Understanding Families: A Global Introduction

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Linda McKie & Samantha Callan

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part 1: Introducing Families

    Part 2: Research and Policy

    Part 3: Families in Action

    Part 4: Conclusions

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    Copyright

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    Dedication

    This book is dedicated to:

    My daughter Laura, mother Irene, father James, sister Ann and her family Glenn, Scott and Katie – for your energy, enthusiasm and pursuit of the important things in life!

    Linda

    My husband Paul, children Elizabeth and Daniel, father Frank, sister Catrina, stepmother Moira, brother Peter and mother-in-law Anita – for all they have done and said to help me understand families.

    Samantha

    To colleagues at the Centre for Research in Families and Relationships (http://www.crfr.ac.uk) for their support during the writing and production of this book. As the Centre celebrates its tenth anniversary we look forward to future collaborations.

    Linda and Samantha

    About the Authors

    Linda McKie is Professor of Sociology, Glasgow Caledonian University and Associate Director, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh. In 2004 she was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences. In addition to teaching courses on families, social theory, work, and research methods she co-ordinates a research programme on organizations, work and care (see http://www.organisationsworkandcare.org). Linda has strong links with a range of charities and is currently a trustee for Evaluation Support Scotland, the Institute of Rural Health and a co-opted trustee for the veterans charity, Erskine. In 2009 she qualified as a Certified Member of the Institute of Fundraising. Linda has published widely on the topics of families, gender, work and organizations. Recent relevant publications include Interdependency and Care Over the Lifecourse, with Sophia Bowlby, Susan Gregory and Isobel MacPherson (Routledge, 2010), Families in Society: Relationships and Boundaries, with Sarah Cunningham-Burley (Policy Press, 2005) and Families, Violence and Social Change (Open University Press, 2005).

    Samantha Callan is a published academic and honorary research fellow at Edinburgh University, based at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. She works with a broad spectrum of UK and international non-governmental family organizations and academics in her current role as a family policy specialist. She chairs major policy reviews for the Westminster-based Centre for Social Justice and advises government and opposition parties on issues concerning family life, children's early years and mental health. She is a frequent contributor to media, parliamentary and policy debates on these subjects. She is first author of the family volumes of Breakdown Britain (Centre for Social Justice, 2006) and Breakthrough Britain: Ending the Costs of Social Breakdown (Centre for Social Justice, 2007) and of Breakthrough Britain: The Next Generation (Centre for Social Justice, 2008). She also co-edited, with Harry Benson, What Works in Relationship Education? (Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development, 2009).

    Acknowledgements

    This book is intended to be as accessible as possible given that it aims to be an introductory text for students from a wide range of disciplines. With this in mind it was essential that fresh eyes scoured every page to check that ideas and material were clearly expressed and that we had not assumed prior knowledge of the field. Our ‘critical readers’ Ingrid Biese and Anita Callan, from Finland and England, respectively, performed this role superbly and provided many helpful comments within very tight timescales. The anonymous peer reviewer offered useful insights and ideas on clarity and content. We adopted and adapted most of their suggestions and thank them very much.

    Laura Keeler and Cheryl Hobbs worked with us closely in the editing stages of the manuscript. Both ensured we were kept on ‘our toes’ in this process, reminded us of the goal when the journey seemed long and tortuous, and offered practical and positive support in numerous ways. In the final stages Maria Breslin got us through to submission. Many thanks!

    We have both found the encouragement and practical support of staff at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) based at the University of Edinburgh (where Linda is an associate director and Samantha is an honorary fellow) to be invaluable. In this centre of excellence for family studies, many insightful comments are made in everyday interactions. These have served to enrich a publication as wide ranging as this one intended to be.

    Similarly, many stimulating discussions have taken place with colleagues at the Westminster thinktank, the Centre for Social Justice, where Samantha is a Chairman-in-Residence. She has also benefited from many conversations with politicians and policy makers across the political spectrum, and from (Westminster) Houses of Parliament, devolved assemblies and local authorities. Interaction over several years with academic and political colleagues from Australia, the USA, Europe, the Nordic countries and the Arab world have all helped to prevent parochialism from creeping into her work.

    The Department of Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, funded a sabbatical semester for Linda and the School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh, co-hosted Linda's sabbatical time at CRFR. While there, Isobel MacPherson ably covered her teaching and along with colleagues in social sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University took up any slack. We would like to thank the Department of Social Sciences for support throughout the production of the book.

