Chapter 14. Marriage and Family

Chapter 14 Resources and Activities

Key Terms

ambilineal: A type of unilateral descent that follows either the father’s or the mother’s side exclusively.

bigamy: The act of entering into marriage while still married to another person.

bilateral descent: The tracing of kinship through both parents’ ancestral lines.

blended family: See stepfamily.

cohabitation: When a couple shares a residence but is not married.

confluent love: An intimate relationship that lasts only as long as the satisfaction it brings to both partners.

divorce extended family: A family whose members are connected by divorce rather than marriage, for example ex in laws, or ex spouse’s new partners.

exchange theory:  Social relationships are based on giving and returning valued goods or services. Individuals seek to maximize their rewards in their interactions with others.

extended family: A household that includes at least one parent and child as well as other relatives like grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

family: Socially Recognized groups of individuals who may be joined by blood, marriage, or adoption, and who form an emotional connection and an economic unit of society.

family life course: A sociological model of family that sees the progression of events as fluid rather than as occurring in strict stages.

family life cycle: A set of predictable steps and patterns that families experience over time.

family of orientation: The family into which one is born.

family of procreation: A family that is formed through marriage.

fluid modernity: A condition of constant mobility, unpredictability and change in relationships within contemporary society.

incest taboo: The social rule that an individual may not have sex with or marry someone who is a close blood relative.

intimate partner violence (IPV): Violence that occurs between individuals who maintain a romantic or sexual relationship; includes unmarried, cohabiting, and same-sex couples, as well as heterosexual married couples.

kinship: A person’s traceable ancestry (by blood, marriage, and/or adoption).

kinship system: A system of social organization based on real or putative family ties.

liquid modernity: See fluid modernity.

marriage: A legally recognized contract between two or more people in a sexual relationship, who have an expectation of permanence about their relationship.

matriarchy:  Relatively egalitarian, small scale agricultural societies in which mothering is recognized as the central unifying structure.

matrilineal descent: A type of unilateral descent that follows the mother’s side only.

matrilocal residence: A system in which it is customary for a husband to live with his wife’s family.

monogamy: When someone is married to only one person at a time.

nuclear family:  A cohabiting man and woman who are married and have at least one biological child under the age of 18.

passionate love: A type of love which expresses the emotions of impulsive and pervasive sexual attachment to another.

patrilineal descent: A type of unilateral descent that follows the father’s line only.

patrilocal residence: A system in which it is customary for a wife to live with (or near) her husband’s family.

polyamory: The practice of sharing intimate relationships with more than one partner.

polyandry: A form of marriage in which one woman is married to more than one man at one time.

polygamy: The state of being committed or married to more than one person at a time.

polygyny: A form of marriage in which one man is married to more than one woman at one time.

pure relationship:  A non-institutionalized form of intimacy in which couples enter into a relationship that lasts only as long as the satisfaction it brings to both partners.

shaken-baby syndrome: A group of medical symptoms, such as brain swelling and retinal hemorrhage, resulting from forcefully shaking or impacting an infant’s head.

stem family: A large, rural, multi-generational, economically self-sufficient family, in which one of the children marries and remains in the family home while other siblings move away.

stepfamily: A couple family in which at least one child is the biological or adopted child of only one married spouse or common-law partner and whose birth or adoption preceded the current relationship.

structure of feeling: Large scale, societal patterns in people’s feelings or emotional responses towards things.

total divorce rate: A projection of how many new marriages are expected to fail after 30 years, based on the divorce rate by marriage duration observed in a given year.

unilateral descent: The tracing of kinship through one parent only.

Section Summary

14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?
Sociologists view marriage and families as societal institutions that help create the basic unit of social structure. Both marriage and a family may be defined differently — and practiced differently — in cultures across the world. Families and marriages, like other institutions, adapt to social change.

14.2 Variations in Family Life
Canadians’ concepts of marriage and family are changing. Increases in cohabitation, same-sex partners, and singlehood are altering  ideas of marriage. Similarly, single parents, same-sex parents, cohabitating parents, and stepparents are changing  notions of what it means to be a family. While many children still live in opposite-sex, two-parent, married households, these are no longer viewed as the only or dominant type of  family.

14.3 Challenges Families Face
Families face a variety of challenges, including divorce, domestic violence, and child abuse. While divorce rates have decreased in the last 25 years, many family members, especially children, still experience the negative effects of divorce. Children are also negatively impacted by violence and abuse within the home; 18,000 children are victimized by family violence each year.


Quiz: Marriage and Family

14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?

