Couples can be of the opposite sex or of the same sex” (Statistics Canada, 2012)

Couples can be of the opposite sex or of the same sex” (Statistics Canada, 2012)

The numbers drop for less traditional structures: a single mother and children (55%), a single father and children (54%), grandparents raising children (50%), common-law or married couples without children (46%), gay male couples with children (45%) (Postmedia News, 2010)

Although romantic love is often characterized as an involuntary force that sweeps people away, mate selection nevertheless involves an implicit or explicit cost/benefit analysis that affects who falls in love with whom. In particular, people tend to select mates of a similar social status from within their own social group. The selection process is influenced by three sociological variables (Kalmijn, 1998). Firstly, potential mates assess each others’ socioeconomic resources, like income potential or family wealth, and cultural resources, like education, taste, worldview, and values, to maximize the value or rewards the relationship will bring to them. Secondly, third parties like family, church, or community members tend intervene to prevent people from choosing partners from outside their community or social group because this threatens group cohesion and homogeneity. Thirdly, demographic variables that effect “local marriage markets” – typically places like schools, workplaces, bars, clubs, and neighborhoods where potential mates can meet – will also affect mate choice. Due to probability, people from large or concentrated social groups have more chance to choose a partner from within their group than do people from smaller or more dispersed groups. Other demographic or social factors like war or economic conditions also affect the ratio of males to females or the distribution of ages in a community, which in turn affects the likelihood of finding a mate inside of one’s social group. Mate selection is therefore not as random as the story of Cupid’s arrow suggests.

Perceptions of the family

Symbolic interactionist 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, maintaining emotional ties to one another over a long period of time. Such families could potentially include groups of close friends as family. However, the way family groupings view themselves is not independent of the wider social forces and current debates in society at large.

North Americans are somewhat divided onlylads reviews when it comes to determining what does and what does not constitute a family. In a 2010 survey conducted by Ipsos Reid, participants were asked what they believed constituted a family unit. 80% of respondents agreed that a husband, wife, and children constitute a family. 66% stated that a common-law couple with children still constitutes a family. This survey revealed that children tend to be the key indicator in establishing “family” status: the percentage of individuals who agreed that unily nearly doubled when children were added.

Another study also revealed that 60% of North Americans agreed that if you consider yourself a family, you are a family (a concept that reinforces an interactionist perspective) (Powell et al., 2010). Canadian statistics are based on the more inclusive definition of “census families.” Statistics Canada defines a census family as “composed of a married or common-law couple, with or without children, or of a lone parent living with at least one child in the same dwelling. Census categories 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 survey by Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., 76% of adults surveyed stated that family is “the most important” element of their life – just 1% said it was “not important” (Pew Research Center, 2010). It is also very important to society. American President Ronald Reagan 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). The dark side of this importance can also be seen in Reagan’s successful use of “family values” rhetoric to attack welfare mothers. His infamous “welfare queen” story about a Black single mother in Chicago, who supposedly defrauded the government of $150,000 in welfare payments, was a complete fabrication that nevertheless “worked” politically because of widespread social anxieties about the ily entals of emotional closeness and support are still present. Most respondents to the Pew survey stated that their family today is at least as close (45%) or closer (40%) than the family with which they grew up (Pew Research Center, 2010).

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