The Family: Diversity, Equality and Social Change by Philip Cohen

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The family unit consists of a great variety of different structures and different identities. It is common for one to view families as sharing the same values, goals and identities. When it comes to following the family tradition and norm, people within the family can be seen walking down a totally different path. In the book The Family: Diversity, Equality and Social Change, by Philip Cohen, in chapters 4, 5 and 6, the author analyzes families that include class identity, how gender can be viewed and the elements of sexuality.

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Families are grouped into different social classes which helps us to understand vital aspects of class identity.

According to chapter 4, Family Networks, class identity is defined as the awareness of and sense of belonging to a specific social class. The concept of class identity includes trying to understand exactly who belongs in which social class. For example, people within families don’t always share the same income and it tends to fluctuate. The rise and fall between families, such as upper, middle and lower class can persist for years and years. People within their class identity either transform themselves into their own class origin or they follow what they believe is the norm. The differentially of what defines identity is interesting to analyze and it’s extraordinary to see people acknowledge and accepting their true identity, no matter how different and absurd it may seem to other people.

The great ideal of class identity ties into gender identity, discussed in chapter 5. Gender identity and behavior are socially constructed through symbolic interactionism, which explains the social systems maintained through elaborate patterns of interpersonal interaction. When people begin enacting gender roles and receiving the same values and feedback from others who understand them, it can certainly build an identity. The identification of man and woman is internal to the individual and it develops through interaction with others, mainly through family members. Gender is a crucial part of self-identity and behavior. The way that gender identity is organized is not as simple as leaning gender role, but rather requires developing the capacity act upon expectations of others.

According to chapter 4, parents associate gender identity right from birth, in many ways. Meaning, gender identity is expressed in how parents decorate their children’s bedrooms, the colors and styles of clothing they choose for them, the toys and games children are given, the chores they are asked to do and eventually the occupational roles they are expected to fulfill when they reach adulthood. This makes gender identity a very controversial subject matter. Parents give their children a gender identity, without the consideration of what the child truly wants. The use of colors to differentiate boys from girls plays a very big controversial part. Parents feel as if they need to decorate their new born son’s room blue and dress them in “boy attire” and with girl’s they feel the need to decorate their room pink alongside with “girl attire”. Judged by these standards, it appears that parents are very effective socializers of their children.

As human beings, we are all biologically born with a sex. However, we have the option to choose how we identify ourselves. Sexuality plays an extremely important part of when reviewing people’s identity. Chapter 5 includes the identity through sexual orientation and behavior. Sexual identity can be mixed or ambiguous due to their being many sexual identities. Sexual orientation covers a broad spectrum of homosexual and heterosexual behavior. The common use of broad categories straight and gay, obscures a lot of variation in the patterns of attraction within each person. An alternative is to use the term LGBTQ, which helps to avoid having to specifically identity a person’s sexual orientation.

Through interaction with others, people express themselves in ways that reflect and reinforce their identities. Most societies understand that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a naturally occurring thing. The phenomenon of “coming out” and the reveal of sexual orientation has become very common in today’s world. The expression of sexual orientation itself is not the same as behavior. For example, people who don’t identify themselves as lesbian or gay have romantic relationships with people of the same sex. Sexual orientation unfortunately revolves around a stigma and it sets a person apart from others in his or her social category. While heterosexuality is seemed as the norm, due to being programmed into human instincts to reproduce, homosexuality which doesn’t include an evolutionary purpose, continues to grow naturally into society.

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The Family: Diversity, Equality and Social Change by Philip Cohen. (2021, Feb 20). Retrieved from