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Sociology of the Family

The age distribution of the populaton of the United States is consistently growing older. Birth rates are historically low and life expectancy is rising. The portion of Americans who are 65 or older was 8% in 1950, was 12% in 2010 and is projected to be 22% by 2050.(!) This demographic shift is happening during a period of major economic and social changes, which have important implications for the growing elderly population.

With people living longer and healthy lives, ‘retirement’ has become a time when people may still have the health and resources to live life in new, rewarding ways. The 3 principal phases of the life-cycle that have traditionally described an individual’s life course (education, work, retirement)  are becoming more and more unclear.(1)

The time in each phase is more variable than ever before as more people learn new skills as adults. Their work years cannot be characterized as a straightforward upward movement through the ranks in a single profession or even a single company.(1) Marriage and first birth has been delayed, and the length of time children remain in the education phase or in pre-work phase has been growing longer. This has important financial implications for retirement planning.(1)

More and more women and men are heading into retirement alone every year. The age of retirement has fallen over last 20 years but the traditional pattern of working full-time until retirement age and then retiring to a life of full-time leisure is being replaced with a range of other trajectories. These include transitioning to intermittent or part-time work.(1)

There is great value in applying the tools of sociological research to the study of aging. There is an emergence of new and innovative data that are enabling researchers to better understand how genes and social environments work in concert to vary the course of aging.

Three popular theories are:

  • Disengagement theory views aging as encompassing an inevitable process of withdrawing or disengaging from various social roles, activities and relationships.
  • Social exchange theory seeks to explain human interactions and relationships in terms of a cost-benefit analyses in which individuals decide which social actions to take.
  • Life-course approach is used to study how early life events and cumulitive processes of disadvantage help shape later outcomes.


Categories within Sociology of the Family

Sociology of Childhood

Postings: 1

Since the 1980s, the sociology of childhood has been growing into a legitimate academic field, studying how children can shape society and vice versa.

Marriage and Divorce

Postings: 2

With divorce rates on the rise, sociologists aim to study and explore the causes of marriage dissolution.

Social Change in the Family

Postings: 11

The family institution has changed immeasurably alongside society, with new household structures and family types constantly emergin.

The Aging Population

Postings: 0

America's average age is growing every year, making it important to understand the roles of the elderly in modern culture.

Self-Serving Bias: Working with Families

Identify and discuss two instances of the self-serving bias in family members from the attached scenario. Identify and report two experiences where you have observed the self-serving bias in working with families.

The Important Roles of Grandparents in the Family

Discuss the different roles that grandparents play in a family. Explain the relationship of grandparents with their grandchildren. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of grandparents assuming parenting roles for their grandchildren. What types of resources need to be in place for the grandparents?

Ecomaps for Families

Discuss the benefits and challenges of using an ecomap when working with families.

Importance of Fathers in Child Development

Why is the role of the single or married father, externally employed or stay-at home father, gay or straight father, and an adoptive or step-parent father important in a child's life? Describe why each type of father is important in a child's life.

Role of Men as Fathers

With the rise of social change, the role of fathers has evolved. What brought this change in roles of men as fathers? There are several areas to explore the reasoning behind this rise: One can consider the financial status of fathers; fathers stepping up and taking on the role and regaining their parental rights; and, gay men ar