  1. Sociologists tend to define family in terms of:
    1. Relationships of people who are connected through blood, marriage, or adoption.
    2. The connection of bloodlines and genetic descent.
    3. The status roles of breadwinner, home-maker and dependent children that exist in a family structure.
    4. Groups who share an emotional bond.
  2. Examples of the social form and content of the family (respectively) would be:
    1. Sexual activity and monogamy
    2. Sexual activity and reproduction of the species
    3. Patrilineal descent and sexual activity
    4. The nuclear family and the father’s role as breadwinner
  3. A woman being married to two men would be an example of:
    1. Headaches
    2. Polygyny.
    3. Polyandry.
    4. Cohabitation.
  4. A child who associates his line of descent with his father’s side only is part of a                               family.
    1. Matrilocal
    2. Bilateral
    3. Matrilineal
    4. Patrilineal
  5. Which of the following is a criticism of the family life cycle model?
    1. It is too broad and accounts for too many aspects of family.
    2. It is too narrowly focused on a sequence of stages.
    3. It does not serve a practical purpose for studying family behaviour.
    4. It is not based on comprehensive research.

14.2 Variations in Family Life

  1. The majority of Canadian children live in                              .
    1. Two-parent households.
    2. One-parent households.
    3. No-parent households.
    4. Multigenerational households.
  2. The best example of a blended family in the following would be                              .
    1. Two unwed parents
    2. A multiracial family
    3. One grandparent; two married parents
    4. A divorce-extended family
  3. Couples who cohabitate before marriage are                               couples who did not cohabitate before marriage to be married at least 10 years.
    1. Far more likely than
    2. Far less likely than
    3. Slightly less likely than
    4. Equally as likely as
  4. Same-sex couple households account for                               per cent of Canadian households.
    1. 1
    2. 10
    3. 15
    4. 30
  5. The median age of first marriage has                               in the last 50 years.
    1. Increased for men but not women
    2. Decreased for men but not women
    3. Increased for both men and women
    4. Decreased for both men and women

14.3 Challenges Families Face

  1. Current divorce rates are                              .
    1. At an all-time high
    2. At an all-time low
    3. Steadily increasing
    4. Neither increasing nor declining
  2. Children of divorced parents are                               to divorce in their own marriage than children of parents who stayed married.
    1. More likely
    2. Less likely
    3. Equally likely
    4. Too traumatized
  3. In general, children in                               households benefit from divorce.
    1. Stepfamily
    2. Fluid modernity
    3. High-conflict
    4. Low-conflict
  4. Which of the following is true of intimate partner violence (IPV)?
    1. IPV victims are more frequently men than women.
    2. One in 10 women is a victim of IPV.
    3. Aboriginal women are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be a victim of IPV than non-Aboriginal women.
    4. Sexual assault is the most common form of IPV.
  5. Which type of child abuse is most prevalent in Canada?
    1. Physical abuse
    2. Neglect
    3. Shaken-baby syndrome
    4. Internet stalking

[Quiz answers at end of chapter]

Short Answer

14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?

  1. Why is a substantive definition of the family difficult to nail down?
  2. Explain the difference between bilateral and unilateral descent. Using your own association with kinship, explain which type of descent applies to you.
  3. What is the relationship between romantic love and Western marriage?

14.2 Variations in Family Life

  1. Describe the contemporary variations of family form. How do structural functionalists, critical sociologists, and symbolic interactionists explain this phenomenon differently?
  2. What is the relationship between patterns of confluent love and cohabitation?  What effect does cohabitation have on marriage?
  3. What are the four universal functions of the nuclear family unit according to Murdock?

14.3 Challenges Families Face

  1. Explain how financial status impacts marital stability. What other factors are associated with a couple’s financial status?
  2. Explain why more than half of intimate partner violence goes unreported. Why are those who are abused unlikely to report the abuse?

Further Research

14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?
For more information on family development and lines of descent, visit the Library and Archives Canada Genealogy and Family History website to find out how to research family genealogies in Canada.

14.2 Variations in Family Life

For more statistics on marriage and family, see the Statistics Canada report based on the 2011 census: Portrait of Families and Living Arrangements in Canada: Families, households and marital status, 2011 Census of Population [PDF].

14.3 Challenges Families Face

To find more information on child abuse, visit the Canadian Child Welfare Research portal.


14.0 Introduction to Marriage and Family

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Solutions to Section Quiz

1 A, | 2 C, | 3 C, | 4 D, | 5 B, | 6 A, | 7 D, | 8 C, | 9 A, | 10 C, | 11 D, | 12 A, | 13 C, | 14 C, | 15 B, [Return to Quiz]


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