Marriage and the Family
Topic 15 - The Family Life Cycle
The Family System
consists of three distinct parts: Courtship (dating, engagement),
Marriage (the couple), & Family Life (children, kinship
patterns). Everyone who marries has experienced all three to some
degree. However, there are at least four basic types of families
in American culture:
Regardless of the type of
importance to society, to children
and adults is easy to underestimate.
- Traditional Nuclear Families - a mom who provides
and close care for the family, a dad who provides financially for
the family, and children who go to school and are active. All these
people live together in a house of
own. Less than 20%
- Single Parent Families - either unmarried women having
unmarried women having children and giving them over to other family
to rear, or women working and caring for children after divorce. The
growing family form in the United States today (about 21% of the total).
- Step-families - reconstituted or blended families
children). -blended when two custodial remarry -binuclear families -
a divorced couple remarries others (approximately 15%)..
- Two-Job Nuclear Families - Everybody works We haven't
nor made arrangements for the children (nearly 45%)
The Family is a) responsible
production and socialization of
children, b) the first line of defense against deviant behavior, and c)
the first place that children learn morality and ethics - principles
that should serve them all their lives. The consequences of effective
socialization of children should
- the development of marketable, productive skills
- the abilities necessary to relate to others in the society
- an orientation consistent with ethical and moral judgments.
If the family is ineffective in socializing its children-
are serious, for society and for children themselves and Children
will be unhappy and society will crumble. (a little drastic? Watch
A Casual reading of the text
tell you that race is somewhat of a
in all this.
Single parent families are close to the norm among African-American, or
Black, families. There is an inordinate (disproportionate) amount
of poverty and crime in areas of most towns and cities where the
majority of the families are black. This is a simple, statistical
fact. However, like most simple statistics, the stats on poverty,
crime and race often do not tell the whole story, statistically,
politically, or otherwise.
The truth probably is closer
the cause of poverty for
twenty-three percent of our nation's
is divorce, not being of any particular racial grouping. Divorce
because about half of all court awarded child support goes unpaid by
And while on the topic of
to see the truth - there's
this: 61% of all responding to surveys say that
they feel family
life is "the most important
element in my life."
favorably to questions like this, however, the reality of our lives is
a little different. There are other indicators that tell a story that
from the Ideal. To decide whether or not American Values support
families and children's welfare, look at the evidence.
If we cared for our families
say we do, these and many other
statistical facts would cease to exist.
- -we lie to children
- -we speed through school zones
- -we won't fund adequate child care
- -our schools are being abandoned by state legislatures
- -SAT's go down every year
- -more than a few fathers don't provide for their children
- -family violence rates continue to climb
Where do our values reside?
what really happens to what we
Children in the 1960s compared to
All this can be traced to
abdicating their roles, increases in
number of single parent families, increases in number of step-families
and all that comes from higher incidence of divorce, greater numbers of
mothers who MUST work to meet the very basic needs of their
children. It is an economic problem.
- -poverty rate in 1960 11% - 2000s to 25%
- -academic achievement continues to decline
- -suicide rate among teens has tripled from 2.3 per
100,000 to 8
- -incidence of obesity increased by 15% to 30%
- -delinquency cases are higher
- -reported abuse and neglect is higher
- -Aids and Crack-babies didn't exist in 1960 and now are
promiscuity and drug use of parents.
II. Parenting Across the Lifespan
differing challenges and differing problems along the family life
cycle. Six stages in the family life cycle
identified: 1) the unattached young adult, 2) the newly married couple,
family with young children, 4) the family with adolescents, 5) the
and moving on, and 6) the family in later life.
over the family life cycles and our relationships with each other
change. Younger and older couples are more alike in some ways than
their middle years. There are various communication styles in conflict:
topic management, noncommittal remarks, irreverent remarks, analytic
confrontational remarks, and conciliatory remarks.
in passing through the family life cycle will depend on a
things, including various kinds of changes that occur in society.
is the experience of the death of one’s parents or of a child. Another
grandparenthood. A third change relates to marital disruption and
married couple tends to have certain family
strengths that are at a very high level. One of the important tasks
newly married couple is that of forming their own marital system. One
more important tasks is establishing a pattern of resolving conflicts.
challenge is the dilemma posed by your need for closeness and the
danger of a
A. Children's Potential Effect on
Couple's Satisfaction with
Two mediating factors related
- 1. Passage of time - monotony, routine, lack luster
- 2. Children's Changing Demands
- -increased social schedules
- -changing needs due to maturation and growth
- -changing modes of discipline & displays of affection
- 3. There is an increasing disturbance, or "noise" level in
children grow in years.
