The Family as Process and Institution

The Family as Process and Institution

The Family as Process and Institution

The Family as Process and Institution

Excerpt

This is a basic textbook for college students studying the family and marriage. In presenting current knowledge about the American family in a new perspective this volume seeks to reveal an explicit framework of values, stress common dilemmas and adjustments in the course of family experience, and integrate theory with empirical research findings.

A dominant theme contributes to this perspective. The thesis of this volume is that the family process is a flow of family experience from generation to generation, in the course of which family members develop aspirations, expectations, and roles. These are adjusted, with influence from the past, to successive family dramas and to a dynamic and often inconsistent cultural environment. It is recognized, of course, that the family process, as a series of dramas, operates within an institutional structure.

This book describes the American family against a background provided by history, biology, and the social sciences. Throughout there has been an endeavor to present materials clearly, yet comprehensively, and with firm grounding in factual evidence. An effort has been made to be realistic and objective in matters pertaining to religion, sex, and morality. In short, this book attempts to provide a conceptual framework that may bring some degree of meaningful order out of our present chaotic accumulation of knowledge concerning the family.

The nature and origins of the family are first described, followed by an analysis of family types and dilemmas. The family is then seen in the context of social change. The major part of the book presents the life cycle of family experience, from infancy and early childhood through adolescence, dating and courtship, marriage, and having children. The final part investigates crises and family reorganization. A detailed appendix classifies factors which individual or collectively have been related by statistical studies to the criteria of marital success. The material given in 21 original figures and 83 tables, it is hoped, will appear compact, focused, and clear.

Gratitude is here expressed for the indirect help of many sociologists whose contributions may not be recorded in my documentation. Encouragement from Professor Theodore Caplow is especially appreciated. Special thanks are due my colleagues Karl Schuessler, Erwin Smigel, and Charles Hobart for reading rough preliminary manuscript and giving me benefit of comments which were more kindly than just. I wish also to express thanks to Professors Harold Christensen, Alfred Kinsey, George Murdock, Gerald Schnepp, John Thomas, Samuel Lowrie, Mirra Komarovsky, Arthur Calhoun, and Clyde Kiser of the Milbank Memorial Fund, for permission to condense, on my own responsibility, certain materials.

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