Tier 3

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Archive for Sociology

Family Dynamics: The Fallout of Suburbanization

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Note: This is part three of a many-parted series discussing practical issues revolving around the family, such as the effects of suburbanization and corporatization on family happiness, divorce as a social phenomenon, the frailties of inner-city households, and the role of the father. No sources will be cited, but they do exist, somewhere. The ideas and thoughts proposed in this series are rhetorical and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Tier 3.

Suburbanization, characterized by “white flight,” brought the family out of the cramped confines and distasteful diversity of the city and into the endless optimism of tract housing, not to mention the joys of grass-mowing and shrub-clipping. The initial influx of people to the newly sprawling suburbs was indeed founded in a sort of boundless optimism—the opportunity to have private space under the premise of family wholeness, moral righteousness, and mutual satisfaction. Yet while these ideals fed the burgeoning bridge between city life and rural life, the promise of family unity soon became no more valid than a promise made by a politician: sounds good on paper, and turns the heads of the populous, but ultimately fails to live up to its own rhetoric. Instead of offering the family a chance to bond—as the advent of architectural adjustments favoring the family, such as the aptly named “family room,” would suggest—the prideful seclusion of suburban life instead led to a realization of the impossibilities of equal happiness among members of a family unit. The family unit, despite the obvious commonalities among its members, is comprised of people of different ages, aims, and agendas—to expect these people to provide, in relative isolation, all of an individual’s emotional necessities is not only uninformed but flatly absurd. Truly, rather than embracing the responsibility for family members’ well-being, the family members became suffocated under the unreasonable expectations and were driven from each other, not only emotionally but spatially within the home. suburbs2.jpgWhereas in the pre-suburban days the home was divided into various purpose-specific rooms, thus thrusting upon family members shared space whether they liked it or not, the suburban lifestyle unexpectedly saw the family splinter in whatever way possible, each member retreating to his or her own room and letting the door shut not-so-silently in its wake.

And so hope died. The man’s sphere and the women’s sphere became further separated and the increasingly longer commute to and from work made leisure time all the more sparse. The side effects of this are many, including additional estrangement from the family and the high pressure placed on “quality time,” which saw parents attempt to make up for a lack of presence by relying on the inconsistent binge relationship. These attempts met with mixed results, but often found the cynical teenager unimpressed and annoyed by the thought. Ultimately, the privacy offered by the expansive lawn and even the picket fence were accepted gratefully, albeit gravely, in exchange for community; it seems, almost, that the family values so effusively espoused by mid-century residential developers were always more in communion with community than with isolation of the family itself, and the latter was therefore overlooked as a factor. And thus, the rise in divorce and the separation of child from parent and parent from extended family.

Up next in Family Dynamics: The Television Revolution

Family Dynamics: Marriage — Economics and Control

Note: This is part two of a many-parted series discussing practical issues revolving around the family, such as the effects of suburbanization and corporatization on family happiness, divorce as a social phenomenon, the frailties of inner-city households, and the role of the father. No sources will be cited, but they do exist, somewhere. The ideas and thoughts proposed in this series are rhetorical and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Tier 3.

fam-dyn-ring.jpgEconomically, the married benefit because they don’t have to have two of everything—the cost of living can be split and two people in a partnership can live off of the rough equivalent of a person and a half’s spending. Also, children greatly benefit for a number of obvious reasons, most notable being that they have two consistent and emotionally invested people to look up to rather than one. Representing the one primary economic drawback to marriage is the depression of married women’s wages—is this because the males who usually hold leadership roles in the workforce frown upon women who are no longer “on the market?” This is quite possibly a factor, though that rationale would seem to posit too simple an answer. A more likely explanation is that married women, especially after having children, devote such a considerable portion of their time to family that investing in their money-making ability drops on the priority list.

Beyond the practical and community benefits, marriage does result in lessened autonomy for both individuals in the relationship. The success of the marriage unit takes precedence over the selfish desires of either party involved, and although this sacrifice of control is a sacrifice willingly accepted, it is a sacrifice nonetheless. Social theorists have argued that marriage is an institute of social control, and there is little room to argue, especially in cases where the marriage fosters an unequal partnership in which the man has final say on major decisions. Although this most likely is considerably less of an issue than it used to be, it had been thought (but was then disproved) that children can limit the sense of control women have because of the time they require; also, the act of shaping a young mind can be classified as less a position of power and more a position of survival. But while marriage on an interpersonal level may result in a sacrifice of control, marriage’s benefits can lead to a sense of greater control in the broad scheme; largely, this is a result of increased financial stability and the fact that two people with similar goals have more clout than one person. The issue of control becomes even more clouded when the following is considered: according to studies, a nonmarried woman, if her household income were equivalent to a married couple or a nonmarried man, would have the greatest sense of control of any of those groups. Unfortunately, due to deep-seated social prejudices and other roadblocks, nonmarried women usually do not attain that income. Also strikingly unfortunate is that married women rate lower on tests gauging control than any of the aforementioned groups, in spite of their increased financial wherewithal.

Ultimately, the studies regarding marriage, cohabitation, and raising children—as well as all the other angles from which you can direct attention to the modern family construct—are frustratingly inconclusive. For every result that is found, a new question must be asked. For now, this one: can humankind, with all of its inherent imperfections, ever make the union between two people a purely positive experience?

Family Dynamics: Marriage, Long Life, and Cohabitation

Note: This is part one of a many-parted series discussing practical issues revolving around the family, such as the effects of suburbanization and corporatization on family happiness, divorce as a social phenomenon, the frailties of inner-city households, and the role of the father. No sources will be cited, but they do exist, somewhere. The ideas and thoughts proposed in this series are rhetorical and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Tier 3.

Studies have shown marriage to be a preemptory strike against stupidity—excessive drinking, recklessness, etc.—and marriage1.jpgsuggest that marriage’s role on the individual level helps to contain an individual’s either implicit or explicit desire to destroy him-/herself. The idea is that because a married person is responsible for someone besides him-/herself, he/she will be less likely to harm him-/herself. Also, the social communion of marriage eliminates the thought that a person is all alone in the world when confronted with stressful or compromising situations. Studies, though, often declare the obvious in statistical findings, comparing the married not to the never-married but to the divorced, a demographic that has undergone the rupturing of their most significant bond and would understandably be more likely to engage in less-than-ideal activities. So, keeping in mind that divorce is generally an unpleasant experience, and that divorce requires first a marriage, should marriage as an institution be held responsible not only for the good it causes (unity, child rearing, comfort, economic security, etc.), but also as an institution responsible for the soul-crushing epidemic known as divorce?

But to backtrack, it is of interest that the likelihood of long life for the divorced (but not remarried), though significantly lower than for the married, is still higher than for those who never married. Does this mean that even a marriage not worth keeping gives an individual the hope/love/fuel needed to live a long life? Or does it mean that those who never marry are such a debilitated mess of a demographic that they die younger because of loneliness/uselessness/ugliness? Although marriage is said to reduce risky behaviors, thus leading to longer life, the unmarried may by nature be a group more likely to lead a shorter life—why were they unmarried?

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