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Sociology of Families

Sociology of Families
Change, Continuity, and Diversity

First Edition

July 2016 | 264 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

The author is a proud sponsor of the 2020 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

The family patterns seen in recent decades—cohabitation, divorce, nonmarital childbearing, same-sex marriage and childrearing—can seem like radical changes from the past. But upon closer examination, many are consistent with broader trends that have been going on for centuries. Sociology of Families: Change, Continuity, and Diversity considers this tension between change and continuity, situating families in a social, historical, and economic context, and emphasizing how these contexts create family diversity and inequality. By incorporating diverse family structures into each chapter, author Teresa Ciabattari has written a text that challenges idealized assumptions about how families should be, and instead explores the complex realities of how families actually are.

Contributor to the SAGE Teaching Innovations and Professional Development Award

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About the Author
Chapter 1- Introduction
Family Change, Family Continuity

Family Diversity and Inequality

Sociological Perspective on Families

Applying the Sociological Perspective: The Standard North American Family and the Ideology of Separate Spheres

Understanding Contemporary Families

A Demographic Snapshot of the U.S. Population

Looking Ahead

Main Ideas

Chapter 2- Defining Family
Defining Family: Four Approaches

1. Family as Structure

2. Family as Household

3. Family Roles

4. Family as Interaction: Doing Family

Defining Family: A Summary

How Americans Define Family

Extended Families

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Defining Families

Main Ideas

Chapter 3- Sociological Methods and Theories in the Study of Families
Scientific Method

Micro and Macro Approaches to Studying Families

Research Methods

Theoretical Frameworks in the Sociology of Families


Conflict Theory

Symbolic Interactionism

Feminist Theories

Social Exchange Theory

Life Course Theory

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Family Methods and Theories

Main Ideas

Chapter 4- Young Adults and the Transition to Adulthood
Defining the Transition to Adulthood

Transition to Adulthood in Historical Context

Transition to Adulthood in the Early 21st Century

Economic Uncertainty and Higher Education

Changing Patterns of Family Formation

Changing Relationships With Parents

Young Adult Sexuality and Romantic Partnerships

Dating in Historical Context

Decline of Dating and the Rise of Hookup Culture

Sexual Debut

Hooking Up

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in the Transition to Adulthood

Main Ideas

Chapter 5- Marriage and Cohabitation
Marriage and Divorce in Historical Context

Institutional Marriage

Companionate Marriage

Individualized Marriage

Contemporary Coupling


Nonmarital Fertility

Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage Markets

Marriage, Cohabitation, and Education

Marriage, Cohabitation, and Race-Ethnicity

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Marriage and Cohabitation

Main Ideas

Chapter 6- Divorce and Relationship Dissolution
Rising—and Declining—Divorce

Demography of Divorce

The Process of Uncoupling

Legal Divorce

Parental Divorce

Financial Divorce

Emotional and Social Divorce

Relationship Dissolution and Children

Relationship Dissolution Among Unmarried Parents

Supporting Children When Parents Break Up

Economic Support

Reducing Conflict

Effective Parenting

Relationships With Fathers

Fewer Transitions

Remarriage and Blended Families

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Divorce and Relationship Dissolution

Main Ideas

Chapter 7- Parents and Children
Children and Parents in Historical Context

Childhood: Economically Useful to Emotionally Priceless

Fatherhood: Moral Overseer to Breadwinner

Motherhood: Productivity to Domesticity

Issues in Contemporary Childrearing

Demographic Patterns in Fertility

Time With Children

Parenting as a Gendered Practice

Parenting Ideologies and Social Class

Immigrant and Transnational Parenting

Gay and Lesbian Parenting

Opting Out of Parenthood

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Parenting and Childhood

Main Ideas

Chapter 8- Family Work
Ideology of Separate Spheres

Defining Care Work

Empirical Patterns of Employment, Housework, and Childcare

Women’s Employment Before 1950

Women’s and Men’s Employment Since 1950


Macro-Level Perspectives on Housework


Work–Family Conflict and Social Policy

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in Family Work

Main Ideas

Chapter 9- Family Lives of Older Adults
Defining Old Age

Demographic Context

Romantic Relationships Among Older Adults


Grandparents as Caregivers

Intergenerational Solidarity and Ambivalence

Intergenerational Exchanges

Parents Helping Adult Children

Adult Children Helping Parents

Ambivalence, Individualism, and Intergenerational Support

Family Complexity and Aging Families

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in the Family Lives of Older Adults

Main Ideas

Chapter 10- Social Policy and the Future of Families
Defining Family

Family Change

Family Continuity

Family Diversity, Inequality, and Social Policy

Housing Policy and Family Inequality

State Welfare Policy and Family Inequality

Future of American Families

Economic Inequality and the Growing Class Divide in Families

Immigration, Race-Ethnicity, and Family Ties

Unfinished Revolution in Gender and Sexuality

Change, Continuity, and Diversity in American Families

Main Ideas



Instructor Site

  Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • Microsoft® Word test bank, is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Editable, chapter-specific Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. Highlight essential content and features.
Student Study Site

The open-access Student Study Site includes the following:

    • Mobile-friendly eFlashcards reinforce understanding of key terms and concepts that have been outlined in the chapters.
    • Mobile-friendly web quizzes allow for independent assessment of progress made in learning course material.
    • Video and multimedia links that appeal to students with different learning styles.

“The integration of issues of race, class, gender and sexuality into each chapter, rather than focusing on them in separate chapters is a strength [of Sociology of Families].  Students need to see how race, class, gender and sexuality influence everything, and by repeatedly referring to these issues in each chapter it will reinforce their importance.”  

Tracey A. LaPierre
University of Kansas

“I like the way [Sociology of Families] powerfully historicizes the concept of the family and actually illustrates many of the myths about contemporary families, while also showing what is distinct about the 21st century family.”

Roland Mitchell
Louisiana State University

“[Sociology of Families] is concise, easy to read, and has some great supporting evidence and/or examples. [ . . . ] There is more focus than in most books on social variation by class, race, and gender.”

Chris Wienke
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

“[Sociology of Families] covers the major topics, and does so in a way that consistently addresses the theme of family continuity and change.  The writing style should engage students in a kind of conversation with the author.”

Liza L. Kuecker
Western New Mexico University

I liked that this text book was easy to read, organized nicely and came with online teaching resources.

Mrs Jessika Ahlberg
Social Science Dept, Hope International University
December 3, 2021

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 4

Chapter 8

Teresa Ciabattari

Teresa Ciabattari is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Pacific Lutheran University. After earning her undergraduate degree in sociology at Santa Clara University, she went on to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Washington. As a scholar of family sociology, she has published articles on cohabitation, single mothers, and household labor. She is also a scholar of teaching and learning, publishing and presenting on topics including teaching writing to sociology majors, using quantitative data in the classroom, and assessment of student learning. She regularly teaches courses... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781483379029