Welcome to module 11, where we will be reading Chapter 9: Families and Children, p. 302-339 and watching the video: The Business of Being Born. We will also have our third exam, due by December 5th at midnight. As always, you are encouraged to take this exam well before the due date to avoid technical problems that could interfere with your grade.
Chapter 9: Families and Children
This chapter overviews the various ways in which American families form through partnerships and if and how they bring children into the structure. There are many statistics and definitions of terms in this chapter that you should make note of for the exam, as many will be on it. For example, are more children born of married or unmarried parents? What percentage? What are rates of cohabitation? What are fertility rates and how are they measured? What do these measures signify? The demographics of American families are shifting for sure, and our job as sociologists is to note these changes, statistical measures, and underlying causes of these shifts. Many conservative commenters may use such data in an alarmist fashion, but as sociologists, our job is not to place judgement, but understanding of change. How do the demographics of being single, of different racial/ethnic groups, and education levels shift family outcomes?
Adoption has had an interesting rise and fall in the U.S., and would make for an interesting student research website if any of you are interested. Before the 1960s, especially in the 1950s and earlier, women who became pregnant outside of married either faced a “shotgun marriage” or “went away” to a house for unwed mothers, where they sat out their pregnancy and then gave their baby up for adoption, because of the social stigma of the time. And of course, before Roe v. Wade, many women suffered through illegal abortions. As such stigma has loosened, women are more able to keep their babies. Currently, 2.1 percent of U.S. children, or 1.5 million, are adopted (310). 37 percent were adopted through the foster care system, 38 percent were adopted through private services, and 25 percent were internationally adopted. Which countries are such children adopted from?
Childfree or Childless?
Some individuals and families have no desire for children, or are unable to conceive. What are the various ways in which such outcomes manifest? Class and race dynamics played into this outcome as well. Approximately half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, especially among younger people. For low income communities, having children can represent the transition to adulthood, which is one means that is available when other economic means are not. Historically, having many children in agricultural communities was a way to provide labor and security for parents, and we continue to see this in many developing countries. For people in higher education and income brackets, they often choose to have far fewer children, because they become more of an economic liability and investment. For folks suffering from infertility, which can be roughly correlated with health, not having children can be a difficult experience, and many spend a great deal of money on infertility treatments. For others who may identify as childfree, they have no desire for children, or prioritize other things in their life.
The chapter overviews the different ways in which children’s living arrangements are managed. There has been a great change towards diversifying family formations. What does the chapter outline specifically? Families also transition into different forms through divorce and other means more often, during children’s formative years. Childhood itself has different outcomes when compared historically, across different demographic groups, or geographically. What are some examples? What are the class based inequalities that provide different living contexts for children? How does this impact their future?
Gay and Lesbian Parenting
When I teach this course face-to-face, I often invite Brian Frank to discuss his family, where he talks about being a gay dad, a foster-adoptive parent, in a transracial family. I have a video clip from his hour long lecture, cut down to a few minutes. Pleasue do watch this video. What are the different sociological factors in his story? You can comment on them in the comments section below.
The Business of Being Born
Birth: it’s a miracle. A rite of passage. A natural part of life. But more than anything, birth is a business. Compelled to find answers after a disappointing birth experience with her first child, actress Ricki Lake recruits filmmaker Abby Epstein to explore the maternity care system in America.
In the comments section below, feel free to write any comments or questions related to this module of the course. Highlight the statistics and information in the chapter and be sure to take the exam 3 before the due date. Best of luck!