Chapter summary imageThe ideal family in American is many times a mother, father, and 2-3 children. In our society, few families come in such neat packages.

What is a Family?

two or more people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Is the Family in Decline?


according to Popenoe, the family is declining because the family is not cohesive, can’t perform familial functions, and has lost power.

Conflict Theory:

families are struggling to adapt to dual-career households.

Symbolic Interactionism:

according to Coontz, the role of the family is changing to fit the times.

What do Future Families Look Like?

more interracial marriages and same-sex couples who adopt children.



  • expectations of roles help determine the success of the family
  • the way couples respond to changes in their environment affect the structure of the family•family serves as a way to maintain order

Conflict Theory

  • Hochschild’s TheSecond Shift; family is a system in which women are generally stuck doing the majority of the work
  • husbands and wives argue over time, energy, and leisure
  • both people work because of socioeconomic problems, which causes tension

Symbolic Interactionism

  • family serves as a way to maintain order
  • parents teach children how to behave and what is acceptable
  • Popenoe: the family is no longer cohesive, functional, or powerful

Key Terms


is two or more people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption.


is the union of two people that is typically recognized by law or cultural norms.

Nuclear Family

is a household consisting of a husband, wife, and children.

Extended Family

is a household consisting of a nuclear family plus an additional relative.


is the practice of being married to one person at a time.


is the practice of having more than one spouse at a time.


is the practice of a man marrying two or more women.


is the practice of a woman marrying two or more men.

Blended Families

are families composed of children and some combination of biological parents.homogamyis marriage between people with similar backgrounds, such as religion, race, class, or age.


is the practice of marrying within your social group.


is the practice of marrying someone from a different social group.

Marital Effects

are factors that make marriage work.


1. Why do so many people consider the 1950s an ideal time for the American family?

2. What are some of the causes in the changing of the American family?

3. Why do some couples wait to have children?

4. What is the stimulus-value-role theory?

5. What are some of Coontz’s myths of marriage?

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