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On Family Structures and Stepfamilies Becker - “A Treatise on the Family” Cherlin & Furstenberg – “Stepfamilies in the US” Phillips – “Stepfamilies from.

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Presentation on theme: "On Family Structures and Stepfamilies Becker - “A Treatise on the Family” Cherlin & Furstenberg – “Stepfamilies in the US” Phillips – “Stepfamilies from."— Presentation transcript:

1 On Family Structures and Stepfamilies Becker - “A Treatise on the Family” Cherlin & Furstenberg – “Stepfamilies in the US” Phillips – “Stepfamilies from a Historical Perspective" Presented by: Andrew Carvajal

2 “A Treatise on the Family”  Economic approach to the long-term evolution of the family and its recent changes  Use of a rational choice model of cost-benefit analysis in explaining the organizations of families in a fashion that satisfy selfish needs GARY BECKER

3 Traditional Modern Families vs.

4 Traditional Societies Have to cope with a problem of uncertainty and limited information – High death rates and unpredictable availability of resources Have to cope with a problem of uncertainty and limited information – High death rates and unpredictable availability of resources In lieu of a formal method of insurance against uncertainty they generate a large kin in order to gain protection, share good fortunes with others and rely on relatives for assistance when in trouble In lieu of a formal method of insurance against uncertainty they generate a large kin in order to gain protection, share good fortunes with others and rely on relatives for assistance when in trouble The kin ensures cooperation and collective action by helping monitor its members and punish defectors who abuse it, free ride or act against the well being of its members - Self-interested altruism The kin ensures cooperation and collective action by helping monitor its members and punish defectors who abuse it, free ride or act against the well being of its members - Self-interested altruism

5 Traditional Societies cont’d Elders are esteemed for their knowledge, and their lifestyles are replicated by future generations for the family to continue being self-sufficient Elders are esteemed for their knowledge, and their lifestyles are replicated by future generations for the family to continue being self-sufficient Reputation of the family is important to the self-interest of its members and marriages ensure that there is no mixing with dishonourable names - Large influence of elders in this Reputation of the family is important to the self-interest of its members and marriages ensure that there is no mixing with dishonourable names - Large influence of elders in this Multiple marriages between two families are common as well as inter-marriages, in order to reduce the risk of bad affiliation Multiple marriages between two families are common as well as inter-marriages, in order to reduce the risk of bad affiliation Divorces are discourage due to bad reputation, and as families benefit from the union of two individuals Divorces are discourage due to bad reputation, and as families benefit from the union of two individuals Strong Restrictions on privacy and free choice. Limited opportunities to transcend family background Strong Restrictions on privacy and free choice. Limited opportunities to transcend family background

6 Modern Societies Due to a market insurance, there is less reliance on kin Due to a market insurance, there is less reliance on kin The family is less interested in the lives of its members as individuals now gain protection elsewhere, and people who endanger the well- being of other individuals are now punished through formalized legal measures The family is less interested in the lives of its members as individuals now gain protection elsewhere, and people who endanger the well- being of other individuals are now punished through formalized legal measures Monitoring is also harder given that family members are scattered around to obtain jobs in the new economy – Families no longer self- sufficient Monitoring is also harder given that family members are scattered around to obtain jobs in the new economy – Families no longer self- sufficient Reputation provided before by the family name, is now obtained through educational and other kinds of institutions. Reputation provided before by the family name, is now obtained through educational and other kinds of institutions. Marriage is less of a family matter and more related to “love”. Divorces are now more common. Marriage is less of a family matter and more related to “love”. Divorces are now more common.

7 Modern Societies cont’d Less respect for elders, their traditions, occupations and way of life. The young rely less on this knowledge as they face a different economic milieu Less respect for elders, their traditions, occupations and way of life. The young rely less on this knowledge as they face a different economic milieu Families are smaller as there is more certainty about the survival of a given offspring Families are smaller as there is more certainty about the survival of a given offspring Less closeness with distant relatives, as welfare rests on closer ones. Quality rather than quantity of children in emphasized Less closeness with distant relatives, as welfare rests on closer ones. Quality rather than quantity of children in emphasized Altruistic behaviour found almost exclusively in parent- children relations, as some sort of investment by the parents looking to receive a similar care in the future Altruistic behaviour found almost exclusively in parent- children relations, as some sort of investment by the parents looking to receive a similar care in the future

8 Traditional Modern Self-sufficient community Reliance on family and distant relatives for subsistence and protection Imitation of the elder’s way of life Close monitoring of everyone’s activities Everyone lives near each other Closed marriages Lone-parent family Independent women – Head of the household Mere reliance in close relatives for subsistence and emotional support

9 Any similarities between these distinctions and those highlighted by David S. Reher between Northern and Southern European families? Do Mediterranean families retain some of this traditional elements examined by Gary Becker?

