School of Family and Consumer Sciences
Instructor: David D. Witt, Ph.D.
Topic 11 - Managing Stress and Fatigue
There's enormous stress out in the real world as people
attempt to raise
families and live their lives. The text only mentions stress that comes
from within the family, between husband and wife. But there are forces
outside the family that work to break it apart.
Think about this table:
Also, some families seem to do well when under severe abnormal stress, while others can't seem to withstand the slightest snag in their routine. While being socialized, some people experience more of life, and therefore have more experience to draw on in times of crisis.Others are sheltered more from life's experiences, and have less to use when faced with tough times.
The moral of the story is this:
1. Which of the following is comparable to the size of a
2. The percentage of Americans calling themselves "very happy"
its highest point in what year?
3. How much of an average American's lifetime will be spent
4. True or false? Americans carry $1 billion in personal debt,
real estate and mortgages.
5. Which activity did more Americans do in 1996?
6. In the industrialized world, where is the U.S. ranked in
its income equality between the rich and the poor? (First being the
income-equal.) a. 1st b. 5th c. 12th d. 22nd
7. The world's 358 billionaires together possess as much money
poorest _____ of the world's population?
8. Since 1950, Americans alone have used more of the earth's
9. Americans' total yearly waste would fill a convoy of
long enough to:
10. Which president feared that untamed American capitalism
a corrupt civilization?
11. Which economic indicator counts pollution three times as a
of a growing economy?
12. Of the Americans who voluntarily cut back their
percent said (in 1995) that they are happier as a result? a. 29 percent
b. 42 percent c. 67 percent d. 86 percent
How'd you do? This last question gets at a possible solution to what's ailing many families these days. Life at the end of the 20th century is confusing - It is increasingly the best of times ... the worst of times to quote Dickens. About 100 years ago, one of the first sociologists, Emile Durkheim, charged that modern society was afflicted with a social disease he defined as anomie, or normlessness.
It is a notion that is similar to the spoiling of a child. Very simply, the more we get, the more we want; but it is more complicated. The idea is this. We begin life learning about what to expect. We come to count on these expectations and are disappointed when they aren't met. If our desires are satiated beyond our expectations, our appetites for these new rewards increase and so do our expectations, until we expect rewards beyond actual reason.
See if this sounds familiar:
Sociologist Robt. K. Merton (1951)
Regularity - Logical Expectations - Consistency of Rewards
If we were to chart the general course of American Family Life from about 1920 to the present, we would find that access to material goods has increased steadily despite family financial ability to pay for them. Things have become ends in themselves since we have replaced personal involvement and emotional attachment with things. And social thinkers would have us believe that this is bad because there are limits to our ability to provide things.
Both parents working ultimately results
parent parenting. The more we work, the more we purchase, the more we
to maintain, the less time we have for personally handling the
emotional, and social development of those other things in our lives -
children. Children born to such families are probably more likely to
parenting from television (socialization, at any rate). Since the main
function of media is to sell us stuff (raise our interest in obtaining
things), it only takes a couple of generations of these urchins before
we just want stuff. What's the end result of all this?
On a day-to-day level, we experience shallow, self-serving treatment from others in almost every aspect of life - in the check out line, on the phone, in traffic, at the secondary level, and even from our primary group members.
Certainly people are caught up in what we used to call the rat race - trying to get ahead (of something), keeping up with the Joneses, looking out for number one. And we hardly ever ask ourselves why we are doing all this.
Voluntary Simplicity is an old solution, beginning at least with the early American philosophers, most notably John S. Mill. With a few new wrinkles - the modern problems of overwork and anomie - and new solutions, such as the presence of support groups and information services on the internet - Simplification has never been more relevant.
I'll talk more about this topic in class - you should go to some of the websites below and see what you can find.
In addition to the PBS Show Affluenza, other media based "specials" are appearing in print media and their online counterpart websites:
Information on the Simple Living lifestyle trend
Alternatives Resource Guide: http://www.simpleliving.org/
"Global Consciousness Change: Indicators of an Emerging Paradigm."
Family Crises of various kinds which comes down to the management of normally stressful events in our lives, as well as very disturbing kinds of dysfunctions.
Most Families live long and relatively happy lives without suffering
series of extremely disturbing events.
However, there is another saying: "Bad things happen to
all the time!"
Now imagine that your father is diagnosed with a serious medical condition, your brother is in jail on a drug charge, your little sister is planning on running away from home, and you find out your fiancé is seeing someone else.
Family stress comes in many forms. There are normal stressors, such as getting married, adjusting to living in a new group, having babies, unemployment, and so on, which are experienced by most families from time to time. There are also abnormal stressors, such as famine, war, natural disasters, massive economic collapse, murder, assault, incest, and so on, which tend to occur in selected families, sometimes happening at random, sometimes happening to families with special weaknesses.
In any case, the individual can be prepared for these events by agents from all parts of our society, the most informative agent of which can be one's own family. The effects of family crises of various kinds comes down to the recognition and management of stressful events in our lives.
Keep in mind the old saying - If it ain't broke - Don't fix it! - meaning here that most families live long and relatively happy lives without suffering a series of extremely disturbing events, even though their level of functioning may be somewhat less than perfect.
Reuben Hill (1949) published a paper, as the result of his work in the field of "family dismemberment" during and after World War II. As a social scientist working for the Army, Hill was charged with assessing the impact of war casualties on American families.
His ABC->X Theory of Family Stress, though modified, is still used in family development to describe the process by which families survive and endure over the lifespan.(see figures below).
