Introduction to the Sociology of Family

Special thanks goes to author Katie Nutter-Pridgen for this comprehensive introductory chapter to the Sociology of Family. Her work is published to the OER commons.


Introduction to the Sociology of Family


  • Describe society’s current understanding of family
  • Define the sociological imagination and apply it to the study of family
  • Identify two organizations that provide scholarly information about families
  • Name the cross-cultural functions of the family
  • Recognize changes in marriage and family patterns
  • Differentiate between lines of decent and residence

Introduction: What is Family?

What is a family? A husband, a wife, and two children—maybe even a pet—has served as the model for the traditional U.S. family for most of the twentieth century. But what about families that deviate from this model, such as a single-parent household or a homosexual couple without children? Should they be considered families as well?

The question of what constitutes a family is a prime area of debate in family sociology, as well as in politics and religion. Social conservatives tend to define the family in terms of structure with each family member filling a certain role (like father, mother, or child). Sociologists, on the other hand, tend to define family more in terms of the manner in which members relate to one another than on a strict configuration of status roles. Here, we’ll define family as a socially recognized group (usually joined by blood, marriage, cohabitation, or adoption) that forms an emotional connection and serves as an economic unit of society. Sociologists identify different types of families based on how one enters into them. A family of orientation refers to the family into which a person is born. A family of procreation describes one that is formed through marriage. These distinctions have cultural significance related to issues of lineage.

Drawing on two sociological paradigms, the sociological understanding of what constitutes a family can be explained by symbolic interactionism as well as functionalism. These two theories indicate that families are groups in which participants view themselves as family members and act accordingly. In other words, families are groups in which people come together to form a strong primary group connection and maintain emotional ties to one another over a long period of time. Such families may include groups of close friends or teammates. In addition, the functionalist perspective views families as groups that perform vital roles for society—both internally (for the family itself) and externally (for society as a whole). Families provide for one another’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. Parents care for and socialize children. Later in life, adult children often care for elderly parents. While interactionism helps us understand the subjective experience of belonging to a “family,” functionalism illuminates the many purposes of families and their roles in the maintenance of a balanced society (Parsons and Bales 1956).

How Do We Define Family?

People in the United States as a whole are somewhat divided when it comes to determining what does and what does not constitute a family. In a 2010 survey conducted by professors at the University of Indiana, nearly all participants (99.8 percent) agreed that a husband, wife, and children constitute a family. Ninety-two percent stated that a husband and a wife without children still constitute a family. The numbers drop for less traditional structures: unmarried couples with children (83 percent), unmarried couples without children (39.6 percent), gay male couples with children (64 percent), and gay male couples without children (33 percent) (Powell et al. 2010). This survey revealed that children tend to be the key indicator in establishing “family” status: the percentage of individuals who agreed that unmarried couples and gay couples constitute a family nearly doubled when children were added.

The study also revealed that 60 percent of U.S. respondents agreed that if you consider yourself a family, you are a family (a concept that reinforces an interactionist perspective) (Powell 2010). The government, however, is not so flexible in its definition of “family.” The U.S. Census Bureau defines a family as “a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together” (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). While this structured definition can be used as a means to consistently track family-related patterns over several years, it excludes individuals such as cohabitating unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples. Legality aside, sociologists would argue that the general concept of family is more diverse and less structured than in years past. Society has given more leeway to the design of a family making room for what works for its members (Jayson 2010).

Family is, indeed, a subjective concept, but it is a fairly objective fact that family (whatever one’s concept of it may be) is very important to people in the United States. In a 2010 survey by Pew Research Center in Washington, DC, 76 percent of adults surveyed stated that family is “the most important” element of their life—just one percent said it was “not important” (Pew Research Center 2010). It is also very important to society. President Ronald Regan notably stated, “The family has always been the cornerstone of American society. Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation of our freedoms” (Lee 2009). While the design of the family may have changed in recent years, the fundamentals of emotional closeness and support are still present. Most responders to the Pew survey stated that their family today is at least as close (45 percent) or closer (40 percent) than the family with which they grew up (Pew Research Center 2010).

