argue, interact to produce human attitudes
and behavior (Horwitz and Neiderhiser
2011). As an example, research on testosterone levels in married couples found
high levels of the husbands’ testosterone
to be associated with poorer marital quality
when their role overload was high but with
better marital quality when role overload
was low. In other words, “testosterone enables positive behavior in some instances
and negative behavior in others” (Booth,
Johnson, and Granger 2005, p. 483; see
also Booth et al. 2006).
John Moore/Getty Images
These individuals are waiting for dental care in a temporary
neighborhood clinic. How might scholars from different theoretical
orientations see this photograph? Family ecologists might remark on
the quality of the facilities—or speculate about the families’ homes
and neighborhood—and how these factors affect family health
and relations. They might compare this temporary clinic, set up for
two weeks in an elementary school, with better equipped offices
that provide dental care to more privileged Americans. Scholars
from the family life course development framework would likely
Contributions and Critiques of the
note that some of these parents are in the child-raising stage of the
Biosocial perspective This perspective
family life cycle. Structure–functionalists would be quick to note the
encourages scientists to investigate rehealth-related function(s) that this clinic is performing for society.
search questions regarding relationships
Interaction–constructionists might explore the body language of the
and families that would otherwise be overlooked: Is there a genetic basis for human
people awaiting attention: What are they indicating nonverbally?
family and relationship behaviors and
What might the features of this temporary dental clinic symbolize to
attitudes (Moore and Neiderhiser 2014)? If
them? Exchange theorists might speculate about these individuals’
so, to what extent can those attitudes and
personal power and resources relative to others in the United
behaviors be changed? To what degree do
States. Family system theorists might point out that most of these
social forces (nurture) and biological prepersons are part of a family system: Should one person leave or
dispositions (nature) interact to result in
become seriously and chronically ill, for example, the roles and
human behavior and attitudes?
relationships among all members of the family would change and
Over the past twenty-five years, the
adapt as a result. Feminist theorists might point out that typically it is
biosocial perspective has emerged as a
mothers, not fathers, who are primarily responsible for their children’s
significant theoretical perspective on the
health—and ask why. The answer from a biosocial perspective (not
family (Schlomer et al. 2015). Researchuniversally accepted in social science) might be that women have
ers have employed this point of view to
examine such phenomena as gender difevolved a stronger nurturing capacity that is partly hormonally based.
ferences, sexual bonding, mate selection,
Attachment theorists might ask whether these parents are interacting
jealousy, parenting behaviors, marital stawith children in a way that promotes a secure, insecure/anxious, or
bility, and male aggression against women
avoidant attachment style. How would you interpret this photo?
(D’Onofrio and Lahey 2010; Dorius et al.
2011; Wright et al. 2012). In the words
of two of the perspective’s proponents,
“Genetically informed studies that have examined famperspective was once used to justify gender inequality as
ily relations have been critical to advancing our unbiologically based and hence “natural.” More recently,
derstanding of gene-environment interplay” (Horwitz
evolutionary perspectives have been the basis for critiand Neiderhiser 2011, p. 804; Moore and Neiderhiser
cism of nonreproductive sexual relationships and the
2014; Samek, Koh, and Rueter 2013). However, this
employment of mothers as contrary to nature (Daly and
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Designing a Scientific Study: Some Basic Principles
Wilson 2000). It is therefore not surprising that many
distrust this perspective or that it has been politically
and academically controversial. We explore and appraise the biosocial approach, or evolutionary psychology, when discussing gender (Chapter 3), extramarital
sex (Chapter 4), childcare (Chapter 10), and children’s
well-being in stepfamilies (Chapter 15).
attachment Theory
Counseling psychologists often analyze individuals’ relationship choices in terms of attachment style. Attachment
theory posits that during infancy and childhood a young
person develops a general style of attaching to others
(Ainsworth et al. 1978; Bowlby 1988; Pittman 2012). Once
a youngster’s attachment style is established, she or he unconsciously applies that style, or “state of mind,” to later
adult relationships (Mikulincer and Shaver 2012).
A child’s primary caretakers (usually parents and most
often the mother) evoke a style of attachment in him or her.