The model above illustrates a family that recovers from stressor events and returns to their previous level of functioning, however, the process does not always result in this outcome:
Sometimes families find that overcoming and surviving a crisis actually makes them stronger and more resilient due to the realization of talents and abilities unseen before.
Logically, some families find that recovery is beyond their grasp (below). Either they stagnate at a lower level of functioning, or find themselves dealing with new crises before repairs can be made on the initial disturbance:
Theorists after Hill, such as McCubbin, refer to this
crisis "pile-up", in which additional crisis situations further reduce
the family's ability to cope and function.
The interaction between (a) stressors, (b) family resources, and (c) perception of events as stressors is what defines a crisis for any individual family. In other words, assuming a family is aware of its resources, such as the number of family members bringing in paychecks, the emotional strength of family heads-of-household, the demonstrated wisdom of elder relations, the variety of family resources will disallow all but the most devastating events to be perceived as crises. If stressors are adequately dealt with by family resources, the perception of the stressor will be that it is a minor thing.
Non-theoretical types might miss the strong Symbolic-Interaction lanaguage present in the Perception part of his model.
Equally missed might be the Structural-Functional spirit of reorganization and re-equilibration of the family system after crisis.
Events are critical only if they are perceived to:
Further, over time, such bankrupt families will suffer what some researchers refer to as pile-up, where crises occur while the family is reorganizing from previous crises. Social workers understand this phenomenon. They often see families with no requisite coping skills, or barely developed ones, or pathological reaction patterns that they use when things go wrong. But even in normal families, ignorance of the pitfalls of life in the late 20th century can be devastating, and often families have fewer resources to get them through rough spots than they think they do.
Surviving family crises isn't all bleak news - there are some
Conflict, for example is known to either break relationships apart (if unresolved) or pull the relationship tighter together (if resolved in a fair and open manner). Flexibility in shifting roles that often result from the reorganization of a family after crisis can strengthen individual family members and the family as a group. Members can discover strengths and talents they didn't know they had.
The family is always better off with plenty of cross-trained members able to do each other's work. The best adjustments to crisis come after some difficult work. Quick adjustments to crisis do not allow closure of the problem or final adjustments.
There are various "types" of family stress, including the most obvious -- alcohol and drug abuse, family violence of the mental, physical and sexual varieties, divorce and widowhood, -- but these are abnormal to most families. We'll get to these later on. The most common and, in some ways the most destructive to families overall, are the normal types of stress that all or most families must endure over the lifespan.
In a well functioning society, normative stress should not be
as it is to so many.
Family development theorists count at least six specific transitions, each one with their own special adjustments. In addition to the transition to marriage, there are:
These are the six traditional transitions that most people make on their way to late life and death, however, as has been pointed out many times, the list is not inclusive of every member of society, nor is it exhaustive of all the transitions and life-changes that might occur.
In fact, what makes crises more likely to families today, compared to the traditional American family ideal of the 1950s is the sheer volume of alternatives to tradition. When a person or couple begins to deviate from the strict tradition that society expects, the opportunity for crises to accrue increases. The promise of structural-functional theory is that if one behaves (or as President Clinton phrased it, a family that works hard and plays by the rules), good things will happen - successful lives will be lived.
Be warned - society cannot, and will not, support too many deviations from the traditional and normal. Looking at the list of six transitions from the perspective of the 1990s, it appears many people are moving along nontraditional paths.
There is the issue of sex and pregnancy, which was the step couples took after courtship and marriage and the transition to marriage. These behaviors are often inserted into relationships somewhere between first date and commitment - long before marriage is even considered. Today there are many folks entering into relationships that are not traditional, are in violation of society's rules and therefore are not protected by them.
Here's an analogy. Suppose you thought you might want to become a skydiver, but you weren't sure. Good parachutes and high quality preparation & instruction in skydiving costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. Instead of investing all that time and effort - if you weren't sure about becoming a skydiver - you could just rent a parachute from "Critical Bill's Jump Shop", read a pamphlet entitled "Your 1st Jump!", and jump off a water tower. If you splatted on the sidewalk, who could your loved ones blame for the incident? The point is our society makes no provisions for such deviance from the normal route to successful skydiving. Perhaps it should - maybe there should be laws to protect those who don't look before they leap.
Now, consider the consequences of having one's children before establishing the economic/financial aspects of adulthood, which probably would entail:
If we were to look at rates of poverty in the U.S. we would see the fastest growing group, and most likely social grouping to fall into poverty, are single mothers living with dependent children. Most of the experts agree that, apart from a changing economy, the main factor affecting child poverty is the direction of change of family structure (divorce and births to unmarried mothers) since 1960. "Child poverty would be one third lower if family structure had not changed so dramatically since 1960. Fifty-one percent of the increase in child poverty observed during the 1980s is attributable to changes in family structure during that period." (Galston, 1993).
Children living with both parents today are much less likely
to be living
in poverty, primarily because they are also much more likely to be
in two earner (or more) families.
While these numbers are not causal in the statistical sense, they certainly seem to covary with time. The poverty figures are suspicious, primarily due to the political tendency to underestimate numbers of poor - the Census Bureau itself recommends multiplying the percentages by 1.25 to 1.35 for purposes of fiscal planning. Further, the number of children living in poverty did decline during the late 1960s, as a direct result of President Johnson's War on Poverty.
However, these numbers have steadily risen since 1970 to levels at or near 1960 (roughly 25% in 1996) If one were to hypothesize about the table, one would have to conclude that as the number of children living apart from their biological father increases (because of divorce and out-of-wedlock births):
Generalizations about Family Behavior in Crises:
The entire history of Family and Consumer Science (or as we
say Home Economics) is Management.