Types of Families
Family is the basic unit of society. Usually, it is where an individual acquires his/her values, characteristics, and habits. There are various types of families such as nuclear, extended, kinship, et cetera. The type of family is dependent on various factors including social, cultural, and historical constructs. A comparison of the Standard North American family with other family structure using various sociology theoretical perspectives show that human behavior, interactions, and institutions such as family can be explained from a sociological perspective.
The Standard North American (SNA) Family
The Standard North American family consists of a heterosexual legally married couple and any of their children who co-reside in the same household. Usually, the father is the household’s breadwinner and the mother may work for pay but is mainly responsible for household labor and taking care of the children (Grady, 2016). Sociologists would explain the North American preference for the nuclear family using structural functionalism theory. The structural functionalism theory focuses on the societal structure, specifically the patterning of roles, forms of institutions, and the overall arrangement of institutions in society (Joseph, 2022).
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Most North Americans (more than 83%) live in urban areas (“U.S. Cities Factsheet”, 2022). Urban areas favor the nuclear family structure over the extended family structure due to various factors including housing, cost of living, et cetera. Regarding roles, the father plays the role of the head of the family and the breadwinner while the mother plays the role of a household and children’s caretaker. Thus, the structure of North American society favors a nuclear family comprising a heterosexual legally married couple and their children living with them in the same household.
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A Comparison of The Standard North American vs Standard Indian Family
The Standard North American family varies from the Standard Indian family. As opposed to the SNA family, a Standard Indian family which goes beyond the nuclear family. The Indian family includes not only a heterosexual legally married couple and their children but also the extended family including grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Others even include the in-laws. Notably, even after education and securing employment, children continue to live with their parents. Individuals within the family have a moral responsibility to help other members of the family experiencing various problems including financial, poor health, unemployment, and other life issues (Chadda & Deb, 2013). Thus, Indians view family ties as exceedingly important.
Similar to the SNA family, sociologists would explain the Standard Indian family using the structural functionalism theory. Most of the Indian population lives in rural areas (over 65%) (“India Rural Population 1960-2022”, 2022). As such, they have vast land and space to allow extended families to thrive. Additionally, unlike the SNA family whose roles are mainly modeled toward ensuring the stability of the nuclear family the Indian family structure devises the roles toward ensuring the stability of the extended family. Indians believe that family members have a moral duty to aid family members in need of help to ensure stability. Also, each family member has a role to ensure that the family, as a unit, continues to thrive. Moreover, children must take of their parents during old age (Chadda & Deb, 2013). Thus, the extended family structure characterizing the majority of Indian households is geared toward ensuring the stability of the family so that all family members are well off.
How Trends Affect Ethnic Groups in the US
Trends have a significant impact on ethnic groups in the US. For instance, the Indian-Americans have always favored the extended family structure. However, over the years owing to the increased urbanization of the US, the Indians-Americans have been compelled to adopt the nuclear family structure (Chakravorty et al., 2016). According to Chakravorty et al., despite the Indian-American community’s efforts to hold on to the extended family structure, the urban lifestyle coupled with the various dynamics characterizing the modern US society has made it almost impossible for them, hence the increasingly rise of nuclear Indian families in the US. Sociologists can explain this cause-and-effect relationship using the structural functionalism theory. As the structure of the American society has changed with time it has become impossible for Indians-Americans to maintain extended families hence the shift to the nuclear family structure.
Another trend affecting ethnic groups is single-parent households in the African American community. According to Rosenblatt and Wallace (2021), in the US, more than 70 percent of the African Americans in modern society are born in single-parent households. Some of the causes of single-parent families in the African American community include increased premarital sex, births in unmarried couples, a rise in separation and divorce, and mass incarceration of African American males (Rosenblatt & Wallace, 2021). Sociologists can explain this phenomenon using various sociology theories based on the cause-and-effect relationship. For instance, the increase in the number of single-parent families in African American families due to the rise in separation and divorce cases can be explained using the social exchange theory. The theory argues that an individual will weigh the cost of interaction against the reward to make an informed decision (Joseph, 2022). The increase in separations and divorces can be due to the couples finding out that the cost of staying married outweighs the benefit.
Social, Cultural, and Historical Constructs in Various Types of Families
Social, cultural, and historical constructs influence the type of family structure. For instance, social issues such as the embracement of single parenthood and co-parenting have resulted in an increase of single-parent families across the US. This can be explained using the social exchange theory. Today’s youth are weighing the cost against the benefits of marriage versus single parenthood and a significant proportion of them are opting for single parenting or co-parenting (Parent et al., 2016). Regarding cultural factors, certain cultures such as the Indians believe that the extended family members have a moral obligation to aid family members.
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As such, this has resulted in them embracing the extended family/kinship structure since it is best positioned to promote the desired relationships and roles. Lastly, historical factors such as the historical discrimination against African Americans in the US have resulted in the mass incarceration of many African American males resulting in an increase in single families in the said community (Rosenblatt & Wallace, 2021). This can be explained using the social conflict theory. The theory argues that individuals or groups in society in society within society interact based on conflict as opposed to consensus (Joseph, 2022). The conflict between majority and minority racial groups has resulted in this unfortunate outcome.
To sum up, an analysis of the North American Standard family and the Standard Indian family shows that social, cultural, and historical constructs influence family structure. Analysis of family processes from sociology theoretical perspectives including structural-functionalism, conflict, and social exchange demonstrates that human behavior, interactions, and institutions such as family can be explained from a sociological perspectives.