Thursday, October 14, 2021

3SocStructure Lesson 13: Debriefing Social Dilemma

Please begin today by completing the Student Voice Survey for our class:

Resources from the Movie:

Full, unedited Social Dilemma Transcript available here.


Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab

Stanford University Behavior Design Lab

Stanford U. Persuasion Through Mobile Design Lab is run by BJ Fogg, behavior scientist at Stanford,

In 2006 we created a video to warn the FTC (and others) about problematic areas related to persuasive technology. See the video here:

(BJ’s quick note: This video above has a slow pace, and it’s not my best look, with the shaved head and all. However, do listen to what I was predicting and warning people about. At least go to minute 10 and see what I say about the political use of persuasion profiles. We recorded this video in 2006 to warn policymakers of the impacts persuasive technology could have. Remember, this message was recorded in 2006 not 2016 and the message rings true more and more every day.)

Simone Stolzoff from Wired (2018) explains in The Formula for Phone Addiction Might Double As a Cure

Ten years ago, a Stanford lab created the formula to make technology addictive. Now, Silicon Valley is dealing with the consequences.

"IN SEPTEMBER 2007, 75 students walked into a classroom at Stanford. Ten weeks later, they had collectively amassed 16 million users, $1 million dollars in advertising revenue, and a formula that would captivate a generation.

The class—colloquially known as "The Facebook Class"—and its instructor, BJ Fogg, became Silicon Valley legends."

False News Travels Faster Than True Stories On Twitter

2018 Research from MIT

Research project finds humans, not bots, are primarily responsible for spread of misleading information.

“We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude,” says Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the findings."

Here is an article from Slate explaining the research. My full movie notes are available here.

Google Form for this lesson.
Debrief Questions:
    1.  As we finish the movie, what are your general thoughts about the film?  What is your biggest takeaway?

    2.  What did you think of the cast of commenters? Was their experience compelling?  Click here for the list of people.

    3.  What do you think the claim/thesis of the film was?   Click here for a summary of the film's section "What's the Problem?"

    4.  What are the effects of the problem/ the evidence for the claim above?  Click here for Part 3 Summary: The Evidence and Effects

    5.  If you have a cell phone that monitors usage, check your usage - how many hours do you spend on it on average?

    Actions You Can Take:
    From the documentary website:

    Here is a summary of the individual actions you can take today:
    • Uninstall apps from my phone that are wasting your time such as social media apps and news apps.
    • Turn off notifications. Turning off all notifications. I’m not using Google anymore, I’m using Qwant, which doesn’t store your search history.
    • Never accept a video recommended to you on YouTube. Always choose. There are tons of Chrome extensions that remove recommendations. 
    • Before you share, fact-check, consider the source, do that extra Google. If it seems like it’s something designed to really push your emotional buttons, like, it probably is. Essentially, you vote with your clicks. If you click on clickbait, you’re creating a financial incentive that perpetuates this existing system. 
    • Make sure that you get lots of different kinds of information in your own life. I follow people on Twitter that I disagree with because I want to be exposed to different points of view.
    6.  What action above might be beneficial to you the most?

    Research and Effects of Digital Devices on Students

    Besides being good for society, democracy, and living in a world with a shared reality, there are more personal and practical reasons for being mindful of social media.

    See this post for a list of research-based conclusions why digital media is bad for your learning and your grades

    7.  What research from the post/link above seems like it is either most compelling or most applicable to you?  Why?  Do you think it is doable?

    Big Data and YOU:
    • Have you ever stopped to think about what social media knows about you?  Think about the last time you bought something at a store.  If the salesperson was a stranger, would you tell them everything that your social media knows about you?  Look at this post from Tech News and the chart that they included from clario (below):

    8.  Is this surprising?  What apps that you use have the most data on you stored? 

    Google and Varied Realities

    Below are a few Google searches that I started.  How does Google fill in the same query when you type it in?  Are your search results different?

