Week 5 – Starting Points Ch. 11

Estimated Reading Time 00:16:36

Starting Points

Families and Socialization

Families teach children rules, and children grow up and form families to pass those rules on. It’s a circle! Today there are a lot of different types of families. But which type is the best? Are you ready to make babies? And be a parent?

Family is fluid and malleable, but also basic and necessary. It’s the primary unit (quantum) of society. Today norms about what constitutes a “family” are changing, and this causes confusion. e.g. polygamy; divorce.

Though families have changed and diversified, they retain one characteristic: families are agents of socialization. Our parents teach us how to behave — and our first years are most formative. e.g. We need to learn to share! And to realize that our desires can’t be satisfied all the time. And to learn to care for others. etc.



Family is the central institution in society. It’s a microcosm for society, with each family member contributing to a unified whole. Kind of like what an H2O molecule is to water. Or a cell is to an organ. Or a byte is to digital data.
So, changes in family mirror changes in society.

In modern industrial societies, family life is complicated. Socialization is the manufacture of new citizens, and it’s complex. Talcott Parsons and Robert Bales (1955) view family’s division of labour as its key to success.
i.e. Husband keeps food on the table, make decisions (instrumental)
Wife nurtures and is the emotional centre (expressive)
Through this specialization, families are effective at satisfying physical and emotional needs of its members, and socializing children. Of course that was the 50s and the times they are a-changin’ so it doesn’t apply as much now.

Are some family forms “natural” or “inevitable”? Psychiatrists Ronald Immerman and Wade Mackey (1999) say yes. They argue that almost all marriage systems in the world support monogamy. Monogamy is favourable because it limits STDs, out-of-wedlock births, infant morbidity, etc. So monogamous societies tend to function better than communities that do not maintain pair bonding. So monogamy is functional.

Linda Waite (2000) argues cohabitation is inferior to traditional (legal) marriage. (Guess she doesn’t want to Waite for a proposal any longer! Ha ha!) Cohabitation fails to provide the economic and psychological benefits, such as access to extended families, and provides less support in crisis. So she thinks that married monogamy contribute to the survival of society.

Critical Theories

Critical theories don’t look for no universal truths about family life, or support certain forms of families neither. Rather, they take a historical approach and look at changes in family life.

With industrialization, families went from self-sustaining (farmers) to consumption units (dual-income households that purchase goods and services). They become dependent on external sources of income.
Implication? Men had to sell their labour while women gained exclusive control over (were relegated to) the household — sometimes called social reproduction.

But women took care of the household without $$$$! This specialization only increases gender inequality, under conditions of exploitive capitalism.
Feminists: just as workers depend on capitalists, wives depend on husbands. Such dependence easily turns into subordination!

Patriarchal tendencies were old and pre-industrial, but industrialization affirmed them. These tendencies are especially strong in traditional communities, industrial or pre-industrial.
But some women in traditional communities are turning feminist too. e.g. evangelical feminists say evangelism is “a strategic form of women collective action”. But single mothers, working mothers, bisexuals, or lesbians are excluded.

Symbolic Interactionism

Focus on micro level. Ways members of a family interact and resolve conflicts. Social constructionists focus on “family values” by right-wing religious leaders + politicians. By appealing to people’s concern for their family, they channel common anxieties into hostility against single mothers, LGBTQ, etc. Republicans. Use traditional ideologies to hurt vulnerable families instead of supporting them. Produces dangerous citizens of tomorrow due to poor socialization.


Two main views: functionalist vs. symbolic interactionist.

Socialization occurs top down: children internalize social norm and conform. Talcott Parsons described this in Family, Socialization, and Interaction Process (1955). Parsons says top-down learning is necessary for society, because it creates conformity and consensus. Ideal society characterized by social integration, with homogenized values, etc (∫ ds = const).

Criticism: People may not be completely shaped by norms and expectations. Dennis Wrong (1961) says Parsons is Wrong. Parsons’s view may be “over-socialized”. Feminists also don’t like this view — it justifies the socialization differences between man and women, and by extension, differences in socioeconomic statuses. Why aren’t there more women in engineering?
Adomo et al (1950) say that top-down socialization may be effective at homogenization, but it also produces anger, prejudice, racism, homophobia, etc.
Also what about socialization from bottom up? (i.e. children teaching themselves and each other?)

Symbolic Interactionists:
Most accepted view of socialization, by Charles H. Cooley and George Herbert Mead. Notes that people participate in their own socialization. How does a child develop its sense of self, and how does family help/hinder this development?

