Couples, Kids, and Family Life

Couples, Kids, and Family Life

Couples, Kids, and Family Life

Couples, Kids, and Family Life


Since "family" takes on such highly varied forms, any discussion of what it is, who it is, or what family life is like is bound to be complicated--perhaps even controversial. Couples, Kids, and Family Life examines these issues in an engaging and insightful way, approaching the realm of familyfrom "the inside out." Offering a distinctive view of what the social worlds of family life might look like from the standpoint of "insiders," it examines family perspectives and scenarios though the eyes of partners, parents, children, and significant others. Featuring a series of speciallycommissioned chapters by leading scholars in the field, the book uses real-life examples to present a distinctive look at the social worlds of domestic life. Divided into three parts, Couples, Kids, and Family Life includes discussion questions after each chapter, suggesting ways of approaching the key concerns laid out in each section. Part I, "Couples," focuses on married or soon-to-be married partners, addressing such topics as romanticism andrealism in marriage, the categories of husband and wife, and marital equality. Part II, "Parents and Kids," examines the perspectives of different actors in the family drama, concentrating on their various reactions to domestic challenges like teenagers' whereabouts, using the car, and gendersocialization. Part III, "Rearrangements," deals with family change, including the process of divorce, remarriage, and stepparenting.


Couples, Kids, and Family Life approaches the realm of family from the inside out. It offers a distinctive view of what the social worlds of family life might look like from the standpoint of “insiders”—family members. The book is organized around the theme that social worlds are not collec- tions of facts and figures, but comprise intensely shared and personal con- stellations of talk and interaction. Family life is more complex and fluid than survey statistics make it out to be. Families are more than enumer- ations of household composition or demographic trends. Like all social worlds, family is comprised of ordinary actions undertaken in relation to others, in which meaning and communication are the working subject matter of everyday life.

Getting to know social worlds from the inside out—in terms of the meanings that transpire between people—takes a special method of proce- dure. The lives under consideration need to be described in their own terms, to highlight what things and events mean for them. In the case of this book, the contributors aim to convey what it means to be couples, kids, and par- ents in the everyday context of domestic life.

The term “social world” has two important connotations. One refers to a set of experiences or way of life specific to a group of people. For example, we might say that preteen girls occupy their own social world, the implication being that they have their own unique interests and concerns, their own tastes and troubles, even their own vernacular. They might occupy their own territory—particular tables in the lunchroom at school, for instance. Social worlds in this sense refers to realms of experience with specific, identifiable characteristics. Sociology is full of stories about the worlds of people differentially located in society, such as the social worlds of the waitress, the cab driver, or the thief. The accent here is on internal organization, less on a particular outlook or orientation to life as a whole.

“Social world” also is used to refer to a working view of reality, in this case highlighting how members see and interpret life. Perspective is stressed rather than sets of experiences. A social world represents experi- ence as it is apprehended from a particular vantage point. In this sense, a . . .

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