    9.  Are any of the three Google Searches above different for you?  How?

    From the movie:  How should we respond to this problem?  What can we do? 

    What questions do you still have about socialization and the media?

    Wednesday, October 13, 2021

    3 SocStructure, Lesson 11b: Social Dilemma Day 2

    Today we will continue to watch the documentary The Social Dilemma, available on Netflix and Youtube.

    Here is the website for the documentary.

    Here is a full unedited transcript of the documentary from the website scraps from the loft, but I also edited down the full transcript to highlight the parts that I felt were the most important.  You can see my edited version in 4 parts:

    Tuesday, October 12, 2021

    3SocStructure Lesson 11 Social Dilemma

    The Social Dilemma
    A 2020 documentary called The Social Dilemma (available on Netflix) details the influence of social media.  

    • The documentary was made by dozens of tech executives who have expressed concern about the influence of social media.  
    • The documentary is interspersed with a docudrama that shows how social media is in the background shaping the lives of one family.

    The beginning of the movie raises the question, "What is the problem?"
    Jaron Lanier explains that,
    it is not just that, "we are the product and that our attention is the product being sold to advertisers.  That's a little too simplistic.  It is the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product.  And that is the product.  That is the only possible product...."

    Friday, October 8, 2021

    3 SocStructure, Lesson 10: Social (ization) Media

    1.  Before starting, what social media accounts do you have?

    The rise of Social Media as a Socialization Agent
    For decades, television was a dominant force of socialization.  Myriad research shows how dominant television, especially advertising has been and you can see more at this older post of mine here.  However, over the last 10 years, online social media has increasingly played an incredible role in influencing people.  For our next agent of socialization, we will examine social media and its role in socializing people.

    Social media arguably has both positive and negative effects on society.  Whether you want to focus on either of those, it is clear that social media has had a transformational effect on American society and it is a strong agent of socialization.

    Positive Effects
    One of the positive effects of social media is detailed in this research by Miller, et. al. about how social media provides an outlet for non-whites experiencing racial discrimination.  From the introduction (full article here),
    Racial coping can be understood through three main approaches: racial and ethnic identity development, social support, and confrontation and anger expression (Brondolo et al. 2009). We argue that social media allow these approaches to be carried on in the online sphere as a way to cope with both online and offline forms of discrimination. Thus, social media can be a site of expression for racial identity, a place where Black Americans and other communities come together to air grievances, seek support, and denounce those who oppress them. This is exactly what drives our research question: do those who experience higher levels of discrimination use more social media?

    We argue that social media may be an additional outlet for coping with the negative effects of racial discrimination, as social media allows all aforementioned forms of coping, racial and ethnic identity development, social support, and confrontation and anger expression.
    2.  Not all aspects of social media are dysfunctional.  What are some of the ways that social media has played a role in shaping you positively?  Are there any online communities that are supportive of your own sense of self?

    Anti-Social Media

    Felmlee and Feris published Toxic Ties; Networks of Friendship, Dating and Cyber Victimization in Social Psychology Quarterly (2016) about the ways that social media can strain relationships among friends and dating partners.  LGBTQ teens are most at risk followed by females then males.

    Social Media Usage
    Open this link and think about what is true for you.

    3. Which of the findings in the links above are true for you?


    Social Media Used for "News"
    A 2018 study by PEW Research Center found that a growing share of Americans get their news from social media - moreso than get their news from print media:

    More Americans get news on social media than from print newspapers. In 2018, one-in-five adults said they often get news on social media. And Facebook continues to dominate as the most common social media site used for news by Americans: About four-in-ten Americans (43%) get news on this site.  

    4.  Which of the platforms in the graph above do you often get your news from?

    The growing trend of getting news online is particularly concerning because a 2020 study found that:

    Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable

    Those who rely on social media for news are less likely to get the facts right about the coronavirus and politics and more likely to hear some unproven claims.