Parents try to train child top-down, with language, punishment, etc. But child also evaluates itself according to others — looking-glass self by Cooley. The reaction of others is important. But how important? Depends on our self-awareness and importance we attach to various reference groups.

Mead believed self-concept was made up of the I and the me. The I is our spontaneous, creative, unique self; the me is the self we develop for social purposes. (We put on a mask sometimes.) e.g. you may sing songs in your shower but not on subway, for example.
(Mead may be right, but a shower also has much better acoustics than what you can find on TTC.)

Mead: playground is one key public setting. Children has opportunity to practice socially learned roles and expectations. Through play and interaction children develop concept of generalized other — notion of attitudes and expectations of society at large. The reason you don’t strip in public is probably due to this generalized other. This helps us act in a socially approved manner.

Classic Studies: World Revolution and Family Patterns

William Goode is a Goode sociologist and is Goode at tracing family patterns. Goode looked at relationship between changing family patterns and industrialization.

Family patterns everywhere are moving towards nuclear family model. (Though rate of change is not uniformly distributed, ∇(∂F/∂t)≠0) Families are getting small — a self-sustaining unit of production and consumption. Individual family members have more freedom; parental authority has declined; husband’s control over wives dwindled; dowries disappearing everywhere.

Industrialization and urbanization encourage smaller, more flexible family units, to meet industrial changes. e.g. they can migrate more easily. But of course there are still “barriers” such as housework or child care. Sometimes nuclear families emerge before industrialization; sometimes extended families persist after industrialization.

Goode’s work is Goode (significant) because it attempts to ambitiously define laws of family change under industrialism and because of its global scale. Goode predicted that industrial growth and education would alter women’s roles.

Some stats: (In 2006)
-As Goode “might have” predicted (the heck is this supposed to mean?) Canada’s families are increasingly diverse: nuclear families + cohabiting + single-parent + … In 2006 married couple accounted for 69 percent of all census families — decreased from 83% two decades ago.
(69 should be an easy number to remember right?)
-In 2006 number of unmarried Canadians aged 15+ outnumbered number of legally married couple. 52% (now) vs. 39% (before).
-Same-sex couples represent 0.6% of all couples in Canada. 16.5% of these were married. More men couples than women couples. Half of these live in MTV (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver).
-Single-parent families increased from 11% to 16%.
-Cohabitation from 6% to 15%.

The Idea of “Family”

Is the family in trouble? Are people turning away from responsibilities of marriage and parenthood? Public polls still show that family is important to Canadians. In fact most still believe in a nuclear family ideal. Why? Let’s look at functionalism.

Functionalists consider family to be a social institution with one preferred structure that meets the most societal demands. They seemingly ignore the fact that a variety of family forms can satisfy need for love, attachment, and understanding among members. So nontraditional families — cohabiting, non-nuclear, etc. — are important too. e.g. modified extended family. Relatives don’t share a household but live close to each other.

Census family is a broader definition of family. But the textbook says it’s still not broad enough. Because
1) many units that meet structural definition do not behave like ideal families and
2) many units that behave like ideal families do not meet structural definition.
(Form or function?)

So let’s talk about family processes instead of forms:

  • Dependency and intimacy: long term commitment & attachment to each other and to family as a social unit.
  • Sexuality: long term exclusive sexual relationship. Do it with your spouse only!
  • Protection: guard each other against all kinds of dangers. e.g. keep kids away from drugs. Take a bullet for your wife.
  • Power: the more powerful members protect the less powerful ones. May contribute to patriarchy though. (So if you protect your girlfriend/wife don’t rub it all in her face; you are simply following through the sacred duty of a man.)
  • Violence: families are also often marked by violence. Usually it’s when a male assaults a female. Not ideal but sadly true.


Socialization. One universal feature of family life. Through childhood and adolescence people experience a very intense primary socialization. Then they go on to live their lives and undergo secondary socialization.

Primary socialization usually takes place within the family context. Helps form personality and charts course of personal development. Child learns social skills. Parent are important because they are the first people a child interacts socially with. They also control child’s learning environment.

Primary socialization is interesting to both macro- and microsociologists.
Macro: primary socialization integrates people into society, teaching them to fulfill societal roles. Humans are tabula rasa. Through this teaching and imprinting, society is able to reproduce itself into the future. But this also perpetuates inequality.
Micro: study how socialization forms people’s concept of self.