10 The Last Half of the 20 th Century Post-WWII there has been a sharp fall in fertility rates, an increase in divorces and the numbers unmarried couples, higher participation of women in the labour force and more and more household headed by single mothers – Why is this so? Post-WWII there has been a sharp fall in fertility rates, an increase in divorces and the numbers unmarried couples, higher participation of women in the labour force and more and more household headed by single mothers – Why is this so? Becker, once again, answers this question through an economic approach based on rational choice Becker, once again, answers this question through an economic approach based on rational choice

11 The Last Half of the 20 th Century The major force driving the changes in the past five decades has not been the “pill” and the contraceptive revolution Nor the women’s movement in itself Instead, it has been the the growth in the earning power of women, increasing the opportunity cost from staying at home doing non-market activities, as well as the relative cost of having and raising children

12 The Last Half of the 20 th Century It became more rational for women to spend less time rearing children at home and enter the labour force instead The gain from marriage is also reduced, as women can become more independent due to this rise in earnings, while divorce seems less unattractive as an option than before Higher divorce rates themselves can also bring fertility rates down and encourage women participation in the labour force, as they foresee marriages to be shorter and less stable than before The growth of the welfare state has also reinforced this family paradigm, as a system of generalized protection that privileges being single or divorced, making marriage seem less of a rational and necessary option to undergo than before

13 The Last Half of the 20 th Century These changes weaken the strong ties that existed between parents and children in traditional family settings, due to less of a mutual dependence These changes weaken the strong ties that existed between parents and children in traditional family settings, due to less of a mutual dependence Selfish children are less motivated to be as respectful, loving and dedicated to their parents, as they receive protection from other sources, and parents will less likely consider the interest of their children in their lives, as they will contribute less to their support once they retire Selfish children are less motivated to be as respectful, loving and dedicated to their parents, as they receive protection from other sources, and parents will less likely consider the interest of their children in their lives, as they will contribute less to their support once they retire

14 The 21 st Century and Beyond The momentum of the rapid change that began in the 1950s has led fertility to keep declining, divorces to keep increasing and marriages to continue decreasing even after the economic downturn of the 1970s The momentum of the rapid change that began in the 1950s has led fertility to keep declining, divorces to keep increasing and marriages to continue decreasing even after the economic downturn of the 1970s However, if an economic depression were to continue, and the welfare state were to contract, this might lead to another change in these newer forms of family structure and maybe a reversal towards past models of larger and more protective families However, if an economic depression were to continue, and the welfare state were to contract, this might lead to another change in these newer forms of family structure and maybe a reversal towards past models of larger and more protective families Q: Could this be the case? Q: Could this be the case? Has economics and cost-benefit analysis been the sole or main factor driving such a change in the family structure for the last fifty years? Has economics and cost-benefit analysis been the sole or main factor driving such a change in the family structure for the last fifty years?

15 Divorce Remarriages & Stepfamilies

16 Roderick Phillips: Stepfamilies from a Historical Perspective Looks at some historical examples of stepfamilies in Europe from over 5 centuries ago Looks at some historical examples of stepfamilies in Europe from over 5 centuries ago Is it possible to draw any similarities between stepfamilies from the past and the present day? Is it possible to draw any similarities between stepfamilies from the past and the present day?

17 Stepfamilies in the Past Before the 19th century, the frequency of stepfamilies depended upon variables such as marital fertility, mortality and the likelihood that a widow or widower would remarry (nuptiality) Before the 19th century, the frequency of stepfamilies depended upon variables such as marital fertility, mortality and the likelihood that a widow or widower would remarry (nuptiality) Circumstances that favoured these conditions increased the incidence of stepfamilies Circumstances that favoured these conditions increased the incidence of stepfamilies There were also strong social factors influencing the need for people to remarry, such as the necessity of men and women in pre and post-industrial times to live as a couple due to the interdependence and reciprocity necessary in the operation of the household economy There were also strong social factors influencing the need for people to remarry, such as the necessity of men and women in pre and post-industrial times to live as a couple due to the interdependence and reciprocity necessary in the operation of the household economy The death of a spouse or the presence of a child in a widower’s life, made it necessary for many to remarry in order to survive under the socioeconomic order and division of labour by sexes that existed at the time The death of a spouse or the presence of a child in a widower’s life, made it necessary for many to remarry in order to survive under the socioeconomic order and division of labour by sexes that existed at the time