    A book is a team effort. Many of those engaged in this process are not fully aware of their membership of the said team and the academic, practical and everyday support they provided. We would like to thank Allan Alstead, Ella Anderson, Rocco Conforti, Liz Jagger, Marjut Jyrkinen, Adrian Kidd, Lydia Lewis, Nancy Lombard, Tim May, Gavin Moreton and the many colleagues, friends and family members who supported us while completing this book. You can rest easy now; we are done! Until the next time …

    Last, but not least, a heartfelt thanks to Katherine Haw and Jai Seaman of Sage, who kept us going through thick and thin. Their energy and support helped us to continue when the whole task seemed a chore and kept us focused on the final output of this book.

    All errors remain those of the authors but there would have been many more without the input of the colleagues and friends noted above.

    List of Acronym

    AAHMIAfrican American Healthy Marriage Initiative
    AIDSacquired immune deficiency syndrome
    ARTassisted reproductive technology
    ESRCEconomic and Social Research Council
    ESSEuropean Social Survey
    EUEuropean Union
    GDPgross domestic product
    GUSGrowing up in Scotland
    HIVhuman immunodeficiency virus
    ILOInternational Labour Organization
    IMFInternational Monetary Fund
    LATliving apart together
    LGBTlesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
    MDGMillennium Development Goals, UN
    MMRmaternal mortality rate
    NGOnon-governmental organization
    ODIOverseas Development Institute
    OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
    TSOLtotal social organization of labour
    UNUnited Nations
    UNHRCUnited Nations Human Rights Commission
    WBWorld Bank
    WHOWorld Health Organization

    How to Use this Book

    We have written a book with content and in a format we hope will be amenable to readers new to the topic. To ease the reader's progress through the book we have used visual aids as well as an accessible writing style.

    Illustrations of the subjects and concepts introduced in the main body of the text and material to which we want to give prominence, so that it is less easily glanced over in the reading, are pulled out into several types of boxes.

    Where themes are revisited elsewhere in the book we have made interconnections explicit using ‘signposting arrows’ as illustrated below.

    When we think the reader could benefit from pausing and reflecting on the material under discussion we have inserted a ‘stop and think’ question mark:

    A summary is provided at the end of each chapter with a short section titled ‘Explore Further’, which offers recommendations for further reading and the links to relevant websites.

    In addition, the glossary at the end of the book gives brief definitions of all the key terms and ideas.

    We have consciously avoided a ‘formulaic’ approach, the presentation of a compendium of facts or a generalized commentary that tends towards the simplification of social phenomena, and does not require critical thinking on the part of the reader.

    Paradoxically the familiarity with the subject that we have been trying to foster can challenge this aspiration because our very experiences of families and relationships can make these social phenomena as an academic subject appear ‘commonsense’ and straightforward and can lead to them being interpreted and discussed in simplistic ways.

    We have sought at all points to draw the reader into the subject in ways which stimulate ideas and internal debate, employing facts and commentary to serve that purpose.

  • Glossary

    Abuse: Physical, sexual and verbal acts with a high probability of causing long-term harm to the recipient, who may be a child or a partner.

    Affinal relationship (or affinity): Refers to people who are related by marriage (or legally recognized partnership) ties. A relative by marriage is an affine. There are three types of affinity. Direct affinity exists when a couple are married or in a legally recognized relationship. Secondary affinity exists between a spouse and the other spouse's relatives by marriage, and collateral affinity is between a spouse and the relatives of the other spouse's relatives.

    Bilateral descent: The kinship organizing system in societies where rights and obligations are based on and recognized as existing between relations on the mother's and father's side of the family (in contrast to unilineal descent systems). Bilateral kinship systems are basic to Western culture but from a global perspective are comparatively rare.

    Birth rate: Typically expressed as the number of live births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age.

    Breadwinner: Any person in the family who earns some or all of the household income on a regular basis.

    Bride wealth: A payment in goods or property, or a combination of both, made to the bride's family by the husband's family.

    Cohabitation: Living together in a sexual and economic relationship without having undergone a wedding ceremony or a registered marriage.

    Cohort: All those persons who were born within a highly limited span of years and who, therefore, from birth to death experience the same national events, moods, and trends at similar ages.

    Collateral kinship: Refers to a relative descended from the same biological pool but in a different line on the family tree, for example one's uncle (father's brother, mother's brother, father's/mother's sister's husband) or nephew (sister's son, brother's son, wife's brother's son, wife's sister's son, husband's sister's son).

