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Feminist Theories of the Family -- Research Starters Sociology

By: Howson, Alexandra;

2009 / EBSCO


A family is a special kind of social group whose members are linked to each other through kinship relations created either through marriage or through blood ties and the characteristics and structures of family relationships differ according to time, place and culture. Families may live together in one household as part of an extended network that includes a nuclear family (two adults living with their biological or adopted children), or live in one household as a conjugal unit. While some people in the contemporary West argue that families are under attack because of rising divorce rates, single parent households and the impact of feminism, history suggests that families in earlier times experienced impermanence (especially through high mortality rates for people of all ages). Whatever the reason, concern for and about families (often, though not exclusively, from the political right) is very often concern about the idea of the family and the values that family life is assumed to engender. The family is after all, the primary source of learning for future adults and, therefore, citizens. However, feminists have also expressed concern about the idea of the family because of the contribution of family structure and life to gender inequality. Feminist theorists have addressed these concerns by examining what Western society means by the idea of the family and what goes on in families; and by describing the diversity of family structures and their impact on values and social practices.