"I don't know how often I've wished for an introductory text on family life which encompassed critical contemporary sociological thinking alongside the basic information students need, and have only found fossilised thinking on a stodgy subject. But now all that has changed. McKie and Callan have achieved what I thought was almost impossible in Understanding Families - a textbook which provides unrivalled foundations for a critical understanding of contemporary families and relationships."
- Carol Smart, The Morgan Centre, University of Manchester
"This excellent, innovative, comprehensive and easy to read text should be essential reading for everyone keen to understand families across the globe... It will make an outstanding contribution to family studies and is highly recommended."
- Janet Walker, Newcastle University
"Easy to read text, which debates current thinking surrounding modern families. Case studies and questions for the reader throughout the text help traslate theory into practice."
- Justine Gallagher, Northumbria University
Families are the core building blocks of society. Our experience of them affects many aspects of our everyday lives shaping our expectations and future plans.
Written by experts in family studies and family policy, this clear, engaging book adopts a global perspective to usefully examine how modern families can be explored and understood in research, policy and practice.
Packed with critical pedagogy, including case-studies, think points, key words and a glossary, it guides students through topics such as relationships, sexualities and paid and unpaid work, continually returning to its central themes of process and structure. The book also:
Applies key social theories to contemporary analysis
Examines key studies on researching families and family life
Explores the role of government policies and practices
This comprehensive introduction to the study of families and relationships is a timely resource for students and lecturers working across the social sciences, particularly students of family studies, the sociology of the family, family policy, and social work and the family
Linda McKie is Professor of Sociology, Glasgow Caledonian University; Samantha Callan is based at the Centre for Social Justice. They are both affiliated to the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Linda McKie is Head of School for Applied Social Sciences (SASS) at Durham University. Dr Samantha Callan is recognised as a research and policy expert in the fields of family relationships, mental health and the early years. She is currently Associate Director for Families and Mental Health at the Centre for Social Justice, for whom she has chaired four major social policy reviews. She is also an Honorary Research Fellow at Edinburgh University's Centre for Research in Families and Relationships (CRFR).
Introduction Structures, Processes and Strategies Family or Families? Families in History The Families We Live With, The Families We Live By The Contents of the Book Summary Explore Further PART ONE: INTRODUCING FAMILIES Families and Relationships Introduction Families: A Constant State of Flux Continuities and Presumptions Structures: Identifying and Talking About Families Defining Families 1: Common Characteristics Defining Families 2: Values, Memories and Spaces and Places Statistical Trends and Family Structures Processes: Families, Kinship and Activities Global Families Topic 1. The Impact of Welfare Regimes on Families: France, the Russian Federation, East and West Germany Topic 2: Ideal and Actual Families in Asia Summary Explore Further Explaining Families Introduction Sociological Explanations: Premise and Origins Ideology and Theory: What Is This Thing 'the Family'? Sociological Theory Ties that Bind: Making Sense of Structures Families as a Framework: Parsons Socialization: Merton Actors and Actions: Theories of Interaction Interactions: Goffman Structures and Practices: Giddens and Wallace Theories of Conflict The 'Lifeworld' of Families: Habermas Women, Men, Gender: Feminist Perspectives Feminist and Gender: Perspectives on Families Global Dimensions Contemporary Voices on Intimacy Summary Explore Further PART TWO: RESEARCH AND POLICY Researching Families Introduction Research Methods Survey Research Writing About People and Families: Ethnographic Research Methods Secondary Analysis of Research Studies Historical Research on Families Approaches to the History of the Family Better Times for Families? Documenting Change in Family Processes Family and Sex 1900-2000 Private Troubles and Public Issues Researching Change and Continuity Solo Living Talking About Sex Single Parenting Summary Explore Further Politics, Policies and Practices Introduction Definitions Policies and Families' Forms and Functions Family Policy - New Kid on the Block? How do Policies Deliver Benefits to Families? Policy Approaches to Different Family Forms Evidence-Based Policy Families in Action Families and Social Cohesion Families and Social Breakdown Beyond Stereotypes Families and the Welfare State The Relationship Between Politics and Policies Services and Practices Types of Services Summary Explore Further PART THREE: FAMILIES IN ACTION Relationships and Sexualities Introduction Lets Get Together: Marriage, Cohabitation Universality of Marriage and Partnering Definition of Partnering - How do People Partner? Diversity in Partnering Arrangements Cohabitation Same-Sex Couples and Families Children Raised by Same-Sex Couples Moving Apart: Breakdown and Divorce Why do Relationships Break Down? What Changes After Divorce and What Stays the Same? Being Together and Living Apart: Solo Living, Friendships and Social Networks 'Coupleness' Outside of Cohabitation Why else do people Live Alone? Beyond the Family - Friendships Social Networks Communities and Neighbourhoods The Effects of Neighbourhoods and Communities on Families Sexualized Societies Enduring Relationships: Generating Histories Enduring Intimacy Summary Explore Further Families and Work Introduction Defining and Explaining Work Underemployment and Unemployment Boundaries: Paid and Unpaid Work The Global Context Survival and Longevity: The Challenge to Work Decent Work and Rural Employment Relationships and Resources Acquiring and Allocating Resources Gender and Resources Unpaid Work Gender Roles and Unpaid Work Quantifying and Valuing Unpaid Work Vital but Subordinate Family Practices and Work Policy, Politics and Families Explaining Preferences and Choices Migrant Domestic Workers Summary Explore Further PART FOUR: CONCLUSIONS Families into the Future Introduction Trends and Futures Working Patterns, Gender and Care Demography: Fertility, Life Expectancy and Care Relationship Formation The Impact of Technologies on Families Commonalities and Differences across the Globe Beliefs and Behaviours Sustainable Families? The Importance of Childcare Shaping Politics and Policy Addressing Family Fragility Same-Sex Relationships and Assisted Reproduction Summary Explore Further Glossary