18 Stepfamilies in the Past Stepfamilies and remarrying was actually quite common, though as compared to today, most of these families arrangements were not so correlated with a high rate of divorce Stepfamilies and remarrying was actually quite common, though as compared to today, most of these families arrangements were not so correlated with a high rate of divorce Needless to say, that not all remarriages were the result of death. Divorces had started becoming legal in most Protestant Europe in the 16th century, but remained largely unpopular until the last seventy years and usually involved couples with no children Needless to say, that not all remarriages were the result of death. Divorces had started becoming legal in most Protestant Europe in the 16th century, but remained largely unpopular until the last seventy years and usually involved couples with no children

19 Stepfamilies: a Common History? No useful generalization about the incidence of stepfamilies in the past No useful generalization about the incidence of stepfamilies in the past Stepparents replaced more than added to an existing family Stepparents replaced more than added to an existing family Despite the need for stepfamilies, their reputation was still very negative and characterized with conflict Despite the need for stepfamilies, their reputation was still very negative and characterized with conflict Stepmothers associated with being cruel and wicked Stepmothers associated with being cruel and wicked

20 Stepfamilies: a Common History? However, not all other methods of adding children into families by means other than procreation, were as conflictive and negatively perceived However, not all other methods of adding children into families by means other than procreation, were as conflictive and negatively perceived Adoption, for example, did not carry such a negative stigma Adoption, for example, did not carry such a negative stigma Q: Do stepfamilies continue to have such negative connotations? Q: Do stepfamilies continue to have such negative connotations? Do they continue to cause conflict amongst individuals introduced to a new household either through marriage of cohabitation? Do they continue to cause conflict amongst individuals introduced to a new household either through marriage of cohabitation?

21 Stepfamilies in the United States: A Reconsideration US: High rates of divorce and remarriages when compared to other developed nations US: High rates of divorce and remarriages when compared to other developed nations Before the 1960s divorce and remarriage rates rose and fell in a parallel fashion. Since then, remarriage has fallen even though divorce has increased Before the 1960s divorce and remarriage rates rose and fell in a parallel fashion. Since then, remarriage has fallen even though divorce has increased Propensity to remarry varies among age, ethnic and income groups. It may reflect both the desire and opportunity to find a new partner Propensity to remarry varies among age, ethnic and income groups. It may reflect both the desire and opportunity to find a new partner Cohabitation amongst those formerly married has increased; compensating for the decrease in remarriage. This complicates the process of tracking down and investigating stepfamilies that form outside a remarriage context Cohabitation amongst those formerly married has increased; compensating for the decrease in remarriage. This complicates the process of tracking down and investigating stepfamilies that form outside a remarriage context Andrew J. Cherlin Frank. F. Furstenberg, Jr. Some Demographic Trends

22 New Forms of Kinship and Family Organization Divorce splits the conjugal family into two households, while remarriage can create a multitude of ties across households Furstenberg’s “new extended family”

23 New Forms of Kinship and Family Organization How to make sense of all of this? How to make sense of all of this? A method if to define family, within the context of stepfamilies, in two different ways: A method if to define family, within the context of stepfamilies, in two different ways: 1. As a Household – Reduces the number stepfamily households to those that have in fact children from a different union living with a stepparent 2. As a chain that transcends household boundaries and extends from one household to the next due to children from previous unions. Constructing a family in this way, through a “divorce” or “remarriage” chain, is done in reference to a particular person, instead of a household

24 Family and Remarriage Chains Divorce or remarriage chains can serve as a network of support and exchange for its members Divorce or remarriage chains can serve as a network of support and exchange for its members However, this support is usually perceived as being driven more out obligation and self-interest, when contrasted to relations that exist within a nuclear family or even a household However, this support is usually perceived as being driven more out obligation and self-interest, when contrasted to relations that exist within a nuclear family or even a household Kinship stepfamily networks are less stable and characterized by weak ties Kinship stepfamily networks are less stable and characterized by weak ties

25 Stepfamilies and Kinship Kinship is usually established under blood or marriage though built and reinforced through strong and stable relationships Kinship is usually established under blood or marriage though built and reinforced through strong and stable relationships To be considered a relative one must do the job of creating and maintaining kinship. This happens almost automatically amongst parents and children, but not amongst stepparents To be considered a relative one must do the job of creating and maintaining kinship. This happens almost automatically amongst parents and children, but not amongst stepparents It is not clear what the job of the stepparent is really supposed to be – It is incompletely institutionalized It is not clear what the job of the stepparent is really supposed to be – It is incompletely institutionalized

