Sociology of family is the area devoted to the study of family as an institution central to social life. The basic assumptions of the area include:
• the universality of family,
• the inevitable variation of family forms, and
• the necessity of family for integrating individuals into social worlds.
Family sociology is generally concerned with the formation, maintenance, growth, and dissolution of kinship tiesand is commonly expressed in research on courtship (a period during which a couple develop a romantic relationship) and marriage, childrearing (the process of bringing up a child), marital adjustment (accommodation of husband and wife to each other at a given time), and divorce. These areas of research expanded in the twentieth century to encompass an endless diversity of topics related to gender, sexuality, intimacy, affection, and anything that can be considered to be family related.
History of Sociology of Family 19th C
A recognizable, modern sociology of family emerged from several different family studies efforts of the nineteenth century. Early anthropologists speculated that family was a necessary step from savagery to civilization in human evolution. Concentrating on marital regulation of sexual encounters, and debating matriarchy versus patriarchy as the first enduring family forms, these explanations framed family studies in terms of kinship and defined comprehensive categories of family relations.
In consideration of endogamy, exogamy, polygamy, polyandry, and monogamy, these efforts also fostered discussion of the best or most evolved family forms, with most commentators settling on patriarchy and monogamy as the high points of family evolution.
Nineteenth century sociologists such as Herbert Spencerand William Sumneradopted evolutionary views of family and made use of anthropological terms, but discussions of best family types gave way to considering the customs, conventions, and traditions of family life.
The evolutionary view of family pushed sociology toward the pragmatic vision of the family as adaptable to surrounding social conditions. And sociology’s emphases on populations, societies, and the institutions embedded within them allowed the observation that American and European families were rapidly changing in response to the challenges of modern society.
Another important development in early family sociology resulted from the growing distinction of sociology from religion, charity, and activism.
Commentaries of the middle and late nineteenth century warned urgently of the social problems of divorce and abandonment – citing individualism, easy morals, and lax divorce lawsfor a breakdown of family.