Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 The American Character

Family in the United States



Birth, Marriage, and Death

A. Discussion

Discuss the following questions with your classmates:

• How typical do you think the first picture is of U. S. families?

• Are single-parent families common in your country?

• Is it common for parents in your country to leave children in day care while they work?

• Who takes care of the children when parents are not home?

Q B. Vocabulary and Key Concepts

Read through the sentences, trying to imagine which words would fit in the blanks. Then listen to a dictation of the full sentences, and write the missing words in the blanks.

1. A hundred years ago, one heard the same comments about the family that one hears today—in short, that the American family is


3. To the contrary, the very ily has changed__________

of the fam-

in the last fifty years.

Proof of this disintegration included evidence that women were not completely content with their_____________________________

2. To be sure, the family is a very

for what is happening in the society.

3. Demographically, the

of the family was the traditional one.

4. The country idealized the family in these years: there was a

________________________ to the family and a

________________________ for it.

5. Three characteristics stand out in this period:_____________

to social norms, greater male domination of the family, and clearcut roles.

6. These decades were characterized by a

________________________ of conformity to social norms and

included the sexual revolution and the women’s movement.

7. Another important movement was the drive for self-expression


8. The new configuration of the family had to include families of

———————————————————————————- with or

without children.

9. The number of single-parent households_____________________

and the number of unmarried couples________________________

10. They see a continuing_________________________ in divorce

rates since the 1980s hut also a decline in birth rates after an increase in the 1980s.

11. There is an attempt to ________________________ work with

family obligations, and concern seems to be shifting from

—————————————- to the new familism.

12. Places of work may offer more________________________ work­ing hours and

day care.

13. For its part, the government could________________________

parental leave and family__________________________

Follow-up: Check the spelling of the dictated words with your teacher.

Discuss the meanings of these words and any other unfamiliar words

in the sentences.

C. Predictions

Using the photograph and the vocabulary exercise as a starting point, write three questions that you think will be answered in the lecture.

Examples: • How big are American families compared to those in

other parts of the world?

• Does a divorced mother sometimes move back with her parents?




Follow-up: After you have written your questions, share them with your teacher and your classmates.

D. Notetaking Preparation

1. Key Words: Content Words

A good notetaker knows that it is neither efficient nor necessary to take down a lecture word for word. A good notetaker listens for rele­vant information and then uses key words to take down only the es­sential information. A good way to pick key words is to concentrate on the content words you hear: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. (Auxiliaries, the verb to be, pronouns, and prepositions are structure words, words that receive less stress when spoken. They are less important in your notes, too.)

Practice reducing information to key words by using the sentences from Vocabulary and Key Concepts. Do sentences 5, 7, 8, 11, and 12. Sentence 2 has been done for you.

2. Proof of disintegration: women not content with domestic role.




Follow-up: With a partner, test your key words by trying to recall all the information in the sentences from what you wrote. Your partner will check to see if you can recall the message, not necessarily the exact words of the original sentences. Then change roles and test your partner’s key words in the same way.

2. Rhetorical Cues

Lecturers usually use rhetorical cues to help their listeners follow the lecture. A rhetorical cue is a word or even a sentence that lets us know that some important information is coming or that a new subtopic or point is being introduced. Look at these rhetorical cues, and decide in which order you will probably hear them in today’s lecture. Order them from first (1) to fifth (5).

__ a. Well, let’s proceed in chronological order and start with the

traditional familism.

__ b. The third period, the new familism, is harder to see because

we are living in this period now.

__ c. The second period, the period of individualism, saw three

important social and political movements.

__ d. To make this point clearer, we’ll take a look at how the

American family has changed in the last fifty years by look­ing at three different time periods.

__ e. Because individualism is so often mentioned in our discus­sion of U. S. culture and people, I should make a little detour before we discuss it.

Follow-up: Discuss your answers as a class.

Q A.

First Listening

Listen for general ideas. The lecturer looks at changes in the family over the last fifty years and divides the changes into three different periods, each with its own label. For each period, the lecturer looks at cultural, economic, and demographic aspects of the family. As you lis­ten, decide what the three different periods are, and write them under ST1, ST2, and ST3. Take down details you have time for, but make sure you take down the subtopics.





