Stages of Family Life: Crash Course Sociology #38

Stages of Family Life: Crash Course Sociology #38


How does a family become a family? Well, when two people love each other very
much… I’m joking, I’m joking – kind of. As we discussed last week, American families
often form around marriages. So, romantic relationships can be a first
step in the stages of family life. It might seem strange to think of dating as
a part of family formation. After all, when you’re swiping right on
Tinder you’re probably not thinking about
adding that person to your family. But families are a dynamic social institution,
changing over the course of your life. What the word “family” conjures in your
mind is going to be very different when you’re
16 versus when you’re 60. Sociologists say that every family has a life
cycle. They form, they change, and they sometimes
break apart. [Theme Music] When we talk about the stages of life, we’re
usually talking about organisms – the life cycle
of a mayfly, or something like that. But just as you pass through developmental
stages from childhood to adulthood to old
age, a family evolves as well. Sociologists describe this process as the
family life cycle – the developmental stages
that a family passes through over time. Of course, individual families are different. Some people might move through the
stages of family in a different order, or skip
some stages all together. But these stages are meant to describe the
typical life cycle of a modern American family. The first stage of family life is very cute.
It’s courtship! I’m sure you know what courtship means,
but in case it’s on your final: It’s the period of developing a relationship with an
eye toward marriage or long term partnership. So, how do people pair off in different societies? Well, some cultures – including the US –
put a heavy emphasis on romantic love as the
foundation of a partnership. Finding the “one” is wrapped up in an idea
that a relationship should be based on affection,
attraction, and passion for your partner. Other cultures practice arranged marriage, in
which a marriage is negotiated between two families
in order to create stronger bonds between them. Love isn’t considered a prerequisite for
marriage – though parents may consult the
children’s feelings when picking a spouse. If the married couple’s shared life eventually
creates bonds of affection, that’s a bonus! For those in cultures that celebrate romantic
love, the idea of an arranged marriage often
seems completely unthinkable. It’s important to recognize, though, that even in
the US, sex and romance typically aren’t the only
foundation of a long-lasting relationship. Passion is often a less stable basis for a
relationship than marital arrangements based
on social and cultural compatibility. When the passion fades, if there aren’t other
foundations for the relationship, it may fall apart. And in fact, even in countries that emphasize romantic
love, societal forces often “arrange” marriages based on
who is socially, economically, and morally compatible. Societies often encourage homogamy, or marriage
between people with similar social backgrounds, like
educational achievement or class standing. Another common factor in romantic love is propinquity,
or a physical proximity to another person. Doesn’t sound very romantic, but we tend
up with people who are just…around, because
we often live near people like ourselves. Now, of course, courtship doesn’t always
lead to marriage. In fact, in recent years, marriage rates have
been declining in many high income countries, partially due to people waiting longer to
marry and partially due to people forgoing
marriage altogether. Among women who between 35 and 44 in 2010,
around 20% had never been married. In comparison, for the previous generation at that
age, only 10% of women had never been married. Even with declining marriage rates, most Americans
will marry at least once. Marriage – and particularly weddings – are
often seen as a life goal, something to aspire to. Weddings are not marriages, of course, and for many this stage of settling into a new family comes with changes in expectations of what married life will look like. How a couple handles the transition from courtship into
marriage is an important predictor of family stability. Some find that once the honeymoon phase ends – that is, the first couple years of marriage when
everything is new and exciting – they are no longer
satisfied in their marriage. To find passion, some turn to infidelity,
which occurs more often than you might think. In an anonymous survey of approximately 900 Americans, researchers from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University found that 19% of women and 23% of men
report cheating on their partners at least once. One outcome of infidelity that may NOT surprise
you is divorce. You might have heard that half of all marriages
end in divorce. But that’s not quite accurate. For one thing, it’s not that every couple
has a 50/50 chance of divorce. The 50% stat comes from looking at the likelihood
that marriages reach a certain anniversary. How likely are you to still be together 5
years after marriage? What about 20 years? For couples who married 40 years ago,
we know what percent of those marriages
have ended in divorce – and that’s a decent proxy for how many
will ever end in divorce. For Americans who married in the
1970s and 1980s, about 40 to 45 percent of
those marriages have ended in divorce. There was a huge surge of divorce in the 1970s, in part due to many states loosening their restrictions
on who can divorce through No Fault divorce laws,
which allow couples to divorce for any reason. Prior to No Fault laws, divorce was only allowed if one
spouse could prove abuse, abandonment, or adultery. Along with the removal of legal barriers,
social norms also changed, with divorce becoming
more socially acceptable. Plus, increased opportunities for women in
the workforce made it more feasible for women
to leave bad marriages, because they were better able to support
themselves and their children without a husband. But the divorce rate in the US has been on
the decline since the 1990s. Some estimates suggest that the percent of
marriages ending in divorce for more recent
generations will be closer to 1/3 than 1/2 Why has it declined? Well, for one thing, fewer people are marrying,