    Community: A form of social organization that gives people a sense of shared interest in and belonging in some form to a larger group either geographically or as an identity.

    Conjugal relationship: A heterosexual partnership traditionally established through legal marriage, but in many societies cohabitation can now offer a basis to kinship that has some similarities. The conjugal family of parents and their dependent children is often referred to now as a nuclear family.

    Consanguineous relationship(or consanguinity): Holds where people are biologically or blood related. A consanguine is a relative by birth in contrast to in-laws related by marriage ('affines') and step-relatives. A consanguineal family consists of a parent, his or her children, and other people usually related by blood.

    Crude divorce rate: The number of registered divorces in a given year per 1,000 of the population.

    Crude marriage rate: The number of marriages registered during the calendar year per 1,000 of the population.

    Demographic changes: Key changes to the population which impact on the family. For example, changes can include delayed pregnancy and marriage, a declining or burgeoning fertility rate and the ageing of the population.

    Demography: The social scientific study of human populations, which is particularly concerned with births and deaths, marriages/cohabitation and divorce/separation.

    Dependent children: A dependant is someone defined as a child who is sustained by another person, such as his or her parents or guardians.

    Development: The degree of industrialization, health, welfare and education of a nation. Development measures also consider the life expectancy of a nation's citizens and the extent to which they have clean (drinkable) water and an adequate income.

    Disability: A physical or mental inability to do something that most other people would consider normal, or an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

    Divorce: The formal legal termination of a marriage that has been legally constituted.

    Dowry: Goods or property, or a combination of both, that the bride brings with her, from her family, into the new family she forms on marriage.

    Dual-income families: Both parents are involved in the labour market, as opposed to one assuming childcare and other domestic roles to the exclusion of paid work (typically the mother) and the other earning all of the household income (typically the father).

    Egalitarian: Another word for equality. When used with reference to the family it implies symmetry in roles, status and division of labour for both members of the conjugal couple.

    Empirical: The objective measuring and testing of social phenomena leading to the production of statistical and other data.

    Endogamy: Marriage between people of the same social category or group and, conversely, the prohibition or strong discouragement of marriage or sexual relations outside one's social group.

    Ethnicity: This is a term used to describe a category for describing collective identities. Ethnic groups share a distinct set of beliefs and cultures based on historical or geographical origins.

    Exogamy: Marriage between people from different social categories or groups, whether defined by religion, caste or locality.

    ‘Families we live with’: Term associated with John Gillis (2004: 989) to describe our daily and actual experiences of family life, in contrast to ‘families we live by’, which refers to ideals we hold for our family life, however unrealized these might be.

    Family: A family is generally based on marriage, intimate partnerships, biological descent, and adoption. It is a small group of people who share a distinct sense of identity and responsibility for each other. Commitment to family members generally outweighs commitments to others.

    Family, beanpole: In many minority world societies, where people live longer but have fewer children (so each generation has fewer siblings), and family trees of living relatives are becoming longer and thinner, sometimes extending to four generations.

    Family, blended: Similar to but not the same as a step-family – a couple family that contains two or more children, at least one of whom is the natural child of both members of the couple, and at least one is the stepchild of either of the couple.

    Family breakdown: When one or more members of the family, generally adults, leave the family relationship and also often the family home.

    Family cohesion: Individual activities, and policies and practices that sustain and support members of families to stay together and support each other.

    Family, intact: A couple family containing at least one child who is the biological or adopted child of both members of the couple, and no child who is the stepchild of either member of the couple. (See alsofamily, blended and family, step).

    Family, matrifocal: A nuclear family without an adult male functioning as a husband/father, who may be missing due to death, separation from the mother, divorce, abandonment or because of the need to migrate to find employment. The mother raises her children more or less alone and subsequently has the major role in their socialization (such families are also referred to as ‘matricentric’).

    Family, nuclear and extended: A family is a group of people sharing close personal relationships that endure across generations and link people in the past, present and future. A household of two generations, generally parents and children is commonly referred to as the nuclear family. An extended family incorporates three or more generations vertically, grandparents, grandchildren and great-grandparents and children, and horizontally, aunts and uncles.

    Family of choice: A phrase used to describe a family structure created often but not exclusively by non-heterosexuals, which emphasizes community and mutual support through loving and caring relationships rather than biological connectedness.

    Family of origin: The family into which an individual was born. Sometimes also called one's family of orientation, although if the birth family breaks down through the end of the parents' couple relationship, or the child is given up for adoption, the new family of which the individual is part becomes the family of orientation.