Secondary socialization is less fundamental. Involves learning specific roles, norms, attitudes, beliefs, etc. e.g. We know how to be a parent only when we become one. Occurs outside of family and is based on knowledge accumulated in primary socialization. When we prepare to enter a role, we engage in anticipatory socialization. e.g. in med school, you also learn about how to behave as a doctor socially.
e.g. frosh week; employee orientation; prenatal parenting, etc.
Some other times though, we don’t have a chance for anticipatory socialization if we get fired. Then we’d need to improvise.
(Pre-death orientation would be nice.)

Sometimes we want to become a “new person” through resocialization.
e.g. job-training; grief counselling; soul-searching.
Erving Goffman describes total institutions to resocialize their clients drastically through surveillance and punishment.
e.g. asylum, monastery, boot camp, etc.

Classic Studies: The Authoritarian Personality

Where do violence and prejudice come from? Social isolation — according to Theodor Adorno, who Adorno’ed himself with honour after his work is published in 1950. Socio-psychological model that centres on individual personality traits and childhood socialization experiences.
Findings: faulty socialization -> overt racism, etc.
Adorno measured “authoritarianism” using an “F-scale”. F for fun! No not really. F for fascism. The antithesis of fun.

Adorno identified nine characteristics of the authoritarian personality using his F-scale:

  1. Conventionalism: rigid adherence to conventional middle-class values;
  2. Authoritarian submission: submissive, uncritical attitude to idealized moral authorities in group;
  3. Authoritarian aggression: tendency to be on lookout for and condemn people who violate conventional values;
  4. Anti-intraception: objection to tenderness or the imaginative;
  5. Superstition and stereotyping: (self-explanatory);
  6. Power and “toughness”: preoccupation with dominance; exaggerated assertion of strength;
  7. Destructiveness and cynicism: generalized hostility; vilification of the human;
  8. Projectivity: belief in wild and dangerous things going on in the world; projection of outward unconscious emotional impulses;
  9. Preoccupation with sexual goings-on: exaggerates penis size. (Okay not exactly but close. Exaggerates sexual occurrences and practices.)

Summarize: 1) Prejudice is a generalized tendency — people who hate Jews also tend to hate other minorities. 2) Prejudice is linked to political and social conservatism — opposing social welfare, etc. 3) Prejudice is related to a variety of personal beliefs (superstition, fatalism, etc.) and to anti-introspection.

A bully grows up in a family where people do not inspect or reveal their feelings. A bully may glorify his parents to hide his insecurities. A non-bully is more accustomed to expressing disagreements — starting with arguing with his parents, based on secure and warm relationships.
A bully attributes his insecurities to others through a Freudian process, projection.

Aside: Freudian theory of repression. People who are forced by cruel (or unfeeling) parents to hide their fears and desires express them in veiled ways, such as in dreams, fantasies, and groundless anxieties.

Criticism: methodological flaws and researcher bias. Tamotsu Shibutani notes that study is more psychological than sociological.

Generally, families which are more cohesive and adaptable tends to deal with social stresses better.

Gender Socialization

Sociologists view the development of socially recognizable gender differences as a main social phenomenon. Though sometimes parents reinforce gender socialization (“Boys don’t cry.”), most of the time it’s unintended. e.g. Toy packaging, TV ads, etc.

Racial and Ethnic Socialization

This includes all of the ways parents shape their children’s learning and understanding of race and race relationships.

Class Socialization

Parents communicate about their life experiences and feelings about their place in society. Children learn the social hierarchy. This socialization affects the children’s future goals and aspirations.
e.g. independent thinking and hard work vs. luck and charm?

Children who are taught that hard work is irrelevant, school is a waste of time, and all that counts is who you know, not what you know are less likely to succeed. As Thorstein Veblen notes: the poorest and the richest members of society are similar — neither is part of the contest for success.

Values like ambition, responsibility, and independence are transformative. They are means by which (middle-class) families prepare their children for adulthood. Middle-class prefers cultivation, with enrichment lessons. The poor and the rich prefer natural growth.

But of course, your values may change significantly during adolescence.


Hochschild says that ally the ways humans feel and express emotions are largely social. We are taught what to feel by culture. We follow “feeling rules” as much as other rules of behaviour. We try to be happy at a party or sad at a funeral, and wonder if we are normal if we can’t summon the appropriate feelings.