Alongside the debate surrounding what constitutes a family is the question of what people in the United States believe constitutes a marriage. Many religious and social conservatives believe that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, citing religious scripture and the basics of human reproduction as support. Social liberals and progressives, on the other hand, believe that marriage can exist between two consenting adults—be they a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman—and that it would be discriminatory to deny such a couple the civil, social, and economic benefits of marriage.

A Sociological Perspective on Family: Developing Your Sociological Imagination

Sociological Imagination

According to C. Wright Mills, the average person lives too narrow a life to get a clear and concise understanding of today’s complex social world. Our daily lives are spent among friends and family, at work and at play, and watching TV and surfing the internet. There is no way one person can grasp the big picture from his or her relatively isolated life. There’s just not enough time or capacity to be exposed to the complexities of a society of over 315 million people. There are thousands of communities, millions of interpersonal interactions, billions of internet information sources, and countless trends that transpire without many of us even knowing they exist. What can we do to make sense of it all?

Psychology gave us the understanding of self-esteem, economics gave us the understanding of supply and demand, and physics gave us the Einstein theory of E=MC2. When I learned of the sociological imagination by Mills, I realized that it gives us a framework for understanding our social world that far surpasses any common-sense notion we might derive from our limited social experiences. C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), a contemporary sociologist, suggested that when we study the family we can gain valuable insight by approaching it at two core societal levels. He stated, “neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both” (Mills, C. W. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford Univ. Press, p. ii). Mills identified “Troubles” (challenges on the personal level) and “Issues” (challenges on the larger social level) as key principles for wrapping our minds around many of the hidden social processes that transpire in an almost invisible manner in today’s societies.

Personal troubles are private problems experienced within the character of the individual and the range of their immediate relation to others. Mills identified the fact that we function in our personal lives as actors and actresses who make choices about our friends, family, groups, work, school, and other issues within our control. We have a degree of influence in the outcome of matters within the personal level. A college student who parties 4 nights out of 7, who rarely attends class, and who never does his homework has a personal trouble that interferes with his odds of success in college. But when 50 percent of all college students in the country never graduate, we call it a larger social issue.

Larger social issues lie beyond one’s personal control and the range of one’s inner life. These pertain to society’s organization and processes. To better understand larger social issues, we need to define social facts. Social facts are social processes rooted in society rather than in the individual. Émile Durkheim (1858-1917, France) studied the “science of social facts” in an effort to identify social correlations and ultimately social laws designed to make sense of how modern societies worked given that they became increasingly diverse and complex (Durkheim, Émile. 1982. The Rules of the Sociological Method. Ed. Steven Lukes; trans. W.D. Halls. New York: Free Press, p. 50-59).

The real power of the Sociological Imagination is found in learning to distinguish between the personal and social levels in our own lives. Once we do that, we can make personal choices that serve us the best, given the larger social forces that we face. We can also better understand the circumstances and experiences of others.

sociological imagination-ability to grasp the relationship between ...

Family Culture

Another key point in studying the family from a sociological perspective is to understand that all families have some cultural traits in common, but all also have their own unique family culture. Culture is the shared values, norms, symbols, language, objects, and way of life that is passed on from one generation to the next. Culture is what we learn from our parents, family, friends, peers, and schools. It is shared, not biologically determined. In other words, you are only born with drives, not culture. Most families in a society have similar family cultural traits. But, when you marry you will learn that the success of your marriage is often based on how well you and your spouse merge your unique family cultures into a new version of a culture that is your own.

Yet, even though family cultures tend to be universal and desirable, we often judge other cultures as being “good, bad, or evil” while we typically judge our own culture as being good. We have to consider our perspective when studying families from different cultures. Are we ethnocentric or cultural relativist?

