Friday, June 01, 2012

Sarkisian, Gerstel: "Nuclear Family Values, Extended Family Values"

Authors: Natalia Sarkisian, and Naomi Gerstel

Title: “Nuclear Family Values, Extended Family Values: The Power of Race, Class and Gender

Publication: Routledge, 2012: ISBN 978-0-415-80841-5, paper, 74 pages, indexed, six chapters

This booklet is part of the publisher’s  and University Readers’ “Social Issues Collection”.  It is like a sociology class primer, with each chapter posing discussing questions.

The authors (from Boston College and the University of Massachusetts) advance a theory that our debate on “family values” has become bifurcated.
There has developed a tendency among liberals and conservatives (for different ideological reasons) to promote the idea of (usually heterosexual) marriage and the social approbation for it, while often neglecting the role of extended family and kinkeeping.

But in fact, the “natural family” movement emphasizes the importance of kinship groups sharing common values. 

The authors note that in many social groups, unmarried people often do more of the caregiving for the elderly.  In lower income and racial or ethnic minorities, this may happen more out of “need and reciprocity”.  The authors also write that “social policies that focus on nuclear families and overlook extended family obligations may introduce, reproduce, or even increase gender, racial/ethnic, and class inequalities.”

There is an implication of another moral debate, of the individual, when he or she is responsible for others.  It involves a lot more than just engaging in acts that can produce children.  What, then, is “marriage” really for?  Is it a culmination of a socialization process that really applies to everyone anyway?

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