    And here is specific evidence that social media news consumers are less knowledgable:

    This 2020 research shows that social media users were more likely to have heard 
    conspiracy theories (see the graphic on the left) about the pandemic AND they are less likely to express concern about the impact of made-up news.

    Social Media and You 
    Have you ever stopped to think about what social media knows about you?  Think about the last time you bought something at a store.  If the salesperson was a stranger, would you tell them everything that your social media knows about you?  Look at this post from Tech News and the chart that they included from clario (below):

    How does this happen?  

    The Social Dilemma
    A 2020 documentary called The Social Dilemma (available on Netflix) details the influence of social media.  The trailer is here:  

    • The documentary was made by dozens of tech executives who have expressed concern about the influence of social media.  
    • The documentary is interspersed with a docudrama that shows how social media is in the background shaping the lives of one family.

    The beginning of the movie raises the question, "What is the problem?"
    Jaron Lanier explains that,
    it is not just that, "we are the product and that our attention is the product being sold to advertisers.  That's a little too simplistic.  It is the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product.  And that is the product.  That is the only possible product...."

    Here is a 2020 PEW study about Instagram showing that even though Facebook and Youtube still dominate overall, Instagram is the fastest growing social network sites over the last 7 years (Note, however, that Facebook owns Instagram).  The graph below shows the popularity trend of various social media.  Besides the graph, the article also cites "8 facts about Americans and Instagram" listed below.

    • Roughly four-in-ten Americans (37%) say they have ever used Instagram online or on their cellphone.
    • Young adults, women and Hispanic Americans are among the most likely groups to say they use Instagram.
    • A majority of adult Instagram users in the U.S. say they use the site daily.
    • Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. teens (72%) say they use the site.
    • Children ages 11 and younger also engage with Instagram, though not as much as with other sites.
    • Instagram is not a top social media site for getting news.
    • Few Americans trust Instagram as a place to get political and election news.
    • About three-in-ten Americans know that Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook.


    Thursday, October 7, 2021

    3SocStructure, Lesson 9: Peers as Agents of Socialization

    In our last lesson, we examined how schools shape individuals in the U.S.  Hopefully you recall that these influential groups that shape us are called agents of socialization.  Another agent of socialization is friends/peer groups.

    Friends/Peer Groups
    Friends and peer groups are very influential for Americans.  There is evidence that the most important factor in statistically predicting whether a teen will take up a particular deviant behavior (such as smoking or crime) is the presence or absence of peers who also engage in that behavior.  Here are some important conclusions that sociologists have claimed about the influence of friends/peers:
    • Peer groups tend to be influenced by homophily, or the tendency for people to be around others who are similar to themselves.  
    • Peer influence starts especially because of school and cohort groups, and becomes significant by adolescence, sometimes more intense and more influential than family.  
    • Adolescents spend more time with each other in age-related cohorts than with parents or anyone else. This leads to an adolescent subculture.    

    Strength of Peer Influence on Preadolescents

    Patricia and Peter Adler are very well-published in the area of adolescent peer socialization.  Their book called Peer Power is an extensive exploration into the world of adolescents and their effect on each other.  From Google books,  
    Based on eight years of intensive insider participant observation in their own children's community, Peter and Patti Adler discuss the vital components of the lives of preadolescents, popularity, friendships, cliques, social status, social isolation, loyalty, bullying, boy-girl relationships, and afterschool activities. They describe how friendships shift and change, how people are drawn into groups and excluded from them, how clique leaders maintain their power and popularity, and how individuals' social experiences and feelings about themselves differ from the top of the pecking order to the bottom. In so doing, the Adlers focus their attention on the peer culture of the children themselves and the way this culture extracts and modifies elements from adult culture. Children's peer culture, as it is nourished in those spaces where grown-ups cannot penetrate, stands between individual children and the larger adult society.  As such, it is a mediator and shaper, influencing the way children collectively interpret their surroundings and deal with the common problems they face.

