107 posts categorized "Relationships, Marriage and Family"

January 29, 2024

Gender, Sexuality, and Social Exclusion

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Recently politicians have continued attempts to police gender and sexuality through the passage of laws that seek to exclude and punish. It is important to consider why the attention to other people’s gender and sexual practices are part of public and political discourses, and why some people are the target of social exclusion.

For context: while laws attempting to limit transgender rights have dominated the last decade, criminalizing same-sex relationships is not by any means new, although new laws have been passed around the world in the past few years. Human Rights Watch maintains a list of criminal codes outlawing same-sex relations around the world dating back to the nineteenth century. Many laws criminalizing LGBTQ people were passed in the middle of the twentieth century. Why?

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February 06, 2023

Having It All? Motherhood in an Increasingly “Planned" World

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

Whether, when, and even how to have children are increasingly complicated questions facing women today. On the one hand, revived abortion debates and restrictive legislation in many U.S. states may mean forced motherhood for those who become pregnant; on the other, both cultural and financial pressures around motherhood are weakening. For the first time in history there are now more women than men in the college-educated workforce, meaning that fewer women are sticking to stay-at-home parenting, and our culture is increasingly starting to view motherhood as an option rather than as an expectation.

In addition to more financial and cultural freedom, accessible contraception has also made it possible for women to be more intentional about whether and when they want to have children than in the past. In 2018, an estimated 65% of U.S. women of reproductive age (those aged 15 – 49) were using some form of contraceptive method and there were no significant differences based on level of education. Whether they dropped out of high school or have a Ph.D., these women share one thing in common – most of them are taking active steps to control their fertility. These efforts have been successful, too: the rate of unintended pregnancies has seen a significant decline over the past two decades.

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July 18, 2022

Death and Emotional Labor

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Since the pandemic started in 2020, I have “attended” three funerals online, two for elderly relatives who had cancer and one for the elderly father of a friend who had Alzheimer’s disease. Being thousands of miles away, the online option saved me the time and expense of making last-minute travel arrangements. I appreciated the privacy of watching the funerals alone, as I can get emotionally overwhelmed by other people appearing emotionally overwhelmed.

Of course, this is part of what the funeral ritual is for: to comfort the bereaved, and to be in a place where one can openly express sadness. In most social settings, there are unwritten rules that encourage us to stifle any impulse to weep uncontrollably. Typically, we try and hold back sobs and tears whenever possible. At a funeral such rules are loosened, but they still exist. This reflects Erving Goffman’s notion that we work to “regulate… face-to-face interaction” in his book Behavior in Public Places (p. 8).

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August 09, 2021

A Role Model for Humanizing the Practice of Medicine: My Love Letter to Dr. Nema

Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

Last October, I took my 90-year-old mother to her doctor's office for the seasonal flu shot. That shot is not given by the doctor, of course, but he came into the patient room to see her with great excitement! She was thrilled to see him, and there was no mistaking her grin beneath her mask. Dr. Nema (a pseudonym) told Mum how good she looked, complimented my pants, and when he saw my Saint Leo University mask, told me about some family members attending school there. Then, he invited my mother and me to return to the office the next month to have a physically distanced lunch with him.

Does this interaction with a physician seem typical to you? Do you have interactions like this with your doctor? How does this interaction square with what doctors are taught? Is Dr. Nema following prescribed physician-patient norms? Most of you, like me, find Dr. Nema’s behavior unusual among physicians regarding these questions. However, as a recipient of this style of practicing medicine, I can vouch for the benefits that this kind of behavior from a doctor can mean to a patient and the patient's family!

Continue reading "A Role Model for Humanizing the Practice of Medicine: My Love Letter to Dr. Nema" »

June 14, 2021

Finding New Normality, From Micro to Macro

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As COVID cases fall in much of the United States, many pandemic-era restrictions are beginning to loosen. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) revised mask guidelines to local ordinances allowing businesses to fully open, many of us are working on discovering a “new normal” as we go from pandemic to post-pandemic living.

