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Sociology of Families

Sociology of Families
Change, Continuity, and Diversity

© 2017 | 264 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

The family patterns seen in recent decades—cohabitation, divorce, nonmarital childbearing, same-sex marriage and childrearing—can seem like radical changes from the past. But upon closer examination, many are consistent with broader trends that have been going on for centuries. Sociology of Families: Change, Continuity, and Diversity considers this tension between change and continuity, situating families in a social, historical, and economic context, and emphasizing how these contexts create family diversity and inequality. By incorporating diverse family structures into each chapter, author Teresa Ciabattari has written a text that challenges idealized assumptions about how families should be, and instead explores the complex realities of how families actually are.

Contributor to the SAGE Teaching Innovations and Professional Development Award

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About the Author
Chapter 1- Introduction
Family Change, Family Continuity  
Family Diversity and Inequality  
Sociological Perspective on Families  
Applying the Sociological Perspective: The Standard North American Family and the Ideology of Separate Spheres  
Understanding Contemporary Families  
A Demographic Snapshot of the U.S. Population  
Looking Ahead  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 2- Defining Family
Defining Family: Four Approaches  
1. Family as Structure  
2. Family as Household  
3. Family Roles  
4. Family as Interaction: Doing Family  
Defining Family: A Summary  
How Americans Define Family  
Extended Families  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Defining Families  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 3- Sociological Methods and Theories in the Study of Families
Scientific Method  
Micro and Macro Approaches to Studying Families  
Research Methods  
Theoretical Frameworks in the Sociology of Families  
Conflict Theory  
Symbolic Interactionism  
Feminist Theories  
Social Exchange Theory  
Life Course Theory  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Family Methods and Theories  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 4- Young Adults and the Transition to Adulthood
Defining the Transition to Adulthood  
Transition to Adulthood in Historical Context  
Transition to Adulthood in the Early 21st Century  
Economic Uncertainty and Higher Education  
Changing Patterns of Family Formation  
Changing Relationships With Parents  
Young Adult Sexuality and Romantic Partnerships  
Dating in Historical Context  
Decline of Dating and the Rise of Hookup Culture  
Sexual Debut  
Hooking Up  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in the Transition to Adulthood  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 5- Marriage and Cohabitation
Marriage and Divorce in Historical Context  
Institutional Marriage  
Companionate Marriage  
Individualized Marriage  
Contemporary Coupling  
Nonmarital Fertility  
Same-Sex Marriage  
Marriage Markets  
Marriage, Cohabitation, and Education  
Marriage, Cohabitation, and Race-Ethnicity  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Marriage and Cohabitation  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 6- Divorce and Relationship Dissolution
Rising—and Declining—Divorce  
Demography of Divorce  
The Process of Uncoupling  
Legal Divorce  
Parental Divorce  
Financial Divorce  
Emotional and Social Divorce  
Relationship Dissolution and Children  
Relationship Dissolution Among Unmarried Parents  
Supporting Children When Parents Break Up  
Economic Support  
Reducing Conflict  
Effective Parenting  
Relationships With Fathers  
Fewer Transitions  
Remarriage and Blended Families  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Divorce and Relationship Dissolution  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 7- Parents and Children
Children and Parents in Historical Context  
Childhood: Economically Useful to Emotionally Priceless  
Fatherhood: Moral Overseer to Breadwinner  
Motherhood: Productivity to Domesticity  
Issues in Contemporary Childrearing  
Demographic Patterns in Fertility  
Time With Children  
Parenting as a Gendered Practice  
Parenting Ideologies and Social Class  
Immigrant and Transnational Parenting  
Gay and Lesbian Parenting  
Opting Out of Parenthood  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Parenting and Childhood  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 8- Family Work
Ideology of Separate Spheres  
Defining Care Work  
Empirical Patterns of Employment, Housework, and Childcare  
Women’s Employment Before 1950  
Women’s and Men’s Employment Since 1950  
Macro-Level Perspectives on Housework  
Work–Family Conflict and Social Policy  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Family Work  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 9- Family Lives of Older Adults
Defining Old Age  
Demographic Context  
Romantic Relationships Among Older Adults  
Grandparents as Caregivers  
Intergenerational Solidarity and Ambivalence  
Intergenerational Exchanges  
Parents Helping Adult Children  
Adult Children Helping Parents  
Ambivalence, Individualism, and Intergenerational Support  
Family Complexity and Aging Families  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in the Family Lives of Older Adults  
Main Ideas  
Chapter 10- Social Policy and the Future of Families
Defining Family  
Family Change  
Family Continuity  
Family Diversity, Inequality, and Social Policy  
Housing Policy and Family Inequality  
State Welfare Policy and Family Inequality  
Future of American Families  
Economic Inequality and the Growing Class Divide in Families  
Immigration, Race-Ethnicity, and Family Ties  
Unfinished Revolution in Gender and Sexuality  
Change, Continuity, and Diversity in American Families  
Main Ideas  


Instructor Site

  Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • Microsoft® Word test bank, is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Editable, chapter-specific Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. Highlight essential content and features.
Student Study Site

The open-access Student Study Site includes the following:

    • Mobile-friendly eFlashcards reinforce understanding of key terms and concepts that have been outlined in the chapters.
    • Mobile-friendly web quizzes allow for independent assessment of progress made in learning course material.
    • Video and multimedia links that appeal to students with different learning styles.

“The integration of issues of race, class, gender and sexuality into each chapter, rather than focusing on them in separate chapters is a strength [of Sociology of Families].  Students need to see how race, class, gender and sexuality influence everything, and by repeatedly referring to these issues in each chapter it will reinforce their importance.”  

Tracey A. LaPierre
University of Kansas

“I like the way [Sociology of Families] powerfully historicizes the concept of the family and actually illustrates many of the myths about contemporary families, while also showing what is distinct about the 21st century family.”

Roland Mitchell
Louisiana State University

“[Sociology of Families] is concise, easy to read, and has some great supporting evidence and/or examples. [ . . . ] There is more focus than in most books on social variation by class, race, and gender.”

Chris Wienke
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

“[Sociology of Families] covers the major topics, and does so in a way that consistently addresses the theme of family continuity and change.  The writing style should engage students in a kind of conversation with the author.”

Liza L. Kuecker
Western New Mexico University
Key features


  • Considers both the ways that contemporary families have changed and the ideological and behavioral threads that link today’s American families with those of the past.
  • Instead of separate chapters on gender, sexuality, race, and social class, family diversity is integrated throughout the text, so that certain family forms and practices are not perceived as “problems.”
  • Ch. 2 in its entirety is devoted to four different approaches to defining “family,” and demonstrates how our ideas about family shift when we move extended families to the center of analysis.
  • Ch. 3 surveys the main theories and methods used by sociologists to study families, and provides a strong foundation for the remainder of the text.
  • Ch. 4 considers the topics of first sexual experiences and romantic partnerships in the larger context of the transition to adulthood.
  • The author provides a wealth of quantitative and qualitative data, in the form of tables and graphs, to support her arguments about family change and continuity.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 4

Chapter 8

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