The three basic attachment styles are secure, insecure/anxious,
and avoidant. Children who can trust that a caretaker will
be there to attend to their practical and emotional needs
develop a secure attachment style. Children who feel
uncared for or abandoned develop either an insecure/
anxious or an avoidant attachment style (Crespo 2012).
In adulthood, a secure attachment style involves trust
that the relationship will provide ongoing emotional and
social support. An insecure/anxious attachment style entails concern that the beloved will disappear, a situation
often characterized as “fear of abandonment.” Someone
with an avoidant attachment style dodges emotional
closeness either by avoiding relationships altogether or
demonstrating ambivalence, seeming preoccupied, or
otherwise establishing distance in intimate situations
(Knudson-Martin 2012; Rauer and Volling 2007).
Attachment theory has grown in importance and
prominence in family studies over the past several decades
(Bell 2012; Pittman 2012). Some researchers combine
this perspective with the family life course development
framework to look at stability or variability of attachment
styles throughout an individual’s life (Klohnen and Bera
1998). Attachment theory is also used by counseling psychologists. The assumption is that if a client learns to
recognize a problematic attachment style, he or she can
change that style (Ravitz, Maunder, and McBride 2008;
Weissman, Markowitz, and Klerman 2007).
Contributions and Critiques of attachmenttheory
This perspective prompts us to look at how personality impacts relationship choices from their initiation
to their maintenance. Attachment theory also encourages us to ask what kind of parenting best encourages
a secure attachment style. These are important research questions. 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 (Fleeson and Noftle 2008; and see Knudson-Martin 2012). Of course, when therapists employ
this point of view, they recognize that even if it is a relatively stable personality characteristic, one’s attachment
style can be changed over time.
The relationship Between Theory
and research
Theory and research are closely integrated, ideally at
least (Fagan 2014). Theory should be used to help direct
research questions and to suggest useful concepts. Often
when designing their research, scientists employ one or
more theoretical perspectives from which to generate a
hypothesis or “educated guess” about the way things are.
Scientists then test these hypotheses by gathering data.
At other times, to interpret data that have already been
gathered, scientists ask themselves what theoretical perspective best explains the facts (Lareau 2012). Over time,
our understanding of family phenomena may change
as social scientists undertake new research and modify
theoretical perspectives. Even when theory is not directly
spelled out in a study, it is likely that the research fits into
one or more of the theoretical perspectives previously described. “Facts About Families: How Family Researchers
Study Religion from Various Theoretical Perspectives”
illustrates ways in which researchers have used these theoretical perspectives when studying the broad topic of religion and family. We’ll turn our attention now to various
methods that researchers use to gather information, or
data, on family life.
Students take entire courses on research methods, and
obviously we can’t cover the details of such methods here.
However, we do want to explore some major principles so
that you can think critically about published research discussed in this text or in the popular press. As the subtitle
of one textbook says, research methods provide “a tool for
life” (Beins 2008). We invite you to think this way as well.
deSigning a ScienTiFic
STudy: Some BaSic
At the onset of a scientific study, researchers carefully
design a detailed research plan. Some research is designed to gather historical data. Professor Steven Ruggles
(2011) at the University of Minnesota analyzed nineteenth-century U.S. population statistics back to 1850
to examine intergenerational households. He was curious to see whether the majority of intergenerational
households formed in order to care for elderly family
members or whether, on the other hand, the households evidenced a reciprocal relationship—one in
which each generation participated to help take care
of the other. He found that nineteenth-century U.S.
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Facts about Families
How Family Researchers Study Religion from Various
Theoretical Perspectives
Research topics can be studied from
different points of view. Here we see
how the topic religion and family life has
been investigated with different theoretical perspectives and by the use of
various research methods.
was functional in enhancing children’s health, social skills, and overall
The Family Ecology
Hirsch (2008) used naturalistic observation to understand how young, actively
Catholic women in Mexico creatively
interpret their religion’s proscription
against birth control while choosing to
use it. As one “grassroots theologian”
explained, “[E]ven in the bible it says
‘help yourself, so I can help you’; even
the priests tell you that” (pp. 98–99).
Researchers perceived religion as
one component in families’ sociocultural environment in Turkey, a largely
Muslim country. Based on secondary analysis of data from Turks in the
World Values Survey, the researchers
found that highly religious parents in
their sample were more likely to foster
obedience and good manners in their
children and less likely to expect intellectual independence or imagination
(Acevedo, Ellison, and Yilmaz 2015).