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge others based on our own experiences. In this perspective, our culture is right, while cultures that differ from our own are wrong. I once visited a beautiful Catholic cathedral, Cathédrale St. Jean in Lyon, France. I fell in love with this beautiful and historic monument to the religious devotion of generations of builders. I learned that it took about 300 years to build, that England’s King Henry the VIII married his Italian bride there, and that a few families had nine generations of builders working on it. I left with a deep sense of appreciation for it all. On the bus back to our hotel, we met two American tourists who reacted very differently to their vacation in France. The gentleman said, “These people will eat anything that crawls under the front porch, they never bathe, they dress funny, and they can’t speak one *#&@ word of English!”

Another more valuable and helpful perspective about differing cultures is the perspective called cultural relativism, which is the tendency to look for the cultural context in which differences in cultures occur. If you’ve eaten a meal with a friend’s family, you have probably noticed a difference in subtle things like the food that is served and how it is prepared. You may have noticed that the friend’s family communicates in ways different from your own. You might also notice that their values of fun and relaxation also vary from your own. To dismiss your friend’s family as being wrong because it isn’t exactly like yours is being closed-minded. Cultural relativists like all the ice-cream flavors, if you will. They respect and appreciate cultural differences even if only from the spectators’ point of view. They tend to be teachable, child-like, and open-minded. They tend to enjoy or learn to enjoy the many varieties of the human experience.

An ethnocentric person thinks on the level of carrot soup: peel carrots, add water, and boil. The cultural relativist thinks on the level of a complex stew: peel and prepare carrots, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, broth, tofu, and 10 secret herbs and spices, and simmer for two hours. The diversity of the human experience is what makes it rich and flavorful.

Family Research

The American Sociological Association (ASA) is the largest professional sociology organization in the world. One section of ASA members focuses its studies specifically on the family. Here is an excerpt of that section’s mission statement:

“Many of society’s most pressing problems — teenage childbearing, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, domestic violence, child and elder abuse, divorce — are related to or rooted in the family. The Section on Family was founded to provide a home for sociologists who are interested in exploring these issues in greater depth.” (Retrieved 18 May 2010)

Many family sociologists also belong to the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). This council’s mission statement reads as follows:

“The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) provides an educational forum for family researchers, educators, and practitioners to share in the development and dissemination of knowledge about families and family relationships, establishes professional standards, and works to promote family well-being.” (Retrieved 30 May 2014)

There are other family-related research organizations in the world, but these two rank among the largest and most prestigious organizations in the field of family studies. As with all of sociology and other social sciences, science and scientific rigor are paramount. It is not enough to simply study the family from our narrow personal points of view. We have to reach into the larger social picture and see the hidden social processes that teach us how to inform marriage and family therapy, provide useful and accurate data to governmental and policy-making figures, and provides reliable advice that will help the most people in the most efficient way.

This becomes a scientific endeavor then to study and examine the family with rules of scientific engagement and analysis. Those earning a Ph.D. in a family-related field learn and execute this science with rigor. If researchers make the results of their study public and present them for critical review by other family scientists, then scientific rigor is even stronger and the findings can be afforded more credibility. For example, studies have shown that the leading factor of divorce is not any of the following: sex problems, failures to communicate, money mismanagement, nor even in-law troubles. What is the leading cause of divorce? Would you believe it is marrying too young? Specifically, if you marry at 17, 18, or 19 you are far more likely to divorce than if you wait to marry until your 20s. This was discovered and confirmed over decades of studying who divorced and which factors contributed more to divorce than others (see chapter 12). The cool thing about knowing the risks of marrying as a teen is that you can choose to wait until you are older, more established in your sense of self, and more experienced in knowing your own likes and dislikes.

Cross-Cultural Functions of the Family

What are the functions of families? In studying the family, sociologists have identified some common and nearly universal family functions, meaning that almost all families in all countries and cultures around the world have at least some of these functions in common.

