I have chosen the family section as my area of focus in this assignment. I choose the family because this is something that is dear to me and is the reason I am who I am. The phrase family has different definitions. A commonly used definition is that of the Census Bureau, that defines the family as a householder with one or more other persons living in the same household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (Risman, 2004). This definition includes many family types commonly regarded as families including traditional families where the breadwinner is the husband (father), homemaker is the wife and their children, remarried families, dual-earner families, and single parent families.
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Another definition is that a family refers to two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption (Yancey, 2004). This definition is different from the first one in that it broadens the scope by counting as family people who do not only live together but are related biologically or through legal contracts.
I can directly relate to the family institutions and have a lot to say about mine. We all come from a family, and perhaps our families have assisted us in viewing the world differently. The family is one of the most important intuitions in our society. The family’s links, however, vary from one nation to another. I come from an African-American family. My family is quite small, I have two siblings and both parents, in total we were five household members. I am the middle child in the family with an older sister and brother. My mother quit her job as a nurse to take care of the three of us. We, therefore, grew up with her around as often as she could. My father, on the other hand, was the sole provider of the family, all the responsibilities for food, shelter and other necessities we needed were catered by him. He worked as a steel mill worker. My family was very humble we had no social status, authority or prestige. After we were old enough, my mother returned to her job as a nurse. My family was so much tradition, with my father as the head of the house and my mother as his helper.
Each family member in my family played their roles depending on their gender. The male or boys were brought up with social principles of nurturing them to be the providers. They performed much harder tasks such as working to bring food to the family. The boys most of the time accompanied the fathers in their places of work. It was mentorship relationship. The girls, on the other hand, were brought up as home makers. We were to perform household chores such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of children and doing laundry. I think this social norm is what prompted my mother to stop working and bring us up. However, the new modernity’s have brought numerous changes to these social family values. Modernity like education, gender equality and technology has changed the perspective of the man being the primary provider in the family. I remember these changes because as a child my mother had to go back to work when we were old (Chin, 2004).
My family was very humble, and we considered ourselves belonging to the lowest class of social, economic status. We had no influence in the community we lived in, and we had no power or control important decisions. Growing up, we were brought up as job seekers. My parents always asked us to work hard in school, so as to get better jobs. With this in mind I grew up as a job seeker, my main aim of going to school was influenced by a better paying job.
Growing up I faced some challenges. The challenges varied from economic and financial difficulties because of our social status, gender discrimination, and racial discrimination. The social structure incorporates different stratification and growing as an African-American had its share if challenges. Discrimination was ripe and influenced most of my experiences in terms of centers of education to attend, kinds of jobs and professions to pursue and what region to reside that was dominantly African- American citizens living there. How we were viewed as blacks indeed shaped my life.
Given the social class my family belonged to, that is, the lower class that worked for others in their firms developed my life as a job seeker and not as an entrepreneur. We didn’t control power neither did we have authority to influence decisions. This shaped me in such a way that I went to school to be employed in others firms and companies.
The family is coupled with some societal forces. Along with race, socio-economic class, another societal force is gender. Gender refers to a person’s perspective to signify masculinity and feminine. Gender defines the social behavior and patterns of individuals. Gender is one force that stratifies the family. Gender describes the roles played by individuals in the family. It involves two interrelated components built upon the acceptance or rejection of societal norms concerning the male and female.
The female gender is characterized by some things. Growing up women was expected to be submissive to their husbands. They were passive, receptive, sensitive, dependent and emotional. A woman was expected to respect all the suggestions and opinions of the husband. Also, the women were mostly dependent on men since the men were the primary breadwinners of the family. For instance, my mother had to quit her job and to depend solely on my father for all the financial support of the family. The women are also more sensitive than the men. Women are the caregivers and mostly left behind to take care of the children. It is for this reason that women are more sensitive and emotional because of their attachment to children.
Gender is dynamic, and men and women are changing their roles. With the changing education and new technology, women’s roles are no longer towards house chores. However, women still maintain some values by being emotional and sensitive. This is directly related with my family because after my siblings, and I were old enough my mother went back to her nursing job. She played a role in contributing to the financial needs of the family. Even with this she remained sensitive and cared for our emotional needs.
Gender roles have transformed, and men are more appreciative of the opinion of the women in a household. I respect my father because he listened to my mothers’ suggestions and supported her in her career. Sometimes when my mother had to work odd ours into the night the night my father had no problem in making us dinner and helping us with our homework. The current labor force in the United States shows that there is a changing role in the work women do. The number of working women has tremendously increased to over 59% of the women population working. Although, women are still working in less prestigious jobs and lower paying occupations, the number of women working in the prestigious positions both in political and business worlds has increased. The contribution of women in the labor force varies from marital status and social class. Various sociological research indicate that women are not paid the same wages as men on similar work. There still exist inequality between men and women.
The race is another social force that influences the family structure. I come from an African- American family and my neighborhood is full of people with a similar neighbourhood. My parents did not have highly paying jobs. The leadership in my neighbourhood was most of the time reserved for the white people. My siblings and I were brought up as hardworkers and always taught to work hard so as to seek better employment. My parents used to tell us stories of how they struggled to get employment and the racial discrimination that existed before. They said that African- Americans used to have different schools and social places from the white people.
Social class is the grouping of people into a set of hierarchical social programs. The main social classes are the middle, lower and upper classes. I come from the lower class. The social class of an individual is essential in understanding the economic, educational status of a person. Karl Max recognizes that social class is determined by one’s earnings. Social class influences the people one relate to, the kind of leadership style the person portrays and the social places they visit. For instance, most of the people we related to were from the lower class as we were. The schools we went to were also that where the lower class went.
Family is a very important component within the social structure. Family influences behavior and the roles we play in the society. Being brought up in an African-American family the gender roles were strictly followed and adhered. The women were tasked with doing house chores, taking care of children, and being dependent on women. As time went by, and I got older, I begun to realized the changes. Some of them include, women were no longer dependent on men and played a role in contributing to the financial needs of the family. As an African-American I was faced with some challenges, this included among many, gender inequality, economic difficulties, and racial discrimination.
With education, however, I have learnt to deal with this challenges. In my family men have been dominant since time memorial. I think this prevalence was because men were the primary providers in the family. The women as much as the children were to obey the men or risk being considered to have committed heinous crimes “theoretically punishable by death”. Therefore, no connection or warmth existed between the parents and the child. This is evident by how the youngsters were left to the care of servants or older siblings ( Coontz, 2006).
Chin, J. L. (2004). The psychology of prejudice and discrimination. Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers.
Coontz, S (2006). The Way Weren’t: The Myth and Reality of the ‘Traditional’ Family”. Sociology. Stephen Beach and Linda L. Lindsey. Pearson: Prentice Hall.
Yancey, P (2004). Gender as Social Institution. Department of Sociology, Florida State University.
Risman, B (2004). Gender as a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism. North Carolina State University.
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