The Family Life Course
Development Framework
Pearce (2002) analyzed longitudinal
data from a Detroit survey of white
mothers and children to find that early
childhood religious exposure later influenced childbearing attitudes during
transition to adulthood. Young adults
with Catholic mothers or mothers who
frequently attended religious services
were especially likely to resist the idea
of not having children.
The Structure–Functional
Schottenbauer, Spernak, and Hellstron (2007) found that parents’ use
and modeling of religiously based coping skills, along with family attendance
at religious or spiritual programs,
consequently to greater marital satisfaction (David and Stafford 2015).
Feminist Theory
The Interaction–
Constructionist Perspective
Feminist social historians Carr and Van
Leuven (1996) edited a cross-cultural
anthology whose works examine the
implications of religion for female
family members of various religious
cultures. Overall, the book argues that
women’s oppression originates not in
religion itself but in the exploitation of
religion as a subjugation tool by patriarchal religio-cultural systems.
The Biosocial Perspective
Exchange/Network Theory
Christian Smith (2003) used secondary analysis of the national Survey of
Parents and Youth to find that participation in religious congregations
increases the likelihood that family
members will benefit from sharing a
network that includes parents, their
children, their children’s friends and
teachers, and their children’s friends’
Family Systems Theory
Lambert and Dollahite (2008) conducted qualitative research with fiftyseven religious couples and concluded
that these respondents saw God as a
third partner in an otherwise dyadic
family system—a third system member
whose presence enhanced their marital
commitment. Surveying 342 heterosexually married U.S. couples, David and
Stafford found that one’s having “an
individual relationship with God” was
related to more couple forgiveness and
communication about religion—and
Wright (1994) argued that humans
have evolved as “the moral animal,” a
situation that facilitates our species’ cooperation toward the goal of survival.
Arbel, Rodriguez, and Margolin (2015)
researched the role that the hormone
cortisol plays during family conflict, a
study discussed further in Chapter 11.
Attachment Theory
Reinert (2005) surveyed seventy-five
Catholic seminarians, presenting them
with “Awareness of God” and “Attachment to Mother” scales. He found that
a seminarian’s early childhood attachment to his mother is a key influence
in the degree of his attachment to a
personal God.
Critical Thinking
Think of a family-related topic and
consider how you might study it. What
theoretical perspective would you use
to help frame your research questions?
What research methods and datagathering techniques would you use?
Copyright 2018 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203
Designing a Scientific Study: Some Basic Principles
intergenerational households were mainly reciprocal.
Historical studies of marriage and divorce in the United
States portray a picture of the past that, contrary to
common belief, was not necessarily stable or harmonious (Cott 2000; Hartog 2000). Although family history
is an important area of research, this textbook does not
allow space for us to fully explore it.
Research designs can also be cross-cultural, comparing one or more aspects of family life among different
societies. A study described in Chapter 5, which asked
students in ten different countries whether it’s necessary to be in love with the person you marry, is an example of cross-cultural research (Levine et al. 1995).
Scientists consider many questions when designing
their research: Will the study be cross-sectional or longitudinal? Deductive, inductive, or a combination of the
two? Will the study be mainly quantitative or qualitative?
Will the sample be random and the data generalizable?
Because the goal of all research is to transcend our personal blinders or biases, as was discussed at the beginning of this chapter, scientists must meticulously define
their terms and take care not to overgeneralize. This
section looks briefly at these considerations.
cross–Sectional versus
longitudinal data
When designing a study, researchers must decide whether
to gather cross-sectional or longitudinal data. Crosssectional studies gather data just once, giving us a snapshotlike, one-time view of behaviors or attitudes. Longitudinal
studies provide long–term information as researchers continue to gather data over an extended period of time.
For example, to understand how psychotherapy can
modify attachment insecurity over the life course, researchers designed longitudinal studies that followed
respondents’ attachment styles over thirty years from
childhood into adulthood (Klohnen and Bera 1998).