and fewer people are marrying young. With more people waiting to find a partner until
they’re more settled, marriages have become much
more stable than they were in previous decades. Plus, the type of people who get married – and
their likelihood of divorce – has changed, too. Divorce rates are higher for low income
and less educated Americans – who are also the socioeconomic group
with the greatest declines in marriage
rates in the last 40 years. So the fewer who get married, the fewer who
get divorced. Changing marriage patterns has also meant
changing patterns in the family lifecycle…like
when people have kids. While childbearing is typically thought
of as the stage of the family life cycle that
follows marriage, the percent of children born outside of
marriage has been increasing, with about
40% of all births to unmarried mothers. There are also increasing social class divides
in who has kids before or after marriage: While only 9% of births to college educated moms take
place outside marriage, 58% of births outside marriage
are to women with only a high school diploma. But regardless of whether having kids comes
before or after marriage, this stage in the
family life cycle is an important one. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble to talk about
our next family life stage: childrearing. What a family looks like has changed a lot
in the last couple centuries. In pre-industrial America, large families
were much more common – partially because of a lack of effective birth control,
partially because having more children meant more
hands to help with the work on a farm, and partially because high rates of child mortality
meant that many kids didn’t live to adulthood. But as child mortality rates declined, and the US
industrialized, the average family size declined from
7 children in 1800 to 3.5 children by 1900. Nowadays, birth rates are even lower. The old adage about the American dream being
a house with picket fence, a dog, and 2.5 children
isn’t too far off – the average American mom has 2.4 children and
this rate has been pretty stable for the last 30 years. But when women have children has been changing. In addition to delaying marriage, women are
also postponing having kids. The average age at first birth is 26, up from
21 in 1970. Some of this is due to increased access to
birth control, which allows people to better control
the timing of when they have a child. And some of it is because raising a kid is
expensive! Many people want to wait until they’re older
and in a more financially secure position before
they add a third mouth to feed. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that for kids born in 2015, the typical middle class family will spend $233,000 dollars on that kid over the course of their childhood. Clothes, food, toys, transportation, basic education,
medical care – it all adds up pretty fast. And that figure isn’t even accounting for
the cost of college! But even if the cost is high, being a parent
is highly valued in American society. A 2010 survey found that the majority of
Millenials say that being a good parent is “one
of the most important things” in life – ranking it higher than having
a successful marriage. Thanks Thought Bubble! The next stage of family life is the launch stage
in which kids grow up and leave their parents’ house,
usually in their early twenties. Though Mom and Dad might suffer from some
empty nest syndrome when kids first leave, many remain involved in their kids’ lives,
often providing childcare for their grandchildren
once their kids start families of their own. This post-children stage of family life is
the final part of the family life cycle. Additionally, as life spans increase, many
adult children find themselves in caregiver
roles for their aging parents. The sandwich generation refers to people who care
for their aging parents at the same time that they
provide care for children living in their household. This is particularly common for women, who are
more likely to take on caregiving roles in a family. As I said at the beginning, these stages of
the family life cycle are just one path that
a family can follow. There are all types of families and not all
of them will be nuclear families with a mom,
a dad, and a bunch biological offspring. For one thing, a married couple doesn’t
need to be a man and a woman. In 2015, the US Supreme Court made marriage equality
the law of the land and ruled that all states must
recognize marriages between same-sex couples. For another, not all married couples have,
or want, children. Plus, not all families with kids have two
parents. Single parent families make up about one-third
of all families with children. Single parent families are most often headed
by a single mother, rather than a single father. There are also large racial differences in
family structure, with 66% of Black children being raised
in a single parent home compared to only
25% of non-Hispanic white children. Some of these kids are still growing up in
households with two parents, though – 58% of unmarried births were to cohabiting couples,
or couples who live together without being married. Unmarried or divorced parents may also
marry someone new, creating a blended family with one parent
in a household who is unrelated to some or
all of the children. So there’s a lot of diversity in what a
family can look like. But they often tend to follow similar paths. But no matter what a family looks like, the
family life cycle helps us understand how
families evolve over time. Today, we looked at one way of thinking about
the different stages of family life: courtship, marriage,
child-rearing, and family life in your later years. We also discussed changing patterns of
marriage and childbearing in the US, highlighting
some of the varied family types that exist. Crash Course Sociology is filmed in the Dr. Cheryl
C. Kinney Studio in Missoula, MT, and it’s made
with the help of all of these nice people. Our animation team is Thought Cafe and Crash
Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for everyone,
forever, you can support the series at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows
you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making Crash
Course possible with their continued support.

