SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
Chapter 12 Families and Aging
Chapter 13 Education and Religion
Welcome to week five of SOC 250, Introduction to Sociology. The content for this week will help us understand how U.S. families are changing in America and how we relate to the diversity in American families. In addition, we identify the sociological explanations of family and aging as we describe our aging society. We then relate to the sociological perspectives on education and define what education means to the average American. We also discuss the current problems with U.S. education and describe the new directions in our educational system. Lastly, we look at the trends in religion in the United States and distinguish between the types of religious organizations in the U.S. as well as world religions. Finally, we differentiate between the various religions in the U.S. and determine the sociological perspectives on religion.
Ask five of your friends to define what a family is. Their definitions will probably differ not only from each other’s but from yours. For our purposes, a family is an intimate group consisting of two or more people who live together in a committed relationship, care for one another and any children, and share close emotional ties and functions. This definition includes households (such as those of foster families and same sex couples) whose members aren’t related by birth, marriage, or adoption. There is no universal definition of family because contemporary household arrangements are complex. Family structures vary across cultures and have changed over time. In some societies, a family includes uncles, aunts, and other relatives. In other societies, only parents and their children are viewed as a family
Family Functions: Families vary considerably in the United States and globally but must fulfill at least five important functions to ensure a society’s survival. These functions include sexual regulation, reproduction and socialization, economic security, emotional support, and social placement. Many contemporary sociologists now include recreation as a basic U.S. family function.
How U.S. Families are Changing
The American family has changed dramatically over the past half century. Noteworthy changes involve divorce, singlehood, cohabitation, unmarried parents, and two-income families. Couples of all ages experience divorce, the legal dissolution of a marriage. Now, over a lifetime, between 43 percent and 46 percent of American marriages end in divorce. Those who never married make up the largest and fastest-growing segment of the single population---30 percent in 2008, up from 22 percent in 1960. Another major change affecting U.S. families is an increase in cohabitation, an arrangement in which two unrelated people are not married but live together and have a sexual relationship. In 1950, only 3 percent of all U.S. births were to unmarried women. In 2008, there were more than 1.7 million such births, accounting for 41 percent of all U.S. births. Thus, 4 in 10 American babies are now born outside of marriage, a new record. In the past 50 years, the proportion of married women in the labor force has almost tripled.
Family Conflict and Violence
Conflict is a normal part of family life, but violence is not normal. Over a lifetime, we are much more likely to be assaulted or killed by a family member than by a stranger. That violence and love can coexist in a household is perhaps the most insidious aspect of what we characterize as family violence, because we grow up learning that it is acceptable to hit the people we supposedly love. Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs between people in a close relationship. The term IPV refers to current and former spouses, couples who live together, and current and former boyfriends or girlfriends. IPV is pervasive in U.S. society. In a recent national study, 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men said that they have been victims of IPV at some time in their lives. These numbers are conservative because many people are often too ashamed to report the victimization, believe that no one can help, or fear reprisal. Child maltreatment or child abuse includes a broad range of behaviors that place a child at serious risk or result in serious harm, including death, that include neglect and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
What is Education?
Education is a social institution that transmits attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, values, norms, and skills to its members through formal, systematic training. Schooling, a narrower term, is formal training and instruction provided in a classroom setting. U.S. education and schooling have undergone four significant transitions during a relatively short period. These transitions include the expansion of universal education, the increase in community colleges, the growth of public higher education, and the increase in student diversity. Because of these and other changes, 87 percent of Americans 25 or older have completed at least high school and 31 percent have attained at least a bachelor’s degree.
What is Religion?
For sociologists, religion is a social institution that involves shared beliefs, values, and practices based on the supernatural that unites believers into a community. The notion of community is important because different groups have different beliefs, values, and practices. For example, being Catholic involves confessing one’s sins to a priest, a practice that is not followed by Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and other religious groups. Sociologists differentiate religion from religiosity and spirituality. Religion refers to a community of people who have a shared faith, but the frequency and intensity of religious expression can vary. When sociologists examine religiosity, the ways people demonstrate their religious beliefs, they often find that religion and religiosity differ. For example, 72 percent of Americans say that they are deeply religious, but only 44 percent attend worship services once per week. Spirituality is a personal quest to feel connected to a reality greater than oneself. About 25 percent of Americans who never go to church consider themselves spiritual.
Types of Religious Organizations
Religion is important in all known societies, but there’s considerable diversity in its expression. People manifest their religious beliefs most commonly through organized groups, including cults, sect, denominations, and churches. Cults are religious groups that are devoted to beliefs and practices that are outside of those accepted in mainstream society. A sect is a religious group that has broken away from an established religion. Those who begin sects are usually dissatisfied members who believe that the parent religion has become too secular and has abandoned key original doctrines. A denomination is a subgroup within a religion that shares its name and traditions, and is generally on good terms with the main group. A church is a large established religious group that has strong ties to mainstream society. Because leadership of the group is attached to an office rather than a specific leader, new generations of believers replace previous ones, and members follow tradition or authority rather than a charismatic leader.
Religion in the United States
Almost 87 percent of Americans believe in God, 11 percent aren’t sure, and 2 percent say that there is no such thing. For sociologists, religiosity is a better measure of being religious than simply asking people whether they believe in God and which religion they follow. Religiosity includes a number of variables, but the most common are religious belief, affiliation, and attendance at services. Some 64 percent of Americans say that religion is important in their lives, down from 75 percent in 1952. The importance of religion in Americans’ lives has declined. In terms of religious participation, about 4 in 10 Americans attend religious services at least once a week, whereas 27 percent seldom or never attend. Thus, many people are more likely to believe in a religion than to practice it by attending services regularly. Mormons (75%), evangelical Protestants (58 percent), and members of historically black churches (59 percent) have greater rates of weekly or almost weekly attendance at religious services than do Catholics (42 percent), Muslims (40 percent), or Jews (16 percent).
Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and grandparents raising grandchildren, these are just some of the family characteristics that continue to change. This chapter examines the connections between families and our aging society. Before considering what sociologists mean by family and aging, we need to understand that a family is an intimate group consisting of two or more people who have a committed relationship, care for one another and children, and share close emotional ties and functions. This definition includes households (e.g., foster families, same-sex couples) whose members aren't related by birth, marriage, or adoption. Education is changing in America as well as we see that universal education has expanded, community colleges have flourished, public higher education has burgeoned, and student diversity as increased. Because of these and other changes we see that the percentage of those completing high school and getting bachelor’s degrees has increased substantially. On the other hand, religion in America in general is waning. The importance of religion in Americans’ lives has declined. Religious participation in some organized religions has increased but, for most denominations, it has declined.
View a short video about families and aging.
View a short video about fixing America’s education crisis.
Fixing America’s Education Crisis
SOC. 3rd Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2012. ISBN: 9781133592129
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