Other researchers monitored nonresident fathers’ involvement with their children for three years and found
finances and relations with their children’s mothers to
be significant causes for changes over time (Ryan, Kalil,
and Ziol-Guest 2008). A difficulty encountered in longitudinal studies, besides cost, is the frequent loss of
subjects to death, relocation, or loss of interest. Social
change occurring over a long period of time may make
it difficult to ascertain what precisely has influenced family change (Larzelere and Cox 2013). Yet cross-sectional
data (one-time comparison of different groups) cannot
show change in the same individuals over time.
point of view. “Reasoning down” from the abstract to the
concrete, a researcher designs a data-gathering strategy to
test whether the hypothesis can be supported by observed
facts. Researchers who use inductive reasoning observe detailed facts and then induce, or “reason up,” to arrive at
generalizations grounded in the observed data. Inductive studies do not begin with a preconceived hypothesis.
Instead, researchers begin their observations with open
minds about what they’ll see and find. Typically, deductive reasoning is associated with quantitative research and
inductive reasoning with qualitative research.
Quantitative versus Qualitative
In quantitative research, the scientist gathers, analyzes,
and reports data that can be quantified or understood
in numbers. Quantitative research finds numerical incidences in a population—for example, the average size
of a family household or what percent of Americans are
currently cohabitating. Statistical facts and findings, such
as those in Chapter 1’s “Facts About Families” boxes, are
examples of quantitative data. Quantitative research
also uses computer-assisted statistical analysis to test for
relationships between phenomena. For instance, quantitative analysis has found a statistically demonstrated
correlation between being raised by a single parent and
teen pregnancy (Albrecht and Teachman 2003).
When performing qualitative research, the scientist gathers, analyzes, and reports data primarily in words or stories
(Matthews 2012; Sharp et al. 2014). For example, social
scientists interviewed eight mothers in three rural trailer
parks who described their lives in detail (Notter, MacTavish,
and Shamah 2008). In their subsequently published article, the researchers quote the women in their own words:
I pay attention to how my mother raised me and I try to do
it different. I try to teach him [her son] how to take care of
himself. He knows how to do chores and how to cook. I had to
learn all of that on my own. I try to teach him how to state his
opinion. My mother never taught me to do that. . . . (p. 619)
As a second example, sociologist Gina Miranda Samuels
(2009) conducted qualitative research with black adults
who had been raised by white parents. Samuels’s findings are reported in narrative using respondents’ own
words (p. 89):
deductive versus inductive
But I remember there was one girl named Ebony and she
could not BELIEVE I had been adopted by white people.
She was like, “WOW! You were adopted by white people?!
Are they nice to you? Do they treat you well?” And that
was a shock to me because that was the first time I realized that black people might not get treated well by white
people. . . . (Justine, 28)
Deductive reasoning in research begins with a hypothesis
that has been derived (i.e., deduced) from a theoretical
I was in my salon and I didn’t even know what a hot comb
was. That was my giveaway! And he [the stylist] was like,
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Chapter 2
Exploring Relationships and Families
“Were you raised by white people?” And then, he was like,
“OH. I was able to tell that by the way you talked and by
the way you carried yourself.” (Crystal, 24)
A final example of qualitative data comes in the explanation by a young woman who had not wanted to get
pregnant but did:
[The patch] left a burn mark so I remember taking it off
and I was supposed to be starting a different method. . . .
I was going to go with the depo shot . . . but I was like,
“I’m kind of scared to get that” and he just didn’t want to
wear a condom. (Reed et al. 2014, p. 255)
The aim of qualitative research is to gain in-depth
understandings of people’s experiences, as well as the
processes they go through when defining, adapting to,
and making decisions about their situations. Qualitative
research typically employs the interaction–constructionist theoretical perspective described previously.
When designing studies, researchers must also carefully
define their terms: What precisely is being studied, and
how exactly will it be measured (Bickman and Rog 2009)?
defining Terms
Researchers scrupulously define the concepts that they intend to investigate, then report those definitions in their
published studies so that readers know precisely what was
investigated and how. For example, researchers once considered all (heterosexual) cohabitators as fitting one general definition. They found cohabitation before marriage
to be statistically related to divorce later (Dush, Cohan,
and Amato 2003). However, as definitions of cohabitation
were further refined to differentiate serial from one-time
cohabitators, results began to show that cohabitating only
with your future marriage partner was not more likely to
end in divorce (Coontz 2015; Lichter and Qian 2008).