Economic Support

By far, economic support is the most common function of today’s families. When your parents let you raid their pantry, wash your clothes for you, or replenish your checking account, that’s economic support. For another young adult, say in New Guinea, if she captures a wild animal and cooks it on an open fire, that’s also economic support in a different cultural context. I’ve always been amazed at how far family economic cooperation extends. Some families cooperate in businesslike relationships. In Montreal, Quebec, Canada, there is an established pattern of Italian immigrants helping family and friends emigrate from Italy to Canada. They subsidize each other’s travel costs, help each other find employment once in Canada, and even privately fund some mortgages for one another. Each immigrant supported through this system is expected to later support others in the same manner. To partake in this form of economic cooperation is to assume a very businesslike relationship.

Emotional Support

Emotional relationships are also very common, but you must understand there is a tremendous amount of cultural diversity in how intimacy is experienced in various families around the world. Intimacy is the social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical trust that is mutually shared between family members. Family members share confidences, advice, trust, secrets, and ongoing mutual concern. Many family scientists believe that intimacy in family relationships functions as a strong buffer to the ongoing stresses family members experience outside of the home.

Socialization of Children

Socialization of children is covered in more detail in future modules. For now, keep in mind that children are born with the potential to be raised as humans. Through the process of socialization, children must acquire the tools they need to survive in their culture. In addition to learning the basics about how to feed themselves, children also need older family members or friends to take the time to protect and nurture them into their cultural and societal roles. Today the family is the core of primary socialization (where our initial socialization takes place, usualy as children). But many other societal institutions contribute to the socialization process, including schools, peer groups, religious establishments, workplaces, and media.

Control of Sexuality and Reproduction

The family has traditionally asserted control over sexuality and reproduction. A few centuries ago many fathers and mothers even selected the spouses for their children (they still do in many countries). Today, U.S. parents want their adult children to select their own spouses. Older family members tend to discourage unwed mothers and encourage pregnancy and childbirth only in marriage or a long-term relationship. Unwed Mothers are mothers who are not legally married at the time of the child’s birth. Being unwed brings up concerns about economic, emotional, social, and other forms of support for the mother that may or may not be available from the father. Many unwed fathers reject their fatherly obligations.

When an unwed mother delivers her baby, it is often the older female family members rather than the birth father who end up providing the functions of support for that child. Most of the live U.S. births each year are to married mothers. Only about 10 percent of teen mothers and 35 percent of all mothers were unwed (retrieved 30 May 2014 SOURCE). This trend of relatively high unwed birth rates suggests that more and more families have less control over sanctioning childbirth only within marriage. On the other side of the coin, it also shows that people are able to exercise more choice in building their family instead of relying on cultural stereotypes and expectations.

Ascribed Status

Finally, ascribed status is given to children by their families because it is a type of status that is present at birth. With your friends, have you noticed that one or two tend to be informally in charge of the details? You might be the one who calls everyone and makes reservations or buys the tickets for the others. If so, you would have the informal role of “organizer.” Status is a socially defined position, or what you do in a role. There are three types of status considerations: Ascribed status is present at birth (race, sex, or class), achieved status is attained through one’s lifetime and can be positive or negative (college student, movie star, teacher, athlete, or felon), and master status stands out above our other statuses and can distract others from seeing who we really are.

You were born into your racial, cultural-ethnic, religious and economic statuses. Those shaped to some degree the way you grew up and were socialized. By far in our modern societies, achieved status (which comes as a result of your own efforts) is more important than ascribed status (which you’re born with) for most members of society. However, the degree of achievement you attain often depends heavily on the level of support your family gives to you.

Another consideration about roles is the fact that one single role can place a rather heavy burden on you (e.g., student). Role strain is the burden one feels within any given role. And when one role comes into direct conflict with another or other roles, you might experience role conflict. Role conflict is the conflict and burdens one feels when the expectations of one role compete with the expectations of another role.