In the third
stage of the family life cycle, the couple
commits itself to an additional person and to changes in the family
face the challenge of the new roles of mother and father as well as
husband and wife. Marital satisfaction may decline in this stage, but
couples in the child-rearing years, marital satisfaction increases.
- 1. Nature and flexibility of interaction habits (couple)
- 2. Extent to which the couple have accomplished
to themselves and parenting.
concern can make the fourth stage–the
family at midlife–particularly problematic. These areas are aging
adolescent children, and midlife concerns. At the midlife stage, the
the aging population are increasingly evident. People must deal with
aging parents, which may include caring for parents who become ill,
V. In stage five,
the couple must deal with the children
moving out and being on their own. Family therapists stress the need
“differentiation,” the need for each member of the family to be an
individual as well as an integral part of an intimate group. When the
leave, the parent-child relationship also changes. In addition to their
with their children, an empty-nest couple faces a number of other
least some couples never experience, or have little time to experience,
empty nest. It may be
difficult for a couple when the children leave home. Some men find it
for the children to leave. Women who have invested themselves
completely - or
almost completely in child rearing will also find the empty nest
most people, stage five represents a time of increasing marital
and renewed family strength. Overall, then, the empty nest is likely to
stage that is gratifying and filled with a new zest for living. .
Relationship with aging parents
undergo important physical, intellectual, and “social definitional”
adolescence, then, parents and children must work out a new system.
also need increasing autonomy and independence.
- Because conflict
arises out of opposing needs and interests, the unique needs of
make this stage one of increasing conflict. The most frequent sources
conflict between adolescents and parents are everyday matters.
most of their stress arising from daily hassles with parents.
- Parents who have
responsibilities for adolescent children and aging parents at the same
the “sandwich generation.” A growing number of Americans, therefore,
turning to some kind of formal care rather than assuming all the
- In addition to
facing responsibilities for their children and their parents, the
stage four faces marital and personal challenges. Midlife is a time
become increasingly concerned about their own aging process. Not
everyone has a
midlife crisis, but everyone faces a set of challenges and concerns at
midlife. Men typically deal with four
concerns: mortality, destructive and creative tendencies, recognizing
developing both the masculine and feminine aspects of their nature, and
need to be attached to and separate from the social environment. Women
reach the midlife crisis point sooner than men.
- Obviously, the
intersection of the turmoil of adolescence with the parental crisis of
creates a fertile climate for considerable family strain and diminished
with life. When families do have conflict, it may partly be due to a
rites of passage. Various rites of passage may occur profitably a
times during the adolescent years.
III. Post parental years and
- 1. older parents serve as role models to two generations
some financial support for advice
- 2. the relationship can be painful and distant if:
- -there is unresolved resentment and conflict
- -midlifers have fear of having to be caretakers
- 3. Instrumental Care-giving - become more of a social
a personal one.
- 4. Launching of children - empty nest - situation most
who haven't prepared properly.
According to the age continuum by
many of us live:
Last Child Born--------------
Child Leaves --------Retirement
born-------- by 30--------------------------by
Most of us will have 15 years
In 1950 life expectancy was only
years - some of the relationship problems people face today may be due
to extending the lifespan into stressful,
Erikson's Epigenetic Principle
the stages of adult development to be:
Middlescence - the Midlife Authenticity Crisis, as
- young adulthood - intimacy vs. isolation - where we fall in
- middle adulthood - generativity vs. stagnation - where we
- late adulthood - integrity vs. despair - where we look back
with concern that we've done a good job with the resources we've been
In middle to late life, one
to question the meaning of having
lived? We begin a process of self-examination of past-through the
asking ourselves questions, such as:
The primary factor in resolving midlife crisis is the
of positive relationships with friends and family. Increasing numbers
of people are experiencing the grandparent role. For the most part,
grandparenting is a positive experience in people’s lives. There are
different types of grandparents: formal,
seeker, surrogate parent, reservoir
of family wisdom, and the distant figure.
