Life Course and Personal life (The life course (Hareven- the life course…
Life Course and Personal life
The life course
Postmodern sociologists have argued that instead of focussing on family as a group we should focus on the individuals and their life courses.
Hareven- the life course made up of several different stages which everyone experiences
Early childhood (baby)
Stages of life course can have an impact on family life as there may be changes to the structure of family throughout these different life courses
Someone may be brought into a stable nuclear family during their early childhood and infancy but one-parent family after due to separation
Smart argued that the term 'personal life' more fitting than 'family' as there are a lot of associations with the term family and what is considered to be ideal or normal.
Why is personal life a better term? The term personal life more neutral and flexible because goes beyond marriage and biological relationships to include new types of relationship.
Traditional theories such as functionalism/ Marxism all take 'top down' structural approach to family and social life.
The personal life perspective shares the 'bottom up' approach of interactionists- the meanings that individual family members hold and how these shape their actions and relationships.
Beyond ties of blood and marriage
The personal life perspective also takes a wider view of relationships than the 'traditional' family based on blood or marriage.
E.g. someone may not feel close to a family i.e. sister but could be close with someone who once dated their mother and father for example.
Personal life perspective draws attention to intimate or personal relationships people may have even though they may not be conventional 'family' types.
Relationships with friends: who may be like a brother or sister to you.
Fictive kin: close friends who are treated as family such as your mum's best friend who you call auntie.
Gay and lesbian 'chosen families': made up of a supportive network of close friends who aren't related by blood or marriage.
Relationships with pets: sociological research has found that a lot of families include their pets as part of their family.
Evaluation of personal life
Widely criticised for being too broad about their definitions about views of what constitutes as family.
The personal life view rejects traditional views of the family such as functionalism- theories which have been influential in sociological research.
By having their broad view of family it means we ignore what is special about relationships based on marriage and blood.
It takes away traditional family values.