I told her Mother had died. She wanted to know how long ago, so I said, “Yesterday.” She gave a little start but didn’t say anything. I felt like telling her it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself because I remembered that I’d already said that to my boss. It didn’t mean anything. Besides, you always feel a little guilty.

– A. Camus, L’Étranger

Theory of “emotional labour” — work one must do to develop the “right” emotions for themselves. Emotions are commodified. e.g. Sales; flight attendants in The Managed Heart (1983).
Also focuses on division of emotional and physical work in modern families (with a working wife) in The Second Shift (1989).
Also interviewed Fortune 500 people to see how their work lives compare with their family lives in The Time Bind (1997). Though most CEOs say they value family, for many people the workplace culture provides a better sense of community, appreciation, support, and competence than home.

Melissa Milkie et al. (2009) used Hochsschild’s concept of the “second shift” to study employment and domestic workloads of mothers with full-time jobs whose partners also worked full-time. Total workload of these women — “focal mothers” — exceeds their partner by 10 days a year. They are slightly more pressured, though not by much.

Sayer et al (2009) did a similar study, found little difference. Uhde (2009) looked at social inequality with caregivers. Uhde sees a need to recognize and ensure justice for the many immigrant women caregivers.
Mitsuhashi (2008) studied emotional burnout in Japanese care workers, finds that burnout most likely to happen when workers are unable to do emotional work, rather than when they actually do it.
Hansen and Andersen (2008) explore what influences a person’s decision to work when sick. Sickness presence vs. sickness absence. They found that supervisors, people working long hours, and people in small convivial companies are prone to sickness presence (duh).
Brook (2009) takes Hothschild’s position further, saying commodification of emotions leads to exploitation.
Ozkaplan (2009) says the study of care labour — especially emotional labour — can be considered a sociology of women’s work.
Hesmondhalgh and Baker (2008) researches how television program research team deals with stress and handles emotions.
Blakely (2008) looks at emotional aspects of a different kind of work — e.g. wedding planning.

A lot of buzz on Hochschild. She belongs to the fusion approach!

New Insights

Modern Family
Mann and Barnard (2002) notes debate about modern families, especially family stability. One side says diversity is a threat. One side says oh no it’s fine. Mann and Barnard say that too many texts present little or no coverage about this diversity and how it will change us.

Hey, I Spent My Month’s Salary on That Ring
Boney (2003) surveys major studies in divorce and identifies a male-focused bias in studies that negatively portray divorced single parents. Postmodern studies tend to present the positive side of divorce. In 2002 Boney notes that negative view of single parenthood, based upon traditional values, stresses single mothers, making them Boney. 😦 But a postmodernist therapy may help!

Employee Retention
Tambe (2006) looked at brothels as boundaries between families and non-families. Feminist theory often separates prostitution and family life. But In 1920s Bombay many women were actually encouraged by their families to join the sex trade. There was a hierarchy. In effect brothels functioned as real homes for these girls and young women.

Don’t Nuke Us
Pedraza Gomez (2007) finds the modern Western notion of childhood does not suit the current Third World. Education took European children out of work force but not indigenous children or slaves. So non-Western families don’t follow nuclear family model.

You Raised Me Up
Keller and Demuth (2006) try to disentangle views about “independence” as a value of childhood socialization. Because everyone teaches it.
Germans breastfeed for emotional closeness. Americans breastfeed for health.

What If I Told You We Don’t Play Starcraft All Day?
Lee (2005) notes that people in South Korea, who didn’t know what to do with their free time, are learning Western leisure activities.

Don’t Grow Complacent
Kanduc (2004) views leisure consumerism as a type of social control that perpetuates exploitation. The unspoken goal of the ruling class is to produce people who are productive but also docile. People believe that happiness can be found in consumerism but this belief is an opiate.

New Car, Caviar, Four Star Daydream
Baldauf (2002) asks why do young people like to shop? To satisfy needs for sociability, distinction, and individuality. Shopping is viewed as a “sociology of manipulation”. Baldauf proposes that shopping provides “shopperedutainment” — a way of healing the wounds of capitalism by holding out the glimmers of freedom, individuality, and authenticity. People don’t define themselves by work anymore but instead by the clothes they wear.

Ticking Away the Moments That Make Up a Dull Day
North-Jones (2009) studied how 10 families lead their daily lives (way to make the study scientific with such a small sample size…). People say they were rushed. People say they want their children to respect themselves and others, have wisdom, have knowledge of the world, etc. People say they feel they don’t have enough time.

Creative Commons License
SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s