    Family of procreation: The family in which a person has his or her own children, although some family units are formed by couples where there is no intention to raise children either because of voluntary childlessness, infertility or because the family unit is based on a same-sex relationship.

    Family policy: Set of policies geared towards supporting or strengthening the functions families carry out. These are, according to the UN Programme on the Family (2009), reproduction, care, emotional support and intergenerational solidarity (the close interpersonal ties seen across two or more generations within families, characterized by interdependence and mutual support).

    Family practices: Term developed by David Morgan (1996: 190) which he defined thus: ‘practices often little fragments of daily life which are part of the normal taken-for-granted existence of practitioners. Their significance derives from their location in wider systems of meaning.’

    Family, processes: The functions carried out by family members, or the dynamics of the relationships in the family structure.

    Family, reconstituted: Families where one or both partners has separated or divorced and has formed a new relationship with a second partner, taking with them some or all of their children. (See alsofamilies, step.)

    Family, stem: Narrow nuclear family, descended over generations. Similar to family, beanpole.

    Family, step: A term often used interchangeably with reconstituted families. A step-family is a family in which one or both members of the couple have children from a previous relationship.

    Family strategies: Term used to refer to how families create and shape their responses to change.

    Family structures: This term is used to describe how families are composed or how families are formed.

    Family, traditional: Heterosexual couple, married, living with their children in a cohesive and stable family unit.

    Family, transnational: A family in which members live in different countries and possibly continents.

    Fertility rate: Typically expressed as the number of live births per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

    Fictive kinship: Practice of referring to close family friends using terms associated with family membership such as aunts or uncles, sisters or brothers.

    Formal care: Care that is regulated by statutory bodies and generally takes place from the recipient's home. The main types of formal care include before and/or after school care, long day care, family day care, occasional care and preschool. It also involves all types of residential care establishments (both public and private) and children placed in formal fostering or under guardianship.

    Functionalism: Perspective that dominated sociological thinking until the 1960s which stressed the importance of the ‘functional fit’ of the institutions that make up society (particularly the family) and held that social events are best explained in terms of the functions they perform – that is, the contributions they make to the continuity of a society. Functionalists viewed society as a complex system whose various parts work in a relationship to each other in a way that needs to be understood.

    Functions: The purpose of an aspect or unit of society (such as the family) or the activity it carries out which meets individual or wider social needs. The family as a basic social unit performs essential functions for its members (such as socialization and physical care) and for society by reproducing the next generation and thus ensuring continuity.

    Gender: Social expectations surrounding appropriate behaviour for the members of each sex. Gender is often wrongly used to refer to physical differences between men and women (which should correctly be attributed to sex). Gender refers to socially determined traits of what it means to be masculine and feminine. The study of gender relations has become one of the most important areas of sociology in recent years.

    Global care chains: A term developed by Hochschild (2003b) to refer to the links between people across the globe which are based upon paid and unpaid care work. The so-called outsourcing of care and domestic work takes place on national and transnational scales and involves the movement of workers – most often women many of whom leave behind dependants – who migrate from rural to urban, cross border (e.g. Mexico to California) or cross continents (Philippines to USA). Some economies are dependent upon the return of resources from these migrant workers.

    Globalization: Term applied to the process of increasing global interconnectedness and growing interdependence between different peoples, regions and countries in the world as social and economic relationships reach across the world.

    Heteronormative: The cultural bias favouring opposite-sex relationships and opposing same-sex relationships of a sexual nature. To the extent the former are viewed as normal and the latter are not, lesbian and gay relationships are subject to a heteronormative bias.

    Heterosexual: Social and sexual behaviour, practices, and identity based on a primary preference or desire for the opposite sex.

    Homosexual: Social and sexual practices describing sexual attraction towards, and responsiveness to, members of the same sex.

    Household: A group of two or more related or unrelated people who usually reside in the same dwelling and who make common provision for food or other essentials for living; or a person living in a dwelling who makes provision for his or her own food and other essentials for living without combining with any other person.

    Household strategies: Term used to describe how members of a household create and shape their responses to everyday activities and change.

    Hypothesis: An idea, or an educated guess, about a given state of affairs or a relationship between two different variables. A hypothesis is proposed to form the basis for research or empirical testing in order to prove or disprove what it states.

