92 posts categorized "Relationships, Marriage and Family"

January 15, 2016

Gay Marriage, Gun Control and Social Change

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Back in 2004, I was teaching an Introduction to Sociology class when I heard that the mayor of New Paltz was planning to perform same-sex marriages. At the time, the momentum in support of gay marriage had been building nationally and although New Paltz is a relatively small village (population 7,000), I knew the actions of the mayor would reverberate well beyond the town line.

Sensing the potential significance, I took a short walk to village hall to witness this event. I also encouraged the students in the Introduction to Sociology class to join me. I remember trying to convey to the class the historical meaning of the mayor's actions by saying, "30-40 years from now, when gay marriage is legal in the United States, you can tell your grandkids that you witnessed some of the first same-sex wedding ceremonies in the nation. " Little did I know that I would be offering such a pessimistic prediction. It didn't take 30-40 years for gay marriage to become legal; instead, it took only about 10 years. Most of the students in that class probably don't even have kids yet, much less grand kids.

Continue reading "Gay Marriage, Gun Control and Social Change" »

May 08, 2015

Surrogacy: An International Birth Market

SrBy Sally Raskoff

News about the terrible earthquake in Nepal drew attention to the practice of Israeli citizens using Indian surrogates who give birth to their babies in Nepal. The newborns have been sent home with their Israeli parents, yet these surrogates, along with other pregnant surrogates, were left behind. Many of the news articles mention that 26 newborn babies just went home, some with their new parents, while the remaining 100 pregnant surrogates – and those 26 women who had recently given birth – are left in Nepal. Israel’s Interior Minister has evidently just approved allowing the other pregnant surrogates come to Israel to avoid the earthquake aftermath and give birth to healthy babies.

How do we interpret what’s going on here to make sense of it? Use your sociological imagination, of course! Think of theories, theorists, research, terms, and concepts that can help us make sense of this practice.

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April 08, 2015

Measures of Central Tendency

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you taken a statistics course? Don’t wait too long if you are procrastinating. Mastering that material helps with other classes and in life.

One of the key concepts within statistics is measures of central tendency: mean, median, and mode. Each one tells us about how the data, for one variable or concept, cluster together although each are calculated differently.

The mean is the numerical average. You’ve probably already been calculating means —also known as averages. Add up however many scores or values in your data and divide by how many you have.

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February 06, 2015

The Second Shift and Workplace Policies

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

In 1989, Arlie Russell Hochschild published her groundbreaking text The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. For eight years, from 1980-1988, Hochschild and her team of researchers interviewed fifty dual-career heterosexual couples, and observed twelve families at home.

In these relationships, she shows that in addition to their jobs in the formal economy, women also engage in a “second shift” of work at home; they take care of most of the household (cleaning and cooking), childcare (homework, bathing, etc.), and additional family care responsibilities (such as caring for elderly parents). As many sociologists note, this unequal distribution of unpaid labor is largely connected to traditional gender roles.

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January 27, 2015

Emotional Labor, Status, and Stress

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Virtually no job comes without stress. Whether it’s meeting the expectations and deadlines of coworkers, clients, or supervisors, nearly all work can at times be challenging. Sometimes the work itself isn’t as challenging as managing relationships with the people we work with.

Emotional labor involves managing our emotions to meet our job expectations.  For example, retail clerks are expected to be upbeat and enthusiastic about the merchandise (and in general), even if that is not truly how they feel. Emotional labor is also part of dealing with the personalities of those we work with. This labor is not necessarily always stressful. Asking a coworker about a sick relative may be a way to convey your concern about their family without taking much of an emotional toll. But in other cases emotional labor can be very stressful, and this stress can be minimized or magnified based on one’s status.

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November 24, 2014

(Someone Else’s) Home for the Holidays

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I just booked my first reservation through Airbnb.com, the site where you can reserve a room in a guest house or private home. This wasn’t my first choice; after finding that most reasonably-priced hotel rooms were booked, my husband and I decided to give it a try for a night. We passed on places that had too many negative reviews left by previous guests or if the room seemed unkempt and cluttered based on the posted pictures. The location we selected had many good reviews and is a five minute drive from our destination.

Staying in a stranger’s home may seem like a new Internet-era invention, but taking in boarders for a night or longer pre-dates the twenty-first century. At the turn of the last century, new immigrants often rented a bed in tenement housing with other families until they were able to save enough money for their own apartment and perhaps to bring the rest of their family to the country. Rural families might have taken in passers-by for a night in places where commercial lodging might have been scarce. The Internet definitely makes this process easier, especially when finding a place to stay from out of town.

I am viewing this experience as a kind of sociological experiment: what is it like to stay in a stranger’s home compared with a family member’s or a friend’s? How do strangers interact in private spaces normally reserved for family and friends? Are there advantages to staying with strangers compared with people we know? If houseguests are a major source of stress during the holidays, might houseguests who are strangers be easier to host?

Continue reading "(Someone Else’s) Home for the Holidays" »

November 14, 2014

Social and Cultural Capital at School

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you ever thought about how your social relationships at school (and elsewhere) might help you in the future?

Social capital, conceptualized by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, includes economic resources that one gains from being part of a network of social relationships, including group membership.

Cultural capital, also from Bourdieu, includes non-economic resources that enable social mobility. Examples of cultural capital would include knowledge, skills, and education. Both concepts remind us that social networks and culture have value. Bourdieu discussed other forms of capital, including economic and symbolic.  Economic capital refers to monetary resources or those with exchange value, i.e., money.

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October 30, 2014

Weddings: Front Stage Performances

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Weddings are big productions. They often take months of planning that includes selecting decorations, invitations, food, music, dresses, tuxedoes, color schemes, seating charts, the wedding party and more. Weddings are a heightened example of what sociologist Erving Goffman called front stage behavior.

Goffman viewed social life as something akin to a performance, where we attempt to manage the impressions we make to others. Weddings are clearly social performances: they involve guests, usually seated in the audience, and people involved in the wedding party play roles as well  (bride, groom, best man, mother of the bride, the person performing the ceremony and so forth). Most involve “costumes” that designate the roles of those involved. Photographers and videographers are often hired to document the event too.

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September 03, 2014

The Unintended Manhattan Project Experiment

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Moving to a new place is always a challenge…but what about a place that is new to everybody?

During World War II, an interesting—an unintended—sociological experiment took place when a few communities were built from scratch during the top-secret development of the nuclear bomb. People relocated to these restricted areas from all around the country, turning what once were desolate or sparsely populated areas into thriving mini-cities. Scientists, secretaries, technicians, and other workers came, along with their children, wives, and husbands to work on “The Project,” and in the process, create a new, if short-lived community.

How do people create communities where none exists? And why do communities matter?

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August 13, 2014

Siblings and Sociology

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you have siblings, you might feel like you have little in common with them despite growing up in the same family. I have certainly known families where siblings couldn’t have been more different, with diverging value systems, political beliefs, and aspirations.

Then again, some siblings share many similar attributes, educational strengths and even career aspirations. I’ve known brothers who joined the same fraternity during their college years, and siblings who chose to attend the same out-of-state university years apart. I remember years ago my mother and her sister unintentionally bought the same dress to wear to a family event despite living in different cities and shopping at different stores.

What makes siblings different or similar?

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