86 thoughts on “Stages of Family Life: Crash Course Sociology #38

  • I've always thought of family as a loose, Social Ideology. I've seen through life that the old Cliche: "Family is what you make it" I find true.

  • I think laws should be made to assist biological parents who had their children separated from them by any means to establish regular contact with their children under supervision by a welfare or legal guardians.

  • To me marriage is something one does in the heat of the moment, or when you get a girl pregnant and want to pretend to be responsible for the child because of social pressures.

  • 2:17 "Passion is often a less stable basis for a relationship than marital arrangements based on social and cultural compatibility." Whew, that one was a mouthful. Did you get it in one take? 😉

  • only a few minutes in, but im a bit disappointed that the language in this video only reflects monogamy. overall, good video though!!

  • That marriage stat for women is kind of sad. What man in his right mind would marry a 35+ women?? She's 10 years past her prime and her sexuall market value is virtually non-existent. Her ovaries have basically "dried up" at this age as she has been persuing a career all this time and completely ignoring her most impotant instincts telling her to have children. Thanks feminism for screw up women!

  • finding the one means hunting alot of ppl and alot of ppl hurting you and if ur lucky u might find someone that you wont hurt and they wont hurt you.

  • Look kids, it's the gender studies class that took the place of the mechanical engineering pipeline at you local university! Lol

  • I read the comments. Why did I punish myself with that mess. To everyone who might read this, don't go deeper. You will regret it.

  • And for a lot of us who can't afford human kids or don't feel ready, we adopt fluffy little surrogates. (or scaley)

  • If its unconditional love then its a great and stable relationship. If its about giving and taking then its decadent and volatile.

  • OMG I can't believe it. First Crash Course Sociology episode that almost isn't completely far left/marxist/social justice propaganda. You guys can do it! Nice! I can't believe it. Damn. This day has come.

  • Is a mother and child; by themselves, a family?  I wouldn't call an only child- orphan, by himself a family. How many people or connections does it take to be labeled as a family?

  • Why is this all either so obvious, or so general that it can be applied to anything. Academic institutions nowadays will make a major out of everything..

  • Sounds more like the discussion is based more around divorce instead of stages of family life. Clarity across stages is not clear.