Marriage Patterns

With single parenting and cohabitation (when a couple shares a residence but not a marriage) becoming more acceptable in recent years, people may be less motivated to get married. In a recent survey, 39 percent of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether marriage is becoming obsolete (Pew Research Center 2010). The institution of marriage is likely to continue, but some previous patterns of marriage will become outdated as new patterns emerge. In this context, cohabitation contributes to the phenomenon of people getting married for the first time at a later age than was typical in earlier generations (Glezer 1991). Furthermore, marriage will continue to be delayed as more people place education and career ahead of “settling down.”

One Partner or Many?

People in the United States typically equate marriage with monogamy, when someone is married to only one person at a time. In many countries and cultures around the world, however, having one spouse is not the only form of marriage. In a majority of cultures (78 percent), polygamy, or being married to more than one person at a time, is accepted (Murdock 1967), with most polygamous societies existing in northern Africa and east Asia (Altman and Ginat 1996). Instances of polygamy are almost exclusively in the form of polygyny. Polygyny refers to a man being married to more than one woman at the same time. The reverse, when a woman is married to more than one man at the same time, is called polyandry. It is far less common and only occurs in about 1 percent of the world’s cultures (Altman and Ginat 1996). The reasons for the overwhelming prevalence of polygamous societies are varied but they often include issues of population growth, religious ideologies, and social status.

While the majority of societies accept polygyny, the majority of people do not practice it. Often fewer than 10 percent (and no more than 25–35 percent) of men in polygamous cultures have more than one wife; these husbands are often older, wealthy, high-status men (Altman and Ginat 1996). The average plural marriage involves no more than three wives. Negev Bedouin men in Israel, for example, typically have two wives, although it is acceptable to have up to four (Griver 2008). As urbanization increases in these cultures, polygamy is likely to decrease as a result of greater access to mass media, technology, and education (Altman and Ginat 1996).

In the United States, polygamy is considered by most to be socially unacceptable and it is illegal. The act of entering into marriage while still married to another person is referred to as bigamy and is considered a felony in most states. Polygamy in the United States is often associated with those of the Mormon faith, although in 1890 the Mormon Church officially renounced polygamy. Fundamentalist Mormons, such as those in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), on the other hand, still hold tightly to the historic Mormon beliefs and practices and allow polygamy in their sect.

The prevalence of polygamy among Mormons is often overestimated due to sensational media stories such as the Yearning for Zion ranch raid in Texas in 2008 and popular television shows such as HBO’s Big Love and TLC’s Sister Wives. It is estimated that there are about 37,500 fundamentalist Mormons involved in polygamy in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but that number has shown a steady decrease in the last 100 years (Useem 2007).

U.S. Muslims, however, are an emerging group with an estimated 20,000 practicing polygamy. Again, polygamy among U.S. Muslims is uncommon and occurs only in approximately 1 percent of the population (Useem 2007). For now polygamy among U.S. Muslims has gone fairly unnoticed by mainstream society, but like fundamentalist Mormons whose practices were off the public’s radar for decades, they may someday find themselves at the center of social debate.

A painting of Joseph Smith, Jr.—the founder of Mormonism
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, is said to have practiced polygamy. (Photo courtesy of public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Residency and Lines of Descent

When considering one’s lineage, most people in the United States look to both their father’s and mother’s sides. Both paternal and maternal ancestors are considered part of one’s family. This pattern of tracing kinship is called bilateral descent. Note that kinship, or one’s traceable ancestry, can be based on blood or marriage or adoption. Sixty percent of societies, mostly modernized nations, follow a bilateral descent pattern. Unilateral descent (the tracing of kinship through one parent only) is practiced in the other 40 percent of the world’s societies, with high concentration in pastoral cultures (O’Neal 2006).