    Google Form for this lesson.

    Analyze the evidence below for the importance of peers as agents of socialization.   Try to apply the research to your own friends/peers network.  Is it similar for you or different and in what ways? 

    Friend Sources Throughout the Lifecourse of Males and Females

    Where do Americans find their friends at different ages?  How are males and females friend sources different?  Sociologist Reuben Thomas provides some evidence on his homepage.   Open this image in a new tab to see it larger:

    1.  Can you identify a difference between where males and females find their friends?  At what age is this difference?  Is this true for you - where are most of your own friends from?

    Friend Groups and Influence on Choice of Study

    This 2019 article from the journal Sociology of Education shows that your friends will influence the likelihood of you being in STEM classes or not. From the article,
         We find strong evidence that students adjust their preferences to those of their friends (friend influence). Moreover, girls tend to retain their STEM preferences when other girls in their classroom also like STEM (peer exposure). We conclude that these mechanisms amplify preexisting preferences and thereby contribute to the observed dramatic widening of the STEM gender gap....Homophily, the tendency for friends to be similar in multiple regards (e.g., in their gender or sex category, age, attitudes, and cultural taste) is widely documented (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Cook 2001). This can be due to friend selection, that is, the tendency to befriend others who are similar, but, in the case of changeable characteristics, it can also be due to social influence....
         First, both boys and girls are influenced to like what their friends like. Because students mostly have same-sex friends, gender-specific tendencies of influence will emerge. Boys, who have higher probabilities to like STEM to begin with (in our observed time period), are likely to be further influenced toward STEM because their friends are likely to be boys, who are, again, more likely to have pre-existing STEM preferences. Girls, having lower probabilities to like STEM already, are likely further influenced by other girls, who are also less likely to prefer STEM. However, these are just general tendencies. Depending on the particular friends one might have, individual implications can also be different (e.g., cases where girls are friends with more boys than with girls, or with girls who like STEM). 
         Second, regarding STEM subjects, other girls’ preferences in the classroom matter. Having other female students in a class who prefer STEM can protect girls from being discouraged from STEM subjects. This implies that along with friends’ subject preferences, the negotiation of gender politics in the classroom is also important for girls’ STEM preferences. Our findings suggest the STEM pipeline model should be conceived as a social pipeline model, in which effects of peer exposure and friend influence are considered important factors in female dropout from STEM careers.
    2.  Are you in STEM?  Are your friends?  Is this article's conclusion true for you?

    Friends with Academic Benefits:  Friend Network Structure and Influence on College Success 

    First, the article in Contexts called "Friends with Academic Benefits by Janice McCabe from Dartmouth Sociology Department, analyzes three different structures of friend groups for college students.  I will summarize the article's findings below, but the full article is linked above.  Try to read my summary below and answer question 1, but if you need more context or if you are interested in the rest of the article, see the link above.

    McCabe analyzes the structure of peer networks, the type of friends in the network and differences between race and class.  She finds 3 different structures of friend networks.  She calls these three structures "tight-knitters, compartmentalizers, and samplers....tight-knitters’ networks resemble a ball of yarn, compartmentalizers’ a bow-tie, and samplers’ a daisy."


    Tight-knitters have one densely woven friendship group in which nearly all their friends are friends with one another.... Most tight-knitters were students of color who found the social  support of their network helpful in navigating a predominantly White campus. Some tight-knitters had friendship networks that helped them academically in multiple ways. Tight-knit networks, however, did not always pull students up academically. They pulled some tight-knitters down, helping to reproduce race- and class-based inequalities.  About half of the 22 tight-knitters in my sample were ... surrounded by friends who pulled them away from academics. Nearly all students discussed friends distracting them from academics, but for lower-achieving tight-knitters who did not graduate from MU or who graduated but with low GPAs and in more than four years, friends were a constant distraction. All behaviors—negative and positive—were quite contagious within tight-knit networks. Consequently, all tight-knitters who described their friends as providing academic support and motivation graduated; only half of the tight-knitters who felt they lacked this support graduated.  