  • There are different forms and types of family, but for most of us here in the Philippines, a family is usually bonded by marriage and families come in forms such as: married couples with or without children, or unmarried couples with children, a single-parent family, partnerships or co-living of couples of either from opposite sexes or same sex, a family of grandparents with grandchildren and without or with one parent, a family of niece/s or nephew/s with one or both of their aunts and uncles or close friends of their parents without the biological parents, adopted child/ren with foster parent/s, a bond of nuclear family with the friends of their parents and their children, a bond of nuclear family with extended and even the beyond the extended family including friends, colleagues, and the extended family of families in the nuclear family's extended family. There are so many families. Also along as there's love or some sort of bondage like living in one roof, religious marriage, family arrangement or arranged marriage, or civil marriage or civil union, then there's family. So, you can consider friends, co-workers, and a community based on tribe, religion, ethnicity, or ideology as a family too.
    But again, the "usual", "common", or even "ideal" family in the Philippines being a really religious country (Muslims, Protestant Christians, and Catholics) is a married or arranged married couple with or without children bonded by religious marriage or civil marriage/union or even both.

  • So men and women have similar rates of infidelity. At least you mentioned that, it gets omitted from the subject quite a bit– by accident I'm SURE, with no malicious intent. eyeroll

  • I’m 32 we have 6 kids and have been together 13years. I get the comment “you don’t see this anymore” almost everytime we all go out. We’re not married either, We only see it as a piece of paper

  • I made it through all 39 videos in this crash course! Learned a lot. I am going through a sociology textbook right now and it stands up against these videos well.

  • When I first started this series, I thought you were wearing a wig but now I am convinced your hair is real. (It always looks like a wig when you cannot see the portion of hair as it connects to the scalp, ya know?)

  • I grew up in a "broken" and blended family (i.e. divorced & remarried immediately). Although the relationships between my two separate families were mostly congenial, guilt tripping and being pulled between biological parents was enough to convince me I never wanted to get divorced. Thus, I waited until I was 30 to even start to look for a spouse. This, perhaps, is another factor in the trends observed in age of 1st marriage and divorce rates.

  • The CBC once deleted my FB comment. The article was about an old couple that stayed married for 60 years or something. And the article was going on about why they stayed married for so long. I said it was probably because before 1968, it wasn't easy to get a divorce. =deleted=
    I just assumed that maybe they reached a threshold in their marriage where they were comfortable. Every marriage has problems and when it's hard to get a divorce, I assume people just don't.

  • A Spiritual I deal – "The life of a married couple should resemble the life of the angels in heaven—a life full of joy and spiritual delight, a life of unity and concord, a friendship both mental and physical. The home should be orderly and well-organized. Their ideas and thoughts should be like the rays of the sun of truth and the radiance of the brilliant stars in the heavens." ~ Family Life, Bha'i Faith

  • what part of "typical" did all of these people in the comments not understand? Crash Course is doing a pretty good job in being as globally accurate and inclusive as possible. Besides, the examinations they have in mind are western and theyre sticking to the syllabus.

  • "But in case it's on your final"… hahahah, how did you know? Seriously tho, Im taking a version of this course using Dalton Conley's book for Arizona State online.. beyond grateful.

  • Stages of family life include the 20 yr old mama cat and the 3 20 yr old kittens as mama cat walked around the corner to make sure the coast was clear for the (kittens) to Scamper to the next block? Man in the car who's eyes widened and floored it. Dunno either but tampa fl, whitting and franklin intersection 2013. I thought mama cat looked at me inquisitive like cause they weren't into men. And by the way where were their families?

  • First time I heard of "propinquity", brilliant. Love is an area of fascination to me, I would like to recommend an area of study: Adult attachment theory. Attachment theory is basically psychoanalysis centered around bonds between caregivers (our parents). It can extrapolate to all relationships, including and esp. finding a partner.

    I recommend the paper "Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process" by Shaver and Hazan. It's available online in PDF.

    Some books:

    – "Dynamics of Romantic Love: Attachment, Caregiving, and Sex
    " by Mario Mikulincer and Gail S. Goodman
    – "Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner" by Jeb Kinnison. Despite the corny / patronizing title, this book is very canon on attachment theory and a good read.

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