While modern family life is considered to be diverse, most families face common issues like work and family responsibilities, lack of government support, intimate relationships, and sex education of teenagers. The intimate life of people is more likely to depend on the social tendencies of modern society than on the individual characteristics of particular men or women (Zinn and Wells 218). The purpose of this paper is to examine various aspects of family life and the real problems of families.
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The work-family relationship may sometimes result in the work-family conflict. It can be expressed in a positive or negative spillover when feelings and behaviors transfer between work and family. Due to gender inequality, women are supposed to do more ‘balancing’, earn less and have more family responsibility in the work-family role system (Zinn and Wells 190-191). Diverse work-family contexts depend on work and family characteristics. Work characteristics include a level of economic rewards and job conditions, which include work hours, travel demands, and flexible scheduling.
The level of economic rewards may depend on whether it is a white-collar or a blue-collar type of work, and personal satisfaction from work may also influence the work-family balance. Family characteristics include a wide range of family forms, which are two-parent families, two-earner families, single-parent families, etc. Unpaid household labor is used to be done by women since the industrialization divided work and family, regardless of their employment (Zinn and Wells 203). Other forms of family work include interaction work, emotion work, consumption work, kin work.
Both dual-earner and breadwinner/homemaker families develop specific family coping strategies. Parent strategies may depend on the ages of children and include split-shift parenting and sequencing, lowering standards for housework, the help of other family members, and paid services. The government supports families mainly through the tax credits, subsidizing child-care costs of low-income parents, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which ensures a working parent with unpaid 12-week leave (Zinn and Wells 209). Corporations may also support families, giving workers flexibility in worktime and workplace, and sponsoring child-care.
Intimacy is shaped by society like all the other social relations. Objective factors like gender, class, race, immigration status are determining intimate life, dating practices, and mate selection despite the myth that only the subjective factors are prevailing (Zinn and Wells 218). Some individuals and groups resist the dominant attitude towards intimacy and redefine it as a varied and meaningful part of the human life. At the same time, the intimate partner is expected to play the roles of lover, friend, companion, playmate, and parent.
Thus, a social constructionist approach to sexuality requires understating that human sexuality varies across time, space, and life of every individual, is socially controlled and closely bound up with the basic inequalities that form the structure of society. That is why this approach questions the naturalness of the social order and underlying motivations and mechanisms that shape human relations. The terms sexual identity (self-classification) and sexual orientation (sexual attraction and desire) refer to how people classify themselves (Zinn and Wells 228-230). Sexual revolution redefined sexual activity as a right of individuals.
Gender is the most significant dimension of sexuality. Man feel more casual about sex, while women view sex as more of a bonding experience. Speaking of the emotional side, the individual who has the least interest in continuing the relationship has the power to control it (Zinn and Wells. 242-243). Social class also influences intimacy: according to a study, the higher socioeconomic status correlates with a lower rate of sexual permissiveness. Separating sexuality from reproduction has given many women a wide range of options and enabled them to seek intimate relationships based on equality.
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Family policy refers to objectives conserving family well-being and the specific measures taken by the governmental bodies to achieve them. The U.S. has no official family policy but rather a potpourri of laws, court decisions, regulations, and policies of state and local governments. The government actions concerning family policy address four family functions: family creation, economic support, child-rearing, and caregiving (Zinn and Wells 448). However, such aspects like family planning, gay marriage, helping the impoverished, meeting the needs of disadvantaged children, and relieving burdens for working parents may require more attention from the state.
Social Conservatives and Progressives have a different approach to the family. Progressives believe that to focus on an idealized family based on a nostalgic view of the past, as the conservatives do, leads policy-makers away from focusing on the actual problems experienced by most families (Zinn and Wells 451). These are stable employment, structural changes in the economy, a crisis of caregiving. For cultural conservatives, making same-sex marriage legal abandons a significant source of the traditional family.
Protection of reproductive rights by the government may include lowering prices for the contraceptives and providing sex education in schools. Although abortions are legal today, federal and state decisions that deny public funding for abortions, make the abortion option less feasible for those women least able to afford children (Zinn and Wells 458). The welfare reform of 1996 has not eliminated poverty, making many single mothers move from ‘welfare-poor’ to ‘working-poor’. Then, after the Great Recession of 2007, welfare programs were curtailed by most states again, putting disadvantaged children at risk.
Thus, we examined the real problems that people face in family life from a new angle. The structure of family and intimate relationships changed dramatically over the past decades, while the government and corporations do not always keep up with these changes. The significant shifts occurred in family-work balancing, gender equality, intimate relations, and attitudes towards marriages, as well as in the state family policies.
Zinn, Eitzen S., and Barbara Wells. Diversity in Families. 10th ed., Pearson Education, 2015.