Book review: Sociology of Marriage and the Family: Gender, Love and Property
By Randall Collins and Scott Coltrane
This highly acclaimed book on marriage and the family was put together and co-authored by Randall Collins and Scott Coltrane. Dr. Coltrane in particular is an authority in the field of marriage and the family having written many other acclaimed works on fatherhood, motherhood, domestic labor, ethnicity and other titles. His written work has been used and published in various scholarly articles and journals including the famed American journal of Sociology. Randall Collins is also a very influential scholar and American Sociologist involved in teaching and writing.
This book majorly discusses contemporary issues that touch on marriage and the family. It has been well structured to enable its use in learning institutions. This has made it easier for it to be used in the class. The authors first lay out in a clear and concise manner historical dynamics and perspectives on the family and comparative dynamics that help the reader to see how far the family has come in crucial aspects. The authors then go ahead and some of the issues that have a major influence on modern families. Some of this issues discussed include social class and ethnicity. Other pertinent issues that influence the family and marriage are discussed and weighed in. Emphasis is placed on aspects such as sex, contraception and love. These issues are examined in their complexities.
Other important aspects of the family structure discussed are satisfaction in marriage, violence in the family, how children and their parents relate, control and authority, house helps and caretakers. Finally, the authors discuss transitions in marriage such as the death of a family member, divorce and remarriage. The book offers information on issues that many people would wonder why they need to be written down in a book since they appear natural and spontaneous. However, the authors refute this notion by offering candid advice going to in-depth to uncover issues that many family members would be shocked to confront.
The authors use a comparative approach in relaying their thoughts. Comparisons have been made cutting across time, cultures, types and forms of marriages, sexualities, men and women. This kind of approach is very useful as it enables the reader who may be of any age to quickly relate to the realities being discussed. It kind of encompasses all types of persons and situations and gives a wide berth for relativity. This style also allows the authors to be very inclusive in the in its analysis, they are able to talk about all types of different marriages and family life possible; Singlehood, cohabitation, both parents, gay marriages. They touch on families with children of one gender as well as mixed gender, adoption dynamics and other family setups.
All of these aspects are compared in a time warp, like the meaning and challenge of marriage then and now, the meaning and challenge of having and maintain a family then and now, the meaning and challenge of raising children then and now and the meaning and challenge of handling conflict then and now. This grants the viewer a unique perspective that can only be gotten by looking at an issue in all dimensions possible.
The sociological viewpoint of the workings of marriage and family lays weight on the independence of the family in the society. The family is structured as the basis unit that all of society mirrors. It mirrors many aspects of the society and learners are in a position to study about the family in a cultural and historical viewpoint. This enables the reader to see how key aspects of the family have changed or evolved with time and also the ones that have not changed much. The basic unit of the Father as the head, the mother as a subordinate and the children in protocol sees not to have changed much. Aspects of single parenthood have continued to increase over the years and currently there is little shame or stigmatization of individuals who chose to be single parent, especially women. The book manages to elevate a high standard in framework, but still manages to incorporate informal style and little jargon. It brings to the reader the viewpoints of critical thinkers within an academic, professionally researched write up. It tackles real issues that affect the world and are of practical concern.
The book majorly purposes to awaken and inform of sociological principles and on the other hand foster a proper grasp of what it entails to prepare well for an adult life of responsibility. The book tries to give understanding to the viewer that marriage is not an institution that a person just wakes up some day and decides to get into the next minute. It requires careful thought and preparation that enables an adult of mature status to do. Challenges abound, and it’s some of this challenges that the authors examine and try to tackle. The dynamics of family life and marriage are very complex and the authors recognize that it may not be very wise to analyze the family in a state of one form fits all basis, but rather offer insights into how this challenges can be navigated as best as can possibly be.
The book sets out a full chapter on family violence. This is paramount and shows that violence in the family is very important aspect of the family life that should be granted the attention that it deserves. The authors examine the issue of violence in a historical perspective getting to the patriarchal practices, beliefs and tendencies that fuel the life of violence in the family. Conflict and violence is examined in a holistic perspective and recognized as a vice that touches on every member of the family including children rivalry.
The authors have also been able to offer practical thoughts of how many of these challenges in the family can be overcome and solved. They include time tried theoretical concepts that deal with challenging issues. A number of professionals have also been recommended who can help with dealing with the challenges that arise in the family and marriage. Some of these theories set out in the book are well known especially in the world of sociology. They are interchangeably used to refer to and deal with various relationships that involve human beings.
I find this book to be very rich in information. I am one of those individuals who just believe that some things in life like family and marriage are natural and don’t need to be worked on mechanically as much. This book however, rattles my theology and informs me that the family and marriage are aspects of society that cannot just be ignored but need to be consciously worked on so as to ensure they are successful. The book offers me practical ways in which I can do this. It is very instrumental to me considering that the family is the basic unit of an institution that an individual comes from, and that once the family is neglected, the individual is neglected too.
This is a very powerful book and I have to say i enjoyed it. It is relevant and very enriching. It cuts across as accommodative to all kinds of people irrespective of age, tribe, ethnicity, religion and belief. Marriage and family affects us all. The carefully researched arguments are brought out in a brilliant manner. Such views and the manner in which they are brought forth cause the reader to read and be engaged in the discussion and thought from an all-round vintage point. I found myself in engulfed in agreement with a discussion but soon after going ahead to read the next, though different. I found it to be so rich in truth. It is a book that offers an all-round perspective on the issues discussed. My understanding of marriage and family life and how it is understood by different people greatly increased. I came to appreciate how different we are, and the richness contained therein. As a reader, you begin to realize that there is absolutely no need to hold family and marriage stereotypes, that most of them are biased and not necessarily correct. The book was originally published in the year 2007, making it still fresh and relevant for now. Even so, the truths found in the book are ageless and go beyond the confines of age and time. The price of the book is also very affordable to the average American and even students can pretty much save a few bucks and purchase. Among the books on sociology that I love and have read, this one must find its way to my bookshelf permanently. I highly recommend the book.
Randall, C. and Scott, C. (2007) Sociology of Marriage and the Family: Gender, Love and Property.