There are three types of unilateral descent: patrilineal, which follows the father’s line only; matrilineal, which follows the mother’s side only; and ambilineal, which follows either the father’s only or the mother’s side only, depending on the situation. In partrilineal societies, such as those in rural China and India, only males carry on the family surname. This gives males the prestige of permanent family membership while females are seen as only temporary members (Harrell 2001). U.S. society assumes some aspects of partrilineal decent. For instance, most children assume their father’s last name even if the mother retains her birth name.

In matrilineal societies, inheritance and family ties are traced to women. Matrilineal descent is common in Native American societies, notably the Crow and Cherokee tribes. In these societies, children are seen as belonging to the women and, therefore, one’s kinship is traced to one’s mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and so on (Mails 1996). In ambilineal societies, which are most common in Southeast Asian countries, parents may choose to associate their children with the kinship of either the mother or the father. This choice maybe based on the desire to follow stronger or more prestigious kinship lines or on cultural customs such as men following their father’s side and women following their mother’s side (Lambert 2009).

Tracing one’s line of descent to one parent rather than the other can be relevant to the issue of residence. In many cultures, newly married couples move in with, or near to, family members. In a patrilocal residence system it is customary for the wife to live with (or near) her husband’s blood relatives (or family or orientation). Patrilocal systems can be traced back thousands of years. In a DNA analysis of 4,600-year-old bones found in Germany, scientists found indicators of patrilocal living arrangements (Haak et al 2008). Patrilocal residence is thought to be disadvantageous to women because it makes them outsiders in the home and community; it also keeps them disconnected from their own blood relatives. In China, where patrilocal and patrilineal customs are common, the written symbols for maternal grandmother (wáipá) are separately translated to mean “outsider” and “women” (Cohen 2011).

Similarly, in matrilocal residence systems, where it is customary for the husband to live with his wife’s blood relatives (or her family of orientation), the husband can feel disconnected and can be labeled as an outsider. The Minangkabau people, a matrilocal society that is indigenous to the highlands of West Sumatra in Indonesia, believe that home is the place of women and they give men little power in issues relating to the home or family (Joseph and Najmabadi 2003). Most societies that use patrilocal and patrilineal systems are patriarchal, but very few societies that use matrilocal and matrilineal systems are matriarchal, as family life is often considered an important part of the culture for women, regardless of their power relative to men.

Currently, most relationships in the United States follow a neolocal residence pattern, where a new couple moves away from their family and establishes a entirely new home.


Sociologists view marriage and families as societal institutions that help create the basic unit of social structure. A sociological perspective on families means appreciating the role of large-scale (macro) social forces (like history and social institutions) and using scientific research to gather information. Family may be defined differently—and practiced differently—in cultures across the world, but there are features that are shared by families, as well.

10 Steps for Organizing a Family Reunion with Success

Key Terms

Key terms found in this reading. You should be able to define all of this important vocabulary.

  • achieved status
  • ASA
  • Ascribed status
  • Bigamy
  • bilateral descent
  • Cohabitation
  • Cultural relativism
  • Culture
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Family
  • family of orientation
  • family of procreation
  • kinship
  • Larger social issues
  • master status
  • Matrilineal
  • matrilocal residence
  • Monogamy
  • NCFR
  • neolocal residence
  • Patrilineal
  • patrilocal residence
  • Personal troubles
  • Polyandry
  • Polygamy
  • Polygyny
  • primary socialization
  • Role conflict
  • Role strain
  •  Social facts
  • Socialization
  • sociological imagination
  • Status

Questions for Review

1. What does it mean to look at family from a sociological perspective? In other words, when you use a sociological imagination to examine families, what can you see?

2. Summarize the cross-cultural functions of the family. Which of these functions do you think U.S. society finds most important? Which of these functions to YOU find most important? Why?

3. Using your family of origin, your family of procreation, or another kinship grouping (ie: your chosen family) to complete a ‘fact sheet’ that includes aspects of your family’s structure, authority, marriage norms, residence, and decent. Try to find another (real or imagined) family with traits different from yours. How might the differences on the ‘fact sheet’ contribute to different lifestyles, opportunities, or experiences?