    Compartmentalizers’ friends form two to four clusters, where friends know each other within clusters but rarely across them.  Compartmentalized networks look like a bow-tie, with distinct clusters of friends. Students’ friends within each of the 2-4 clusters were connected to each other, but friends were not connected across clusters. Like Betsy, most compartmentalizers were White and middle-class. They typically had one socially oriented cluster and one academically oriented cluster. She felt her two clusters of friends enabled her to balance schoolwork and friendly fun, and she graduated in four years. Students with more than two clusters of friends felt pressure—on their time and identity—in keeping up with multiple friendship groups. The clusters provided a sense of belonging, but maintaining ties can be demanding, and these demands escalated with each additional cluster.  All compartmentalizers had separate academic and social clusters of friends.  In general, compartmentalizers came from more advantaged backgrounds, experienced greater ease on campus, and succeeded in college with less support from friends as compared to those with other network types. Friendships among students from more advantaged backgrounds helped to reproduce their advantages. 

    Samplers make a friend or two from a variety of places, but the friends remain unconnected to each other. Students of color frequently described experiencing race-based isolation on campus regardless of their network type; samplers, however, remained isolated. They rarely discussed isolating experiences with friends, and samplers were ambivalent at best about whether their friends provided social support or whether they needed social support.  Samplers are academically successful in spite of their friends. Their friends provide little academic help or engagement, but they don’t pull the samplers down academically either. Negative behaviors that were contagious within tight-knitters’ networks did not spread within samplers’ networks due to lack of ties among friends. In other words, their network structure shielded samplers from friends’ negative influences. While samplers demonstrate that friends are not necessary for academic success, one can’t help but wonder if they might be even more successful if they allowed or encouraged their friends to become friends with academic benefits.

    3.  Do you have friends with academic benefits or do your friends influence you to be less successful academically? Can you identify your own social network structure based on the models in the article?

    College Roommates and Risky Behavior

    This article from the Journal of Health and Behavior examines whether college roommates will influence each other to be more aggressive, smoke, or be sexually active.  READ CAREFULLY - the findings are not as simple as most students assume they will be.  Remember to read the abstract first, then the conclusion/discussion section.

    4.  What did the researchers conclude about having college roommates that engage in risky behavior?  

    Peers' Effects on Stress among Males and Females
    This 2020 research on Taiwanese youth, Isolation but Diffusion by Zhao, Robinson and Wu, finds that peers can be both a contagion and a mitigating factor for depression based on gender.

    5.  How are students influenced by attending a college where more of their high school classmates attend?

    Research from Fletcher and Tienda (2009) 

    Wednesday, October 6, 2021

    3 SocStructure, Lesson 8: School as Structural Agent

    The Importance of School as a Socialization Agent in the U.S.

    School is mandated in the U.S. until age 16 and most students attend until 18.  And while enrolled in school, students are there for approximately 8 hours per day for 12 years of their lives.  And although it took the quarantine to realize it, schools are, in fact, very influential and in many ways more than simply learning.

    Here is the Google Form for this lesson.

    1.  Brainstorm the functions that schools serve both society and students.  One way to help you think about this is by thinking about the Covid quarantine and all the ways that you or your families have been affected by not having normal school.  List as many functions of school as you can.

    Schools are important in many ways to society.  Some of their functions are to teach lessons; the most obvious being to teach reading, writing, math, history and science.  These manifest lessons are explicit ways that schools influence students.  However, schools also influence students in more subtle, implicit ways, or latent lessons.  For example, schools allow kids to pursue interests and learn about future careers like law, medicine, and any number of different professions such as those on the SHS Student Activities website:
    Besides the manifest lesson of helping students understand various careers, what are the latent lessons of offering the specific clubs above?