This readjustment takes place at a number of levels, from individual and family at the most micro level, to workplace and community at the meso level, and state, local, and federal policy level at the macro level. These shifts help remind us that we are part of a larger interconnected social system, one which the pandemic served to highlight.

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May 10, 2021

Teaching in a Pandemic: The Good, the Surreal, and the Challenges of Teaching Sociology Online

Colby King author photoTodd SchoepflinBy Colby King and Todd Schoepflin

In this podcast, Colby King and Todd Schoepflin share some of their experiences teaching this year. One example that stands out to Todd is the experience of teaching at home at the same time his kids had remote music and gym lessons. Home and work were blended in new ways. Instead of commuting from work and sitting in traffic, he could spend that time preparing dinner. Colby explains the consistent feeling of role conflict (“Am I a parent or professor?”) and feeling like he wasn’t thriving in either role. He also points to a valuable resource in his wife’s parents, who were able to help with childcare.

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March 03, 2021

Sociology of Adoption

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I wasn’t really eager to write about adoption. It’s a little personal, and still new. And yet, I can’t help but to think about everything in a sociological way and so, over the past two years, I’ve been mulling over the issues, and thought it would be a useful way to think about the sociology of families.

Joshua Gamson’s book Modern Families details how today’s family is the product of complex societal changes that weave together incredibly intimate and complicated personal experiences with larger social forces (e.g., reproductive technologies, international policies, reproductive freedom, gay and lesbian family rights, geopolitical power, changes in work, delayed parenting, global inequalities and war). Adoption is one piece of the story of what being a family means today.

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February 10, 2020

Money and Marriage

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Romantic rituals like Valentine’s Day emphasize marriage and relationships (often via commercial means), and social media posts often celebrate proposals and anniversaries. Marriage means many things to different people, particularly across place and time. But one thing is somewhat consistent: marriage is intertwined with money.

While it might be crude to think of marrying for money in the U.S. in the twenty-first century, financial factors are often part of the reason that people don’t marry (or don’t stay married). Why are the two so inextricably related, even as people may be most likely to marry for love and companionship today?

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February 03, 2020

What’s in a Name?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I’ve thought a lot about names since reading a chapter in Freakonomics called “A Roshanda by any other name,” over a decade ago. (Here’s an update in podcast form.) Perhaps some of you have had the paralyzing struggle of having to name a child (or being a parent) while also trying to think about sociology. It’s tough. Sociologist Dalton Conley, somewhat famously, named his daughter E and his son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley.

Names can say a lot. What were the reasons behind your name? Was your name popular? Is your name one you share with other family members? Do your professors do a terrible job pronouncing it? As Karen Sternheimer notes, it’s important to know someone’s name in class. But let’s lend some sociological insight onto the topic.

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October 21, 2019

Household Labor: Inside a Sociologist’s Family

Schoepflin Housework

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author photoBy Todd Schoepflin

One of my favorite topics in sociology is how couples arrange the work of running a household. It’s constant work to cook, clean, do laundry, repairs, and so on. Mix in caring for children if you have them, and that’s even more work that has to be done.

Knowing how much work my wife and I do at home, I think often of single parents who do the work themselves. Conflict can arise for couples when the division of labor is unequal. One of the best known books in sociology is The Second Shift (1989), written by Arlie Hochschild. It’s a book that influenced me to think deeply about how to contribute to housework and childcare.

Most of the men in her study didn’t share the labor of completing household tasks. (Here’s a video of Hochschild talking about her research for the book.) As she explains, the second shift is all the work that has to be done at home for working parents. And her study showed that much of this second shift work was completed by women. Couples often argued about inequalities surrounding this work. She found that women spent more time doing housework and childcare, and that a lot of husbands were supportive of their wives working so long as their wives managed the household. Couples were happier when they truly shared housework and childcare—and this is something I keep in mind when it comes to the daily work of operating a household with my wife.

Continue reading "Household Labor: Inside a Sociologist’s Family" »

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