Follow-up: Now check your major subtopics with your teacher.

Q B. Further Listening

While listening again, write down necessary relevant details below the main subtopic to which they belong. Remember to use key words to save time.

Follow-up: Check your notes. If you missed important information or have doubts about your notes, (1) verify them by asking a classmate questions to fill the gaps in your notes or (2) listen to the lecture a third time. When verifying your notes with a classmate, do not show each other your notes,- ask specific questions to get the information you need.

Examples: • Do you have any idea what domestic means?

• Did you understand the explanation of individualism?

• How many different movements were discussed for the second period?

This is also a good time to check to see if the lecturer answered your Predictions questions about the lecture.

HI. POSTLISTENING______________________________________________________

Qa. Accuracy Check

Listen to the following questions, and write short answers. Use your notes. You will hear each question one time only.

1. 2.








10. __________________________________________________

Follow-up: Check your answers with your teacher. If your score is less than 70 percent, you may need to listen to the lecture again or rewrite your notes so that you can understand and retrieve the information in them.

B. Oral Activities

1. Review

In groups of three, use your notes to reproduce sections of the lecture. Each member of your group should bring up a point from the introduc­tion that he or she finds interesting. Then Student A will present the information in subtopic 1, Student В the information in subtopic 2, and Student C the information in subtopic 3. If you don’t understand or you disagree with what you hear, wait until your classmate finishes. Then bring your notes into agreement by seeking clarification, as follows:

• Would you mind repeating what you said about the sexual revolu­tion? I didn’t catch it.

• I don’t think my notes agree with yours on the matter of cultural de­velopments during the second period. In my notes, I wrote that….

If your class is multinational, prepare a short oral report about the fam­ily in your country, covering the points below. Work with the other students from your country.

If your classmates are all from your country, discuss the family in your country as a class. Discuss these points:

• Is there a predominant family configuration in your country?

• Has it changed in the last fifty years?

• What effects have economic, demographic, and cultural changes had on the family in your country?

C. Collaboration: Summary

Work with a partner, and use your notes to write a summary of the lec­ture in 125 words or less. Answer this question for your first main idea sentence: Has the U. S. family changed a little or a lot in the last fifty years? Then characterize each of the three periods by choosing relevant information about demographic, cultural, and economic points.

Follow-up: Share your summary with at least one other pair. Find something you like in each summary that you read. Alternatively, your teacher may ask for volunteers to read their summaries to the class.

D. Pursuing the Topic

The following are recommended for a closer look at the American family:


http://unstats. un. org/

The United Nations Statistics Division: This site has demographic and social statistical information from around the world. From the home page, locate Demographic and Social statistics; then locate the link to World’s Women 2000 to find information about women, families, wages, marriages, and other issues gathered in 2000.

www. welleslev. edu/WomenSt/Familv Gender Resources/web. html Families and Gender Studies Resources Page: This site contains links to many other sites that deal with abortion, adoption, gay families, motherhood, reproductive technologies, work, and family social policy, among others. To find additional information and resources, do a general Internet search for the keyword Family Studies.

Chollar, Susan. "Happy Families: Who Says They All Have to Be Alike?" American Health, July-August 1993, pp. 52-57.

Chollar discusses a variety of successful family configurations.

Etzioni, Amitai. "Children of the Universe." UTNE Reader, May/June 1993, pp. 52-61.

Etzioni discusses the roles of U. S. parents and government in raising children.

Kimmel, Michael. "What Do Men Want?" Harvard Business Review, December 1993, pp. 50-63.

Changing economics force American men to redefine themselves, but U. S. companies aren’t keeping up to allow men to take on their new roles.


Mrs. Doubtfire, Chris Columbus, director; 119 minutes, PG-13.

This comedy shows the extremes to which a father will go to be near his children after their mother divorces him.

Kramer vs. Kramer, Robert Benton, director; 105 minutes.

A serious film that shows the break-up of a marriage and investi­gates the issue of child custody in such cases.

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