    School Values, From Sociology of Education

    Besides the latent lesson of valuing college and professional careers (above), schools have also been criticized for latently teaching students progressive values since at least 1974.   Three sociologists wanted to research if teachers indoctrinated their students with "liberal" values and what values those were.  Brint, Contreras and Matthews (2001) observed elementary school teachers and they coded the messages that teachers relayed to students.  They observed over 1000 interactions between teachers and students.

    2.  Individually Take a guess - brainstorm what you think the messages were that teachers relayed to students most frequently?


    Sociologists Brint, Contreras and Matthews observed elementary school teachers and they coded the messages that teachers relayed to students. They observed over 1000 interactions between teachers and students.

    They found that the most common references that teachers reinforced to students were:
    • Be orderly.
    • Work hard.
    • Show respect and consideration.
    • Participate.
    • Be in charge of yourself.
    • Cooperate.
    • Justice/fairness.
    • Responsibility.
    • Self-control.

    3.  How many of these did you guess in #2? List the messages that you guessed in #2 that were the same as those above.

    4. Now, using the list above, decide what % each of those references were out of 100%.  (The total should add up to 100.)


    Here are the actual totals:

    5.  Is this surprising?  Any questions about manifest or latent messages?

    Obedience also is illustrated in this rhetorical piece called Beavis vs. Barbie, also available here.  The number one message that students learn is to be obedient, which includes the values of being passive, deferential, conformist.
    If these two students stayed after to class to find out if there is anything they can do to pass the class, who is more likely to pass the class?
    Which student probably knows more math?
    Do you feel this is true in your own experiences at school?

    School Extracurriculars, Identity and Academic Success
    Andrew Guest and Barbara Schneider from University of Chicago published in Sociology of Education (2003) about the importance of extracurriculars and how they shape students' identities differently depending on the type of school the students attend.   Here is a summary from the discussion section:

    Other ways that school socializes students:

    College and Political Attitudes

    School Culture Socializes the Students Within it

    Lisa Nunn researched how school cultures shape the students that attend each school.  Her findings are published in her book, Defining Student Success.

    Read a preview from Google books here.

    From Rutgers University Press, also available through JSTOR here.

    And there is a detailed review of Nunn's work from Dr. Judson Everitt of Loyola University Chicago, available on JSTOR here or from U of Chicago Press here.

    Dr. Everitt's review shows that Nunn finds three different types of schools (Alternative, Comprehensive and Elite) that affect students' views of themselves as learners:

    “Alternative High,” “Comprehensive High,” and “Elite Charter” each have distinct organizational structures and practices that cultivate unique school- level cultural meanings about success. 
    Alternative High operates on a non-traditional school model intended to improve the prospects of low-incomestudents by both helping them fulfill college entrance requirements and pre- paring them for the working world in their areas of interest. The local cultural wisdom at Alternative High promotes what Nunn calls a “success- through-effort” perspective among students, in which students define success as achievable entirely through effort with little dependence on intelligence. 
    Comprehensive High is a more traditional high school that serves a large and ethnoracially diverse student body, and promotes a perspective that combines elements of “success-through-effort” with what Nunn calls “success-through- intelligence.” Effort is necessary but not sufficient for success, according to this school’s culture; one must also possess an innate intelligence that enables understanding of academic material. 
    Elite Charter is a high-performing, college-preparatory charter school serving a predominantly affluent student body where students are focused almost exclusively on academic performance that will earn them entrance to elite colleges. Here, intelligence is viewed as the foundation of success, and the “success-through-effort” element is modified into the idea of “initiative,” through which outstanding students can demonstrate their “passion” for learning.

    Do you understand what Nunn's conclusion is?   From Nunn's study, what type of school are we a part of?  What are the effects of this on students?