In a second example, researchers at Brigham Young
University looked at the relationship between maintaining a cluttered home and parenting behaviors. The social scientists felt that, although popular media preaches
the negative effects of “home clutter,” whether or how
“home organization and tidiness” affect family functioning have not been well researched (Thornock et al. 2013,
p. 785). The researchers gathered quantitative data from
177 mothers of children between ages 3 and 5. The researchers found that having considerable home clutter was
statistically related to a child’s fussing and frequent crying.
The fussing and crying, in turn, added to the mother’s
tenseness, a situation that negatively affected her parenting. Whether the clutter caused the crying and tenseness
or vice versa cannot be deduced from this study. All we
know is that a relationship was found among home clutter,
young children’s fussiness, and a mother’s tenseness.
How did the researchers define home clutter? They
used four quantitative survey questions or statements that
the parent was asked to answer on a scale from 1 (never)
to 5 (very often): (1) “It is often hard to find things when
you need them in our household.” (2) “We are generally pretty sloppy around the house.” (3) “Family members make sure their rooms are neat.” (4) “Dishes are
usually done immediately after eating.” You may or may
not agree that these four questions capture the concept
of home clutter. In any case, the researchers have told you
exactly how they measured the concept so that you can
decide for yourself what you think of their conclusions.
Samples and generalization
You may have noticed that in the study of women in
trailer parks mentioned previously, the researchers interviewed only eight mothers. We cannot expect the
situations of these few respondents to correspond with
all American women living in trailer parks. For one
thing, all eight mothers were white (Notter, MacTavish,
and Shamah 2008). We cannot possibly conclude from
this research that all women who live in trailer parks
are white. Rather than a nationwide demographic portrayal, the purpose of interviewing these eight women
was to learn about the experiences and processes that
mothers can go through when residing in trailer parks.
To gather data that can be generalized (applied to a
population of people other than those directly questioned), a researcher must draw a sample that accurately
reflects or represents that population in important
characteristics such as age, race, gender, and marital status. Results from a survey in which all respondents are
college students, for example, cannot be interpreted as
representative of Americans in general.
Gallup polls are examples of research that uses random samples that reflect the national adult population.
When a Gallup poll reports that most Americans would
be unwilling to forgive an unfaithful spouse, we know
that the findings from their sample can be generalized
to the whole national population with only a small probability of error (Jones 2008). To draw a random sample
of a population, everyone in that population must have
an equal chance to be selected. The best way to accomplish this is to have a list of every individual in the population and then randomly choose from the list (see Babbie
2014). A national random sample of approximately 1,500
people may validly represent the U.S. population.
Sometimes there are no complete lists of members
of a population. For instance, researchers were interested in the ramifications of living with a compulsive
hoarder (one who continuously acquires yet fails to discard large numbers of possessions). They located 665
respondents who reported having a family member or
friend with hoarding behaviors (Tolin et al. 2008). How
did they accomplish this? The researchers had made
several national media appearances about hoarding. As
a result, more than 8,000 people had contacted them
for guidance or information. Drawing from this group,
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Designing a Scientific Study: Some Basic Principles
Rayes/Riser/Getty Images
the researchers e-mailed potential participants, inviting them to take part
in the study and asking them to forward the invitation to others in similar
Ultimately, these researchers found
that living with the clutter associated
with hoarding often causes depression and isolation, partly because one
is embarrassed to invite friends home.
Although the findings were based on a
fairly large sample, they cannot be generalized to all people who live with a
compulsive hoarder because the sample
was not random: Not everyone who lives
with a compulsive hoarder had the same
chance of being chosen for the study. It
is reasonable to argue that those who
contacted the researchers for guidance
A research team plans data collection and analysis for a survey of how
or information were more distraught
families spend their time together.
than those who didn’t. As a result, the
findings may show greater difficulty in
telephone. Gallup polls use telephone surveys. Alternaliving with a compulsive hoarder than is generally experitively, a researcher may distribute paper-and-pencil or
enced by all those in this population. Nevertheless, this is
Web-based questionnaires that respondents complete
valuable research inasmuch as it lends insight into what
by themselves. Increasingly viewed as comparable in
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