    Ideology: A shared system of beliefs and values defining and justifying a particular way of life as opposed to other ways of living. As these ideas are talked about and become incorporated into debates, policies and activities, over time they become accepted as providing a dominant view. Many argue that ideologies are used as a screen to inequalities and structures that create and justify unequal relationships. Ideologies present differences and inequalities as inevitable and universal.

    Individualism: Broadly speaking this refers to any set of ideas emphasizing the primary importance of the individual and the individual's interests and the value attached to individual freedom and individual choice. The philosophy of individualism is frequently contrasted with collectivism, where the collective rather than the individual good is paramount. Some thinkers express concern that individualism has become excessive to the detriment of strong and stable families.

    Industrialization: Industrialization, one of the main sets of processes influencing the social world over the past two centuries, is said to take place when a culture or a region becomes more economically dependent on factory/manufacturing employment and large-scale production than on farming. It is paralleled by the process of urbanization. The tiny proportion of the population working in agriculture presents a major contrast with pre-industrial countries.

    Infant mortality rate: Typically expressed as the number of deaths of infants in their first year of life per 1,000 population.

    Informal care: Regular and sustained care and assistance provided by a person, such as a family member, friend or neighbour to the person requiring support, usually on an unpaid basis.

    Interview: A research method that involves asking people questions, often on a one-to-one basis. The process of interviewing can be structured where all the questions are written down in advance, or unstructured, where the interview is like a conversation.

    Lifecourse: The series of social and family-oriented positions through which a person moves during the course of his or her life. This can be highly individualized in societies where it has become less common to follow a standard pattern or lifecycle, in which a sequence of stages are followed in a particular order.

    ‘Local extended family’: Families with much contact with extended kin facilitated and reinforced by the nearness or geographical proximity of such kin.

    Lone person: A single person who makes provision for him or herself without combining with any other person to form part of a multi-person household. The lone person may live in a dwelling alone or share a dwelling with another individual or family.

    Longitudinal study: A study that follows a cohort of people through a number of years of their lives, thus tracking changes in their lives and the effects of early events on later life.

    Majority world: What has often been called the ‘Third World’ is the majority world with most of the global population and landmass (Punch, 2003). (See also Minority world)

    Marriage, arranged: When the marital partner is not chosen by the prospective bride or groom (as in what is often referred to as a ‘love’ marriage) but by others, usually their parents, although the right to veto or to choose partners with parental agreement is now common.

    Marriage, forced: When individuals are made to marry someone against their will usually under threat of violent and/or abusive consequences or social shunning if they refuse to comply.

    Marriage or marital status: An individual's position in a set of social categories defined in relation to marriage. Such statuses include single (never married), cohabiting (living together without being married), married, separated (from a marriage or other partner), divorced (where the marriage has been legally ended) and widowed (having experienced the death of a marriage partner).

    Marxism: Theoretical perspective linked to the writings of Karl Marx that places a major emphasis upon the conflict that exists between social classes, categories of people divided according to their type of labour and ownership of wealth. In the capitalist system the people who own the means of economic production exploit the people who work for them for wages. Families are also exploited by capitalism as they undertake the reproduction of future workers and sustain current and former workers. (See also Majority world)

    Matrilineal descent: The kinship organizing system which traces ancestral descent through the mother's (maternal) line. One of two types of unilineal descent.

    Minority world: A term used to describe more affluent societies, including those of North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Latin America, which are in the statistical minority of the world. (See also Majority world)

    Monogamy: A form of marriage involving two people. Serial monogamy is becoming a common feature of some societies due to separation and divorce and subsequent re-partnering/remarriage.

    Neolocal residence: A living arrangement in which a newly formed couple, married or otherwise, establishes a residence independent of both families of origin. In societies where the couple are expected to live with or very near to the wife's or husband's kin this is known as matrilocal and patrilocal residence, respectively.

    Norms (or normative guidelines): Rules of behaviour which reflect a culture's values and expectations, either prescribing a given type of behaviour, or forbidding it. Norms are always reinforced by sanctions of one kind or another, varying from informal disapproval to physical punishment or even execution.

    One-parent family: A family led by a single parent with at least one dependent or non-dependent child (regardless of age) who is also usually resident in the same household. A one-parent family may include any number of other dependent children, non-dependent children and other related individuals. Also known as lone-parent family or single-parent family. (See alsoFamily and Family, matrifocal.)

    Patriarchy: The processes of male domination.

    Patrilineal descent: The kinship organizing system which traces ancestral descent through the father's (paternal) line. One of two types of unilineal descent.

    Politics: The term politics is generally applied to behaviour within civil governments. Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. Politics is also evident in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions.

    Policy: A policy is typically described as a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve (a) rational outcome(s).

    Polyandry: A form of marriage involving simultaneous and socially accepted relations between one woman and two or more men.

    Polygamy: A type of marriage involving three or more people.

    Polygyny: A form of marriage involving simultaneous and socially accepted relations between one man and two or more women.

    Population centre: An area where people are concentrated, such as towns or cities.

    Positivism: The term used for knowledge that is thought to be disciplined, empirical, and scientific. Knowledge that emerges from research based upon positivism is considered to be free from bias that can emerge from organizations and beliefs, for example, political parties and governments, religious groups and or communities.

    Post-industrial society: A term to describe the move from economic activity based on the production of goods through manufacturing and heavy industry, to services and knowledge/information businesses.

    Pre-modern period: Broad term that refers to agricultural and usually pre-literate societies before they have undergone a period of modernity (industrialization and urbanization).

    Principle of stratified diffusion: Term associated with Willmott and Young to describe how traits and characteristics of higher social classes become copied by lower social classes over time.

    Purposive sampling: This process is the selection of a particular group of people on purpose. Popular with qualitative research, the variables according to which the sample is chosen are driven by the research questions.

    Qualitative: This refers to research that is concerned with meaning and emotions.

    Qualitative method: This involves the collection of meanings, collected from interviews, diaries, letters and observation. It is usually richer and more detailed than quantitative data, but difficult to determine how representative it is as there is a danger of subjectivity and samples tend to be small.

    Quantifiable: Where findings from research can be measured in statistical form.

    Quantitative: This refers to research concerned with numerical and statistical data.

    Quantitative method: This involves the collection of numerical data, collected from questionnaires and observation. It generates data that can be manipulated mathematically and statistically. Information generated provides characteristics and trends but will offer limited understanding as to why people act as they do or how they feel about experiences and issues.

    Race: The term used to describe the social construction of categories based on observable physical and cultural characteristics. The use of this term is often predicated on supposed biological differences which are thought to lead to social differences.

    Random sample: This is a group of people chosen on the basis that everyone in a given population has an equal chance of being selected.

    Reductionism: Practice of treating everyone within a social group as having similar characteristics.

    Reflexivity: Reflexivity includes both a subjective process of self-consciousness inquiry and the study of social behaviour with reference to theories about social relationships. In sociology it usually refers to the capacity of an individual to recognize their place in social structures and the impact of that on their interpretation and analysis of data and theories.

    Relative poverty: Lacking the things that others in your culture expect to be able to afford.

    Representativeness: The extent to which a small group can be said to reflect the social characteristics of a larger group from which it is drawn.

    Research strategy: The methodological approach to undertaking research.

    Rite of passage: A ceremony or significant event marking a milestone in the lifecycle, such as coming of age, graduation, marriage, leaving school.

    Ritual: Specific behaviour that has significant meaning.

    Same sex: Members of a single sex; often used to describe the partnership of homosexual men or women.

    Social: Broad term relating to people and their interaction and engagement with each other

    Social cohesion: When there is a strong bonding and sense of belonging within a group of people or society.

    Social control: The way in which people's behaviour is affected by the social rules of the cultures in which they live.

    Social policy: The guidelines and interventions for the changing, maintenance or creation of living conditions that are conducive to human welfare. Social policies focus on social issues.

    Social trend: Term is used to describe an observable pattern occurring within a social context.

    Stereotype: A commonly held, public belief about specific social groups, or types of individual.

    Stratification, economic: Marxist idea that society is divided in economic terms, based on relationship to the means of production.

    Structure, formal: External influences that have established rules and policies, such as government, legal system, etc.

    Structure, informal: External influences that are fluid and flexible in their impact, such as peer group, subcultures, etc.

    Subculture: A small group of people with different norms and values from mainstream society.

    Subsistence: A form of living in poverty where only basic necessities are consumed.

    Survey: A study technique involving research of a large number of people.

    Survey design: The methodological construction used in undertaking a survey.

    Texting: The exchange of brief written messages between mobile phones over cellular networks.

    Theory: A set of ideas, offering an explanation, usually based on reasoned evidence.

    Tradition: Social behaviour that celebrates certain norms and values associated with the past.

    Tweeting: Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers, who are known as followers.

    Unilineal descent: Where social group formation and membership recognizes and is based on relations on either the mother's side or the father's side but not both.

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