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    Another value that students learn at school is consumption or buying things.   Explained by sociologist Murray J. Milner, in his book,  Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids, Milner connects teen consumption to the need for independence and identity in a culture that does not allow teens to be independent.   The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture explains that Milner,
    ...argues that the teenage behaviors that annoy adults do not arise from hormones, bad parenting, poor teaching, or the media, but from adolescents’ lack of power over the central features of their lives: they must attend school; they have no control over the curriculum; they can’t choose who their classmates are. What teenagers do have is the power to create status systems and symbols that not only exasperate adults, but also impede learning and maturing. Ironically, parents, educators, and businesses are inadvertently major contributors to these outcomes.
    An absorbing journey that stirs up a mixture of nostalgia and dismay, Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids shows how high school distills the worst features of American consumer society and shapes how we relate to our neighbors, partners, and coworkers. It also provides insight into how our schools and the lives of teenagers might be transformed.
    What are some ways that students at SHS have learned to consume?

    This 2017 research by Elizabeth Lawrence examines the connection between college education and healthier lifestyle behaviors.  Here is her abstract:

    Do you think that Lawrence's research is an example of manifest or latent lessons?  Why or why not?

    For more info. on Schools and Socialization, see the Journal of Sociology of Education

    Tuesday, October 5, 2021

    3 SocStructure, Lesson 7: The Changing Family

    As students enter our class, please open the Google Form for today and answer questions 1 and 2 ONLY.

    1. If I told you that I live with my family, who would you assume I mean?

    2. What are some other ways to define family different than above?

    My family and I dressed up as the family from Despicable Me one Halloween.  This was one of my favorite costumes but it also is an interesting example of the changing family in the U.S.  Most often, when Americans think of "family" they think of the nuclear family - two heterosexual partners, married and their children.  Although this is an ideal in many Americans' minds, sociologists question whether or not it was ever a reality.  Most family researchers will trace this back to the post-WWII era when these types of families seemed to peak.  However, the romanticized notion may be from media that created an ideal image of this family even if the reality was much different then and certainly is now.

    One sociologist who researched the American family extensively using historical methods is Stephanie Coontz who writes,
    Leave It to Beaver was not a documentary, a man’s home has never been his castle, the ‘male breadwinner marriage’ is the least traditional family in history, and rape and sexual assault were far higher in the 1970s than they are today. In The Way We Never Were, acclaimed historian Stephanie Coontz provides a myth-shattering examination of two centuries of the American family, sweeping away misconceptions about the past that cloud current debates about domestic life. The 1950s do not present a workable model of how to conduct our personal lives today, Coontz argues, and neither does any other era from our cultural past. This revised edition includes a new introduction and epilogue, looking at what has and has not changed since the original publication in 1992, and exploring how the clash between growing gender equality and rising economic inequality is reshaping family life, marriage, and male-female relationships in our modern era.

    Here is a review of Coontz's book from the New Republic.

    Here is a review of her work on Goodreads.

    Family Structure in the U.S. is Changing

    From the PEW Research Center, Trends Shaping the US (2017):

    Americans’ lives at home are changing. Following a decades-long trend, just half of U.S. adults were married in 2015, down from 70% in 1950. As marriage has declined, the number in cohabiting relationships (living with an unmarried partner) rose 29% between 2007 and 2016, from 14 million to 18 million. The increase was especially large among those ages 50 and older: 75% in the same period. The “gray divorce” rate – divorces among those 50 and older – roughly doubled between 1990 and 2015.

    Also, a record number of Americans (nearly 61 million in 2014) were living in multigenerational households, that is, households that include two or more adult generations or grandparents and grandchildren. Growing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. helps explain some of the rise in multigenerational living. The Asian and Hispanic populations overall are growing more rapidly than the white population, and those groups are more likely than whites to live in multigenerational family households.

    Americans are more accepting of the changing structures than they have ever been. 