Another typology identifies four
different roles: historian,
model, wizard, and the nurturer/great
- Are our dreams fulfilled?
- Do people love us?
- Have we achieved all we wanted?
- Did we do right by our children, and are they doing
challenging and is not just about pleasure: Conflict may also
arise in the grandparent-grandchild
relationship. When asked about the
relationship with their grandparents, young adults agree that it is
very important to them. While the
grandparent-grandchild relationship is not as intense as the
relationship, it is a unique and potentially highly
In the aging
family, there is a shift of roles. Like
every other, this stage has its satisfactions as well as its problems.
- Retirement can be
a critical time for a couple. When a married individual first retires,
quality tends to go down because of the adjustments required. In part,
adjusting well to retirement depends on whether the retirement is a
Once the initial adjustment is made, marital quality tends to go up.
- A couple in the
sixth stage is more likely to be oriented martially than parentally. That is, spouses are likely to focus more of
their time and energy on their relationship
each other than on that with their children and grandchildren. For most couples, marital satisfaction in this
stage tends to be high, higher in fact than at any stage since the
- Although the aging
couple is more martially than parentally oriented, family relationships
still very important. Still, conflict between parents and adult
continue into later life. Other relationships are also important at
of the family life cycle.
- At nearly every
age level, women are far more likely than men to face the death of a
distress comes from a loss of intimacy, a loss of identity, and the
connotation associated with being a widow or a widower. Many individuals get on with their lives by dating
and eventually marrying again.
Into midlife by 50, successful
In the popular press, there
some discussion of this situation
in the context of male menopause. Actually any thoughtful person,
of their gender will have these thoughts. It has nothing to do with
however .... The female climacteric (menopause defined as: the
of menses - loss of estrogen - Symptoms: hot flashes, dizziness, aches
& pains, fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiety, intolerance, lack of
was once thought to be the signal of the end of sexuality. The good
is that while the symptoms can be a real bother, sexuality is a couple
thing right to the end (if the couple wants it).
- 1. a high quality of wisdom - what works/what doesn't
- 2. a high level of self-awareness
- 3. satisfaction with work
- 4. being a mentor for young people - no kidding!
- 5. maintaining activity, adaptability, and self-approval
Reasons for decline in
sex, for women and men as they get
Advancing age means a decline
biological responsiveness to sexual
however given the CAPACITY for human sexuality, no one EVER has sex as
often as he or she is CAPABLE.
- 1. illness
- 2. decline in energy
- 3. fewer sexual outlets - divorce, death, illness
- 4. monotony or boredom
IV. Adapting to late life
15% of the U.S. population (30
is 65 years old - 75% of the
pop. will live past age 65.
A. Disengagement - Letting Go - gracefully accepting mortality - a
popular theory in the 1970's "Disengagement Theory" meant moving out of
the main stream. Actually people want to stay in the main stream
with family, friends, community. But getting old in a youth oriented
is not enjoyable.
While we can't always do a
about 1 and 2, inclusion in the
and maintaining a friendship network is well within our grasp, and it
a healthier, longer, more enjoyable life.
B. Stereotypes of elderly - due to youth culture's
are negative images of older people who have been defined as outliving
usefulness. Maintaining a high level of self-esteem is difficult with
jokes, hatred, and intolerance at every turn. The keys to
in late life:
- Financial Security
- Good Health
- Family and Social Participation
Women outlive men by 7.5
of spouse especially in later life
is the most traumatic event after years of a lifestyle - sense of being
- 17% women - 3.5% men by age 65
- 38% women - 7.5% men by age 75