26 Stepfamilies and Kinship Great variability in how stepparents and stepchildren view each other - What factors could determine or affects this view? Great variability in how stepparents and stepchildren view each other - What factors could determine or affects this view? Age of the child when stepparent moved in Age of the child when stepparent moved in How frequently the child sees his non-resident parent How frequently the child sees his non-resident parent The quality and kind of relationship between the stepparent and the biological parent in the home The quality and kind of relationship between the stepparent and the biological parent in the home The child’s temper? The child’s temper? Seems like being a steprelative depends on doing the work of kin Seems like being a steprelative depends on doing the work of kin Remarriage is making parenthood more of an achieved status rather than ascribed. Remarriage is making parenthood more of an achieved status rather than ascribed. While remarriage after a divorce ads a number of potential kinships to a child, these positions need to be filled in by individuals depending on their actions in order to be significant While remarriage after a divorce ads a number of potential kinships to a child, these positions need to be filled in by individuals depending on their actions in order to be significant Q: Could cohabitation undermine such a sense of obligation to the extended family when compared to matrimony? Q: Could cohabitation undermine such a sense of obligation to the extended family when compared to matrimony?

27 Building a Stepfamily Complicated and long process Complicated and long process Most agree that the remarried couple must come together and build a boundary around themselves in which they will work together to solve problems Most agree that the remarried couple must come together and build a boundary around themselves in which they will work together to solve problems Couples have to create their own shared conception of how the family will manage its daily business, as they cannot rely in general accepted norms the same way regular married couples do, because they do not exist Couples have to create their own shared conception of how the family will manage its daily business, as they cannot rely in general accepted norms the same way regular married couples do, because they do not exist It is harder to be a stepmother. Children typically live in a different household with the biological mother, and if not, non- custodial mothers tend to remain closer to their children than non-custodial fathers It is harder to be a stepmother. Children typically live in a different household with the biological mother, and if not, non- custodial mothers tend to remain closer to their children than non-custodial fathers A critical area is that of the economic responsibilities to the children and how they are shared/divided amongst biological and stepparents A critical area is that of the economic responsibilities to the children and how they are shared/divided amongst biological and stepparents

28 The Effects on Children Does remarriage improve the wellbeing of children from divorced parents? Does remarriage improve the wellbeing of children from divorced parents? Possibility of a higher household income Possibility of a higher household income Some studies show that their wellbeing is not better than in divorced single-parent households Some studies show that their wellbeing is not better than in divorced single-parent households Evidence shows that it is more difficult for girls to adjust to stepfamilies, as well as early adolescents as opposed to younger children Evidence shows that it is more difficult for girls to adjust to stepfamilies, as well as early adolescents as opposed to younger children Children, particularly girls, leave stepfamily households at an earlier age than children in single-parent or two- parent households. Is it due to friction in the family? Children, particularly girls, leave stepfamily households at an earlier age than children in single-parent or two- parent households. Is it due to friction in the family?

29 The Effects on Children Remarriages further seem to be more likely to end in divorce than first marriages Remarriages further seem to be more likely to end in divorce than first marriages Is this also due to the incomplete institutionalization of remarriages? Is this also due to the incomplete institutionalization of remarriages? Or could it be the fact that this group consists of people that have a higher propensity to divorce when involved in a conflictive marriage? Rather than remarriages or stepfamilies being more prone to having conflictive relationships themselves Or could it be the fact that this group consists of people that have a higher propensity to divorce when involved in a conflictive marriage? Rather than remarriages or stepfamilies being more prone to having conflictive relationships themselves

30 Some Problems to Address A major problem in the study of stepfamilies is the lack of data dealing with stepfamilies formed through cohabiting couples. As a result, the differences between a cohabiting stepfamily and a stepfamily that results from a remarriage remain unknown A major problem in the study of stepfamilies is the lack of data dealing with stepfamilies formed through cohabiting couples. As a result, the differences between a cohabiting stepfamily and a stepfamily that results from a remarriage remain unknown Our legal systems are fairly incapable of dealing with the complexity of stepfamilies, working still within a model of two parents per household, despite the larger size that some current family structures encompass Our legal systems are fairly incapable of dealing with the complexity of stepfamilies, working still within a model of two parents per household, despite the larger size that some current family structures encompass Blood bonds continue to retain a higher legal primacy than bonds created by the emotional investment of a stepparent. Should this be the case? Blood bonds continue to retain a higher legal primacy than bonds created by the emotional investment of a stepparent. Should this be the case?


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