    As family structures change in U.S., a growing share of Americans say it makes no difference
    The American family is changing in many ways: Cohabitation is on the rise, more adults are delaying or forgoing marriage, a growing share of children are living with an unmarried parent, and same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.  Amid these changes, three-in-ten U.S. adults think it’s a good thing that there is growing variety in the types of family arrangements people live in, while about half as many (16%) say this is a bad thing. The largest share (45%) don’t think it makes a difference, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2019.

    Here is a graph showing different types of households by decade 1900-2017.
    3.  What conclusions can you make from the graph?

    The share of adults who have lived with a romantic partner is now higher than the share who have ever been married; married adults are more satisfied with their relationships, more trusting of their partners 

    Size of Households
    The number of people in the average U.S. household is going up for the first time in over 160 years.  This decade’s likely upturn in average household size reflects several demographic trends:
    • A growing share of the population resides in multigenerational family households.
    • More Americans in the wake of the Great Recession are “doubled up” in shared living quarters.
    Related to the size of households,  this report from Pew explains that a majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression  The coronavirus outbreak has pushed millions of Americans, especially young adults, to move in with family members. The share of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents has become a majority since U.S. coronavirus cases began spreading early this year, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression era.

    Trends in Divorce

    (Legal marriage age is determined by state laws see here for more and the graphic below)

    4.  What demographic is most likely to divorce according to the graphs above?  What other conclusions can make from the graphs above?

    5.  According to the graphs above, what demographic is most likely to divorce?  What other conclusions can make from the graphs above?

    Check out the trends from the Pew Research Center has research on Family and Relationships and  Family Roles, Household/Family Structure and Intermarriage including these:

    Sharing household chores is an important part of marriage for a majority of married adults. But among those who have children, there are notable differences in perceptions of who actually does more of the work around the house.

    More than half of married couples in the United States say sharing household chores is “very important” to a successful marriage. But when it comes to grocery shopping and cooking, women tend to say they’re the ones usually doing the work, according to a time-use survey sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    C.  How American parents balance work and family life when both work
    Today’s American families are more likely than those of past decades to feature two full-time working parents. A new Pew Research Center report looks at how working moms and dads in two-parent households are balancing their jobs with their family responsibilities and how they view the dynamics of sharing child care and household responsibilities.

    D.  As Millennials Near 40, They’re Approaching Family Life Differently Than Previous Generations
    A new analysis of government data by Pew Research Center shows that Millennials are taking a different path in forming – or not forming – families. Millennials trail previous generations at the same age across three typical measures of family life: living in a family unit, marriage rates and birth rates.

     E. School Outcomes of Children Raised by Same-Sex Parents: Evidence from Administrative Panel Data  These data include 2,971 children with same-sex parents (2,786 lesbian couples and 185 gay male couples) and over a million children with different-sex parents followed from birth. The results indicate that children raised by same-sex parents from birth perform better than children raised by different-sex parents in both primary and secondary education. Full article here.


    Choose one of the above articles from the PEW that looks interesting.  Answer the questions below:  

    6.  Which article did you choose?

    7. After reading it, do you think the findings are interesting?

    8.  What is either one finding you think is interesting or one criticism of the article?

    9. Is this true for your family or families that you know?

    Extra Resources about the changing family:

    Cohabitation in Chicago Tribune
    Seven percent of U.S. adults are currently cohabitating, and among that 7%, the fastest growing cohort consists of people 50 and older. Kevin McElmurry, Indiana University Northwest quoted in Chicago Tribune (2019)

    Professor Medley-Rath from Sociology In Focus
    In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath discusses a few growing trends in family structure.
    Medley-Rath covers data and changing families in these areas:
    • Cohabitation
    • Remaining Single Longer
    • Unmarried Parents
    • Living with Mom and Dad

    Census Bureau and Changing Family

    And from the Census Bureau, there is this data exercise which shows family changing.  The Census Bureau published this news release explaining the data.