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Fertility, families, and households
Sara & Hyun Sik
Soc 971
Week 5
Discussion Questions
Brien, Lillard, & Waite
What is the continuous time-hazard model? What’s the difference from discrete time-hazard
model? How can we interpret the outcomes? What is the search model? What is the implication of
the search model in this article?
 What do you think are the potential candidates for “unmeasured factors” that increase the chances
of correlations between family building behaviors? Don’t authors exaggerate the positive
correlation between family building behaviors by these “unmeasured factors”? Or, doesn’t this
article contain some connotation of virtuous cycle of pregnancy, cohabitation and marriage?
 One of the findings from this paper is that, “…cohabitation, marriage, and nonmarital conception
are all part of the same process, in which those who are more likely to experience one event are
also more likely to experience another (p. 542). This finding is interesting in light of the scholarly
discourse on the “incomplete institutionalization” or “deinstitutionalization” of the family (by
which scholars mean there is no longer a relatively strict normative and behavioral pattern of
family formation in which conception occurs in marriage and cohabitation doesn’t exist.) What are
the implications of a family that is not institutionalized?
Bumpass & Lu
What is the period multi-state life table? How can we construct it?
Through which mechanisms does rising cohabitation increase the likelihood for children to be
negatively affected? How much do these factors increase for the past two decades? Do these factors
exert similar effects across basic demographic variables such as education, race and age?
 Last week we talked about assortative mating, and the possibility that women must marry “down”
if they have the liability of children. How might cohabitation factor in to this process? Could a
single mother can use the lesser commitment of cohabitation (as compared to marriage) as leverage
to gain a partner who meets her standards? Or are the marriage and cohabitation markets separate
such that “high quality” men marry and are thus unavailable for cohabitation?
Casper & Bianchi
These authors note that a larger proportion of cohabiting couples than of married couples have
nontraditional characteristics (e.g., woman older than man, partners of different races, gender
egalitarianism). Is it reasonable to hypothesize that cohabiting unions are more fragile than
marriages in part because of societal disapproval of these characteristics? If so, how would you
test the hypothesis?
 What do authors think are important factors which increase cohabitation? Do you think
cohabitation more resembles marriage than singlehood or cohabitation is more like singlehood than
marriage? In what respects, do you think so? What is your theoretical ground for your argument?
 Authors deal with homosexual cohabitation a little. What are the distinct features in homosexual
cohabitation? Why aren’t there many things known about homosexual family building? Do you
agree to the claim that homosexual household have the adoption right? What are the pros and cons
about this debate? Do you think there are much difference between male homosexual and female
homosexual family?
Dush, Cohan, & Amato
 This article tries to identify the better explanation between selection hypothesis and experience of
cohabitation hypothesis for unhappier and more unstable marital status among those who
experienced cohabitation before marriage. Are the hypothesis constructed appropriately? How
about methods?
More specifically, authors posit that the selection perspective predict lessened effect of
premarital cohabitation on marital disruption with increase of cohabitation for last two decades.
Do you agree to this reasoning? What is the assumption underlying this reasoning?
 As to methods, authors utilize very unique sampling procedure. Do you think this sampling
method generate nationally representative data? What are the pros and cons for excluding
parents of individuals in the 1981-1987 cohort from respondents in the 1964-1980 cohort?
 These authors speculate that experiences of cohabitation may mediate the effects of selection-intocohabitation factors on marital stability. What do you think about this hypothesis? Do you think
the type of cohabitation relationship (e.g., precursor to marriage, as defined in Casper & Bianchi)
Smock, Manning, & Porter
This is the first article we have ever met using interview method. What are the strengths and
weaknesses of this approach? Do you think the authors successfully employed qualitative research
methods and properly interpreted the outcomes?
 These authors repeatedly emphasize that their respondents are working and lower middle classes so
that they seem to argue that the “money” is the most important deterrent to marriage in these
classes. But is money so important factor? Interviews also revealed that there were personal
differences about how much money really matter. Then, how can we explain these differences?
 For the lower and middle class cohabiters interviewed in this study, marriage seems to be (at least
in part) a symbol of social status. Do you think marriage is viewed as a status symbol among
members of the upper class? Where do you think the views of the interviewees originated (e.g.,
from observing peers, parents, members of the upper class, media)?
 We will have encountered many kinds of cohabitation until class. What form of cohabitation do
you think the authors exemplify? For example, which category can these cohabitors be put into
according to Bianchi and Casper’s classification?
Across readings
 How do the assumptions, both theoretical and analytical, that the authors make affect their findings
and interpretations?
 There are many ways to measure cohabitation and cohabitation rates. Which ways do you prefer,
and why?
 Many articles argue that cohabitation increased rapidly for the past years and became more and
more a pre-marital stage. Then can you imagine all couple who want to marry someday will
cohabit some duration in life-course? If not, what factor(s) will prevent this from happening?
 We frequently encountered the well-established fact that African-American are less likely to marry
than European-American even if they get pregnant. How can we explain this phenomenon?
Personal responsibility, economic circumstance, social pressure or anything else?