4. Name two organizations that conduct and present useful research about families in the United States.


Altman, Irwin, and Joseph Ginat. 1996. Polygamous Families in Contemporary Society. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, Philip. 2011. “Chinese: Maternal Grandmothers, Outside Women.” FamilyInequality.com, Retrieved February 13, 2012 (http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/chinese-maternal-grandmothers-outside-women/).

Glezer, Helen. 1991. “Cohabitation.” Family Matters 30:24–27.

Glick, Paul. 1989. “The Family Life Cycle and Social Change.” Family Relations 38(2):123–129.

Griver, Simon. 2008. “One Wife Isn’t Enough … So They Take Two or Three.” The Jewish Chronicle Online, April 24. Retrieved February 13, 2012 (http://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/lifestyle-features/one-wife-isn’t-enough-so-they-take-two-or-three).

Haak, Wolfgang et al. 2008. “Ancient DNA Reveals Male Diffusion through the Neolithic Mediterranean Route.” Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences, November 17. Retrieved February 13, 2012 (http://www.pnas.org/content/105/47/18226).

Harrell, Stevan. 2001. “Mountain Patterns: The Survival of Nuosu Culture in China.” Journal of American Folklore114:451.

Jayson, Sharon. 2010. “What Does a ‘Family’ Look Like Nowadays?” USA Today, November 25. Retrieved February 13, 2012 (http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/sex-relationships/marriage/2010-11-18-pew18_ST_N.htm).

Joseph, Suad, and Afsaneh Najmabadi. 2003. “Kinship and State: Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia and the Pacific.” Pp. 351–355 in Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures: Family, Law, and Politics. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers.

Hammond, Ron, Paul Cheney, and Raewyn Pearsey. 2015. Sociology of the Family Textbook, Retrieved May 22, 2020 from http://www.freesociologybooks.com.

Lambert, Bernd. 2009. “Ambilineal Descent Groups in the Northern Gilbert Islands.” American Anthropologist68(3):641–664.

Lee, Richard. 2009. The American Patriot’s Bible: The Word of God and the Shaping of America. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Mails, Thomas E. 1996. The Cherokee People: The Story of the Cherokees from Earliest Origins to Contemporary Times. New York: Marlowe & Co.

Murdock, George P. 1967. Ethnographic Atlas: A Summary. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Murphy, Patrick, and William Staples. 1979. “A Modernized Family Life Cycle.” Journal of Consumer Research 6(1):12–22.

Museum of Broadcast Communications. 2010. “Family on Television.” Retrieved January 16, 2012.

O’Neal, Dennis. 2006. “Nature of Kinship.” Palomar College. Retrieved January 16, 2012 (http://anthro.palomar.edu/kinship/kinship_2.htm).

Parsons, Talcott, and Robert Bales. 1955. Family Socialization and Interaction Process. London: Routledge.

Pew Research Center. 2010. “The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families.” November 18. Retrieved February 13, 2012 (http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1802/decline-marriage-rise-new-families).

Powell, Brian, Catherine Bolzendahl, Claudia Geist, and Lala Carr Steelman. 2010. Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Respers France, Lisa. 2010. “The Evolution of the TV Family.” CNN, September 1. Retrieved February 13, 2012 (http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/01/families.on.tv/index.html).

Ruoff, Jeffrey. 2002. An American Family: A Televised Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Strong, B., and C. DeVault. 1992. The Marriage and Family Experience. 5th ed. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2010. “Current Population Survey (CPS).” Retrieved January 16, 2012 (http://www.census.gov/population/www/cps/cpsdef.html).

Useem, Andrea. 2007. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Co-Wife.” Slate, July 24. Retrieved January 16, 2012 (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2007/07/what_to_expect_when_youre_expecting_a_cowife.html).


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