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Sociologists allow us to understand the larger social and personal-level trends in families. around the year 1900 most families had three generations living in one home (i.e., children, parents, and grandparents). You will notice that marrieds comprised the largest proportion of family types in 2011.
The family structures that were very common a century ago are not nearly as common today. In 2012, only 4.6 percent of all US households had multi-generational family members living in them (retrieved 6 June 2014 from America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012, P20-570 SOURCE). Single never marrieds were the second largest type, followed by divorced, widowed, and then separated.
The second most common type of family is the Blended Family, which is a family group created by remarriage that includes step-parents or step-siblings or both. The number of divorced families overtook the widowed category in the 1970s and has been higher ever since. Simply put, these are numbers and not rates nor percentages.
All of the family relationships beyond the basic two-generation nuclear or blended family we call Extended Family, which includes relatives beyond nuclear and blended family levels (i.e., cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents). The population has grown and therefore the population size has been steadily increasing. In studying the family, Functional Theorists (see chapter 3) have identified some common and nearly universal family functions, meaning that almost all families in all countries around the world have at least some of these functions in common.
As of the writing of this edition, over 500,000 students have used our free books and many of them live in many diverse countries around the world. I have taught thousands of students how to understand the family using sociology as a framework for gaining insight and expertise.
Most of my students did not continue on in the field of family studies, but a few are now professors in their own right and others are therapists practicing in their communities.
Table 2 shows many of the global functions of the family.
By far, economic support is the most common function of today's families.
They will realize this potential if older family members or friends take the time to protect and nurture them into their cultural and societal roles.Many family scientists believe that intimacy in family relationships functions as a strong buffer to the ongoing stresses family members experience outside of the home.Socialization of children is covered in more detail in chapter 4.I've always been amazed at how far family economic cooperation extends.
Some families cooperate in businesslike relationships. In Montreal, Quebec, Canada, there is an established pattern of Italian immigrants helping family and friends emigrate from Italy to Canada.
My first full-time gig as a professor of sociology was in a community college where administrators demanded that we provide a service to our students that was worth the money they paid us for teaching.