1. What is meant by the idea that race, class, and gender are interactive systems rather than individual variables? Think about your own family of orientation, and take one particular aspect of your family life as an example. Discuss briefly how race, class, and gender act simultaneously to shape that aspect of your family life.
2. Most people agree that marriages and families underwent major changes during the last half of the twentieth century; however, few people link these changes to larger societal changes that have taken place. Identify some of the major changes that have taken place during the past 50 years (for example, in transportation, technology, and social welfare policies), and discuss their impact on contemporary marriages and families. Reflect on your own family and consider how one such change has affected your family and/or families like yours.
3. Why do sociologists need different theoretical perspectives to explain marriage and family behavior? Why isn’t one perspective sufficient?
4. Virtually every practical decision you make and every practical opinion you hold has some theory behind it. Consider any marriage and family behavior or event of interest to you. Develop a “mini theory” to explain the behavior or event. What are some of the major assumptions you make about human beings, society, marriages, families, women, and men? Is your theory a micro or macro level explanation? Which one of the theoretical perspectives or theory models does your theory most resemble? After you have developed your mini theory, consider that you or some researcher wants to test it.
5. What kinds of questions might you ask? Which research methodology would be most appropriate to test your theory? Why?
6. As discussed in this chapter, marriages and families today are faced with a myriad of challenges such as home foreclosures, unemployment, violence, poverty, and racism. If you were a member of a team charged with developing social policy pertaining to American families, what aspect of family life would you focus on, how might you research the topic, and what kind of policy(ies) might you suggest to policy makers?