Social Life (Unit 7)

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Unit VII. Social Institution. The Family.

 

Learning Objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to answer the following questions:

1.   Are all families necessarily composed of a husband, a wife, and their children?

2.   How do societies vary in the way that power within the family is distributed?

3.   What functions does the family perform for society?

4.   What are the basic forms of religious organization? Which of them prevails in modern industrial society and why?

 

THE FAMILY: UNIVERSAL BUT VARIED

The family as a social institution is present in all cultures. A family can be defined as a set of persons related by blood, marriage (or some agreed-upon relationship) or adoption who share the primary responsibility for reproduction and caring for members of society.

Although the organization of the family can very greatly, there are certain general principles concerning its composition, descent patterns, residence patterns, and authority patterns.

Composition: What Is the Family?

In human society the family has traditionally been viewed in very narrow terms — as a married couple and their unmarried children living together. However, this is but one type of family, what sociologists refer to as a nuclear family upon which larger family groups are built. But only a certain part of households will fit this model. A family in which relatives other than parents and children - such as grandparents, aunts and uncles — live in the same home is know as an extended family. While not common, such living arrangements do exist. The structure of the extended family offers certain advantages. Crises, such as death, divorce, and illness involve less strain for family members, since there are more individuals who can provide assistance and emotional support. In addition, the extended family constitutes a larger economic unit than the nuclear family. If the family is engaged in a common enterprise — for example, running a farm or a small business — the additional family members may represent the difference between prosperity and failure.

In considering these differing family types, we have limited ourselves to the term of marriage which is called monogamy. The term monogamy describes a form of marriage in which one woman and one man are married only to each other. Some observers, noting a high rate of divorce in modern society, have suggested a more accurate term "serial monogamy" under which a person is allowed to have several spouses in his or her life but can have only one spouse at a time.

Some cultures allow an individual to have several husbands or wives simultaneously. This form of marriage is known as polygamy. You may be surprised to learn that most societies throughout the world, past and present, have exhibited a preference for polygamy, not monogamy. Polygamy cultures devalue the social worth of women.

Descent Patterns: To Whom Are We Related?

The state of being related to others is called kinship. The family and the kin group are not necessarily the same. While the family is a household unit, kin do not always live or function together. Kin groups include aunts, cousins, in-laws, and so forth.

Family Residence: Where Do We Live?

Formally, a married couple is expected to establish a separate household. However, if we take a cross-cultural view, it is relatively uncommon. In many societies, the bride and groom live either with his or her parents. The reason for it is that the new couples need the emotional support and especially the economic support of their kinfolk.

Authority Patterns: Who Rules?

Imagine that you are recently married and must begin to make decisions about the future of your new family. Immediately, an issue is raised: «Who has the power to make the decision?», in simpler terms, who rules the family?

Societies vary in the way that power within the family is distributed. If a society expects males to dominate in all family decision making, it is termed a patriarchy. Women hold low status in such societies. By contrast, in a matriarchy, women have greater authority than men. But researchers have come to the conclusion that in modern history there is not a society which truly has this pattern of family organization.

Some marital relationships may be neither male-dominated nor female-dominated. The third type of authority pattern, the egalitarian family, is one in which spouses are regarded as equals. This does not mean, however, that each decision is shared in such families. Mothers may hold authority in some spheres, fathers in others. In the view of many sociologists, the egalitarian family has begun to replace the patriarchal family as the social norm.

Functions of the Family: Do We Really Need the Family?

A century ago Frederick Engels, a colleague of Karl Marx, described the family as «the ultimate source of social inequality». More recently other theorists have stated that the family contributes to social injustice, denies opportunities to women, and limits freedom in sexual expression and mate selection.

In order to evaluate such issues, it is helpful to examine the functions the family fulfills. There are six of them:

1. Reproduction. For a society to maintain itself, it must replace dying members.

2. Protection. Human infants need constant care, economic security, upbringing.

3. Socialization. Parents and other kin monitor a child's behavior and transmit the norms, values and language of a culture to the child.

4. Regulation of sexual behavior. Standards of sexual behavior are most clearly defined within the family circle.

5. Affection and companionship. The family is obliged to serve the emotional needs of its members. We expect our relatives to understand us, to care for us, and to be there with us when we need them.

6. Providing of social status. We inherit a social position because of the «family background» and reputation of our parents. Moreover, the family resources affect our ability to pursue certain opportunities such as higher education and specialized lessons.

 

 

Vocabulary Practice

 

I. Read and translate the text using a dictionary if necessary.

 

II. Find in the text the English equivalents for the following:

быть связанным узами крови (брака), заранее определенные отношения, делить ответственность, заботиться о ком-либо (любить), очень отличаться, состав (семьи), рассматриваться очень узко, семья (домашние, хозяйство), подходить (соответствовать) чему-либо, развод, так...как, оказывать помощь и поддержку, вести хозяйство, процветание, неудача (провал), ограничиваться чем-либо, жениться на (выйти замуж за), состоять в браке с, высокий уровень разводов, супруг(а), одновременно, оказывать предпочтение чему-либо, обесценивать социальную значимость, происхождение, родство — родственники (2), родственники (со стороны жены или мужа), и так далее, местожительство, жить отдельно, жених и невеста, принимать решения, возникает проблема, проще говоря, супружеские отношения, иметь вес (влияние), заменять, основной источник, общественное неравенство, вести к социальной несправедливости, лишать женщин возможностей, ограничивать свободу, выбор партнера (супруга), несовершеннолетний, нуждаться в постоянной заботе, безопасность, воспитание, внутри семейного окружения, любовь, товарищество (общение), реализовать возможности.

 

III. Supply the missing words or word combinations choosing among those given below.

1) A family can be defined as a set of persons related by some ... relationship. 2) There are certain general principles ...the family organization. 3) In human society the family has been traditionally viewed in very .... 4) The structure of the extended family ... certain advantages. 5) Crises involve less ...for extended families. 6) Extended families are often ... in a common enterprise. 7) Some sociologists, noting a high ... of divorce, have suggested a more ... term "serial monogamy". 8) Most societies ... the world have ... a preference for polygamy, not monogamy. 9) The state of being related to other is called ... but... do not always live or function together. 10) Formally, a married couple is expected ... a separate household. 11) Societies vary in the way that power within the family is ...12) Some ...relationships may be neither ... nor ... . 13) In the egalitarian family ... are regarded as ... . 14) This does not mean that in the egalitarian family each decision is ... . 15) For a society ... itself, it must ... dying members. 16) Human ... need ... care, economic ... and ... . 17) We ... a social position because of the "family background" and the ... of our parents. 18) Moreover, the family resources... our ability ... certain opportunities.

affect, to pursue, inherit, reputation, infants, constant, security, upbringing, to maintain, replace, shared, spouses, equals, marital, male-dominated, female-dominated, distributed, to establish, kinship, kin, throughout, exhibited, rate, accurate, engaged, a train, offers, narrow terms, concerning, agreed-upon.

 

IV. Study the following word combinations and use then in sentences of your own.

to be related by, to share responsibilities, to care for, to vary greatly, to be viewed in very narrow terms, to fit smth, to offer certain advantages, to involve strain for smth, to provide assistance and support, to be engaged in a common enterprise, to limit oneself to, at a time, to exhibit, a preference for, to devalue smb's social worth, to establish a separate household, either ... or ... , a reason for, to make decisions about, to be termed, to come to a conclusion, neither ... nor ..., to be regarded as equals, to hold authority, in order to do smth, to need constant care, to monitor smth, to be obliged, to pursue certain opportunities.

 

Comprehension Exercises

 

I. Reread the text and answer the following questions.

1) What is the family as far as its composition is concerned? 2) What living arrangements exist in human society? 3) How can you prove that the extended family offers certain advantages over the nuclear family? 4) What forms of marriage do you know? 5) What does the cross-cultural view about the family residence show? 6) How do societies vary in the way that power within the family is distributed? 7) Do you agree that in the egalitarian family spouses are regarded as equals? 8) Do you believe that the egalitarian family will replace the patriarchal family in our society? 9) What are the functions of the family in modern society? 10) Why do you think it is helpful to examine the functions the family fulfills?

 

II. Define the following key terms and memorize the definitions:

family, nuclear family, extended family, monogamy, "serial monogamy", polygamy, kinship, patriarchy, matriarchy, egalitarian family.

 

Quiz

Love. Marriage. Family.

1. What is a "white wedding"?

            a. when people get married in church observing all the customs that go with this kind of wedding

            b. when the bride  wears white even if they get married in a registry office

c. when the wedding takes place in winter

2. At the wedding the bridegroom has a male friend called "the Best Man". What is the bride's female friend called?

            a. the Best Girl

            b. the Maid of Honour

            c. the Best Maiden

3. Which of these months is considered to be unlucky for the wedding both in Russia and English-speaking countries?

            a. January

            b. May

            c. September

4. At the wedding reception the bride and the bridegroom cut the wedding cake which usually consists of three or four layers with a cream filling and white icing (it often looks like a multy-storey building). Slices of this are sent in small boxes to those who were invited but could not come to the wedding. The top layer is sometimes kept until:

            a. the first quarrel happens

            b. the newly-weds come back from honeymoon

            c. the first baby is born

5. When the bride and bridegroom leave (usually before the reception ends), the bride throws her bouquet to her friends. The woman who catches it will, according to custom,

            a. become the god mother to the firstborn

            b. be the next one to get married

            c. be lucky in love

6. In English-speaking countries this is a traditional kind of jewellery for the bride to wear. In Russia it is considered a sign of future tears and brides traditionally do not wear it.

            a. diamonds

            b. emeralds

            c. pearls

7. The daughter of Judy Garland, a Hollywood star, became a famous singer and actress. This is

            a. Liza Minelli

            b. Kim Bessinger

            c. Madonna

8. "She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd: And I lov'd her that she did pity them."

Where does this quotation come from? Who says this and about whom?

            a. "Don Juan" by Lord Byron

            b. "The Lady of Shallot" by A. Tennyson

            c. "Othello" by W. Shakespeare

9. King Edward VIII gave up the British throne to marry

            a. an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson

            b. a Persian princess, Aysheh

            c. a Russian communist, Dasha Krylova

10. In "Hamlet" by W. Shakespeare what relation is Hamlet to the present King?

            a. son-in-law

            b. nephew

            c. cousin

11. How close a relative would the sister-in-law of your father's only brother be?

            a. niece

            b. mother

            c. aunt

12. What relatives are dependent on you?

            a. children

            b. parents

            c. uncles, aunts, and cousins

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