College-of-the-Air Soc. 220 Optional Mini-Essay Projects

You may decide to do several, but no more than three, or none of these mini-essay projects. It's entirely your choice. Please comply with the expected submission date if you want to get extra credit for this work.

 Project 1:: Parental Values

    For most lay people, "socialization" may mean something like partying or interaction. For the sociologists, a different meaning applies: It is the process by which an individual learns how to become a functioning member of his or her society; it refers to internalizing the appropriate behavior patterns, values, and attitudes, as well as the acquisition of necessary skills and information. Socialization involves implanting culture within the individual, enabling the person to survive effectively in his or her social world. It is a lifelong process; individuals alter their adaptations unceasingly as they respond to the changing conditions of their physical and social environment.

    There are many influences that adapt people to society. These agencies of socialization, as they are called, include the family, peers, schools, the communications media, the workplace, and religious institutions, among others. In the United States, as in most other societies, the family is the most important socializing agent.

    The General Social Survey has very relevant information on the issue of socialization and especially on parental values. From the many GSS surveys dating back to 1972, we can also probe whether American parents of today are thinking any differently about raising their children than parents did a decade ago. We can use the questions to investigate parental values in contemporary American society. The original text of the GSS question is: If you had to choose, which thing on this list would you pick as the most important for a child to learn to prepare him or her for life? Which comes next in importance? Which comes third? Which comes fourth?

  1. To obey. To be well-liked or popular.
  2. To think for himself or herself (showing independent thought).
  3. To work hard. To help others when they need help.

    The variable names for the above five selections in GSS data are: OBEY, POPULAR, THNKSELF, WORKHARD, and HELPOTH. In this project, we will use the GSS data to explore Americans' socialization values in parenting.

    Let's visit SDA (Survey Documentation and Analysis) at the University of California, Berkeley. SDA is a set of programs for the documentation and Web-based analysis of survey data. Click on SDA Archive on the upper left corner of the page. Next, under the subtitle of National Omnibus Surveys, click on GSS Cumulative Datafile 1972–2000. We are now ready to do some interesting analyses. On this page, make sure that you select "Frequencies or crosstabulation" by clicking it with your mouse. Now click the Start button.  The layout of the page is shown below.

    Now you will see

    REQUIRED Variable names to specify
    Row:

    Let's type in OBEY,POPULAR,THNKSELF,WORKHARD,HELPOTH 

    These represent the five value questions we discussed above. 

    Now look for:

   Percentaging:  __Column __Row __Total

    Click on Column.   

    Last but not least, under

   Other options
   __ Statistics     __ Suppress table     __ Question text
   __ Color coding   __ Show T-statistic

   Click on Question text and Color coding

   Finally click on Run the Table.

   If you are still confused as to what to do, look at the layout below. Simply follow what you see and you should be able to complete the task. 

   Just to make sure that you have the correct table, we list the first part of the results. If your table is different from what is presented below, redo your work.

   Note that due to the size of the Row box, you only saw OBEY,POPULAR,THNKSELF,WORKHARD, 

   Just remember to type in 

   OBEY,POPULAR,THNKSELF,WORKHARD,HELPOTH 

   Now, you will be asked to complete the following table:

Table 4.1: Parental Socialization Values: % of respondents considered item most important, GSS 1986–2000

Socialization item Percentage
obey  
popular  
thnkself  
workhard  
helpoth  
total 100%

   Which item is considered most important by the respondents? Which one is the next? Which item is considered least important? Can you elaborate on what you found?

   The next task would be an assessment of the trends in parental values. The earliest available data for the above five items can be found in the 1986 survey. The last year of the SDA GSS file is 2000.Therefore we will repeat what we did earlier for these two years, 1986 and 2000. This will allow us to see trends of changing parenting values in the United States over the years 1986 and 2000.

Table 4.2: Parental Socialization Values: % of respondents considered item most important, GSS 1986, 2000, and 1986–2000.

  1986 2000 1986-2000 Percentage difference between 86 and 2000
Socialization item        
OBEY        
POPULAR        
THNKSELF        
WORKHARD        
HELPOTH        
total 100% 100% 100% 100%

   Keep in mind that you already completed column 3 (1986–2000) in Table 4.1. You just need to copy the data from Table 4.1.

   To get the data for 1986, we only need to make sure that the "Selection Filter(s)" option is set to be: year(1986). 

   Click here to go to SDA analysis page

   Click on Frequencies or crosstabulation and click Start.
   Type OBEY,POPULAR,THNKSELF,WORKHARD,HELPOTH into the row box.  Now look for 

   Selection Filter(s): __________________ Example: age(18-50) gender(1)
 

   Type YEAR(1986) in the above box. Select Column percentage. Click on Question text and Color coding. