American Sociological Association

Family and Life Course

Sociology studies human development from birth through death. It often focuses on the family because it is the primary institution for socializing children and caring for the elderly. While cultural definitions of family may be based on blood, marriage, or legal ties, “families” are socially constructed and can include cohabitation and other culturally recognized social bonds such as fostering, nurturing, or economic ties.

 Family relationships vary by age, race/ethnicity, class, culture, and gender, and change over time and across the life course. Sociology studies the social structures, public policies, and cultural contexts that impact families including marriage, divorce, single parenthood, and members’ health and well-being. Sociology also studies how family relationships affect members and society.

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