Sociocultural Look at the Family, Research Paper Example
Words: 1682Research Paper
Family formation refers to the organization of individuals who are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or strong social ties into a family (Papalia, et al, 2009, chapter 3). In the United States, family makeup has been through two dramatic shifts in the past 160 years (Howe, 2011, p. 16). Howe (2011, p. 16) stated that the first shift occurred between 1850 and 1950 and saw the decline of the vertically extended household that included grandparents, parents, and children in the same dwelling and the rise of the nuclear family household, which included married biological parents and full siblings only. Since then, family structure has transitioned into a plurality of forms. Factors that contribute to family structure change since 1950 include delayed marriage, divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, non-marital fertility, family formation among gay and lesbian couples, and population (Howe, 2011, p. 17). These changes in family makeup require resilience in family experiencing them and increased complexities for interacting with the health care system. In this paper I shall analyze and assess marriages among four cultural groups – namely Whites, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and African Americans.
One knows very little about what happens when people from different cultural backgrounds makeup a family. This includes not just cultural differences, such as Black-White, Asian-White, or Asian-Black, but also people from the same ethnic background. For example, what happens when Asians from Japan and China marry and makeup a family? Or Blacks from Africa and the Caribbean? Hispanics from Mexico and Puerto Rico? Or White Europeans from Poland and Italy? What kinds of family patterns result?
Today, European Americans, or Whites, make up 57% of the American population (Howe, 2011, p. 24). White families are largely of European descent and so are sometimes terms as Euro-American families. In terms of family structure, then white children and families are more advantaged. Yet the ties that provide mutual support and care of younger and older members are not as strong. White respondents reported less care-giving to aging family members as child-care providers (Lugaila, & Overturf, 2004). Residential separation of whites from other racial/ethnic groups continues even in suburban settings (Frey, 2002).
Like Native Americans, Hispanics are an extremely diverse group. They stem from many countries and have a variety of cultural backgrounds (Howe, 2011, p. 26). Because of their conservative family values and desires to connect with others in their tight knit communities, Hispanic peoples tend to prefer to talk about issues face to face and to solve problems from within their close social networks (p. 26). This preference allows community and family members to provide favors, help, and assistance from anything from birthing a bay to filling out insurance papers or finding a good deal on a vacation package (Howe, 2011, p. 27).
African Americans make up 15.4% of the U.S. population (Howe, 2011, p. 22). Despite the continuing challenges of institutionalized racism, lower wages, and poor health, African American family resilience is very strong family ties, valuing family and spending a great deal of time with family members. African Americans often live in intergenerational households where three or four generations help care for children and support the household (Haight, 2002). In terms of family structure, 30% of African Americans reported living with two-biological parents (Wang, et al, 2007, p. 80).
Asian/Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing of all racial/ethnic groups, although their numbers are relatively small (Berstein, & Bergman, 2003). They have some favorable family indicators. Their divorce rate is lower than that of other groups (Reeves, & Bennett, 2003). Asian American children are very likely (83 percent) to be living in married-couple families (Lugaila, & Overturf, 2003). In fact mortality rates are low (lower than those of whites) and teen birth rates and non-marital births are also very low (Kochanek, & Smith, 2004). Asian Americans are most likely of all groups to be caring for older family members. Asian American women have a total fertility rate that is lower than that of the United States as a whole (Martin, et al, 2003, Table 4).
Most research to date has focused on the problems of children in sociocultural families: how do they define themselves? What difficulties they do face? How are they received in society? These issues, while important, do not tell the whole story. First, they do not consider the problems in a sociocultural family in which the groups happen to be from the same race. Cultural differences can be as important – perhaps more important in some circumstances than racial differences (Papalia et al, 2009, chapter 15). Second, these studies generally do not examine the family patterns which exist in a family makeup. As many experts have shown, there is no institution more dramatically impacted by culture than the family. However, nearly all discussions about the family begin with the assumption that each family “derives from a single culture” (McGoldrick, et al, 2005).
I got some hints from the patterns exhibited by such multicultural individuals from a few studies which have been conducted on children from multiracial family. Studies have found that Black-Japanese adolescents were quite comfortable with their heritage. Many identified themselves with one group or the other, while others preferred a “mixed” identity (Gibbs, & Hines, 1992, p. 225). Most had a positive self-image and were comfortable with their social relationships (Hall, 1992, p. 250).
More than 50 percent of adult Whites, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders are married. This is in stark contrast to the African American population, of which only about 35 percent of adults are married. The substantially lower rates of marriage among African Americans do not appear to be a function of high rates of divorce. The divorce rates for Black and White Americans are relatively similar, and Black rates of married separation are relative similar to those of Hispanic/Latinos. However, the low rate of marriage among African Americans appears to result from failing to get married in the first place, rather than high divorce rates. In fact, African Americans are the only group with a higher percentage of adults who have never married (39 percent) compared with the percentages that are married (35 percent).
As a consequence of low rates of marriage and high rates of non-marital childbearing, Black families are often configured different from family of other racial/ethnic groups. The largest population of African American under age eighteen – 48.3 percent – are living in households headed only by their mother. The proportion of children living in female-headed households for Hispanics is 25 percent, near double the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders children (13 percent). Only 16.1 percent of White children live in female-headed households. The percentage of Black children living in households with both of their parents is substantially lower than for the other racial/ethnic groups for which data were available (Hispanics 65 percent, Whites 76.9 percent, and Asian/Pacific Islanders 81.2 percent).
The stark contrast by family formation is particularly marked among certain cultural and ethnic groups. For instance, in 2004, 11% of African American children in married-couple families lived in absolute poverty, compared with 51% in female-headed families (Hunt, 2008, p. 82). Most children living in poverty are White and not Hispanic. However, the proportion of African American or Hispanic children in poverty is much greater than the proportion of White, non-Hispanic children (Hunt, 2008, p. 83).
From the above study, we have come to a conclusion that if sociocultural family is a blending of four family types, then the children of this family are not just children with four (or more) cultural backgrounds. They may indeed be people with four cultures as part of their personalities. Or more accurately, they have a culture – but it is a mixture of four cultures. It appears then that children who grow up in sociocultural family may actually be sociocultural groups, that is, some persons who have internalized the cultures and identities of both of their origins. These people are not, in fact, fighting an internal battle between their two cultures of origin but have accepted these cultures as a single culture with which they are quite comfortable. Is this a common pattern among people from sociocultural family? Are many of these children integrated sociocultural groups? Or is this a rare occurrence, happening with only a few of these sociocultural groups? Research to date suggests this pattern is more common than previously thought. However, only further research on more people from variety of sociocultural backgrounds will indicate the conditions under which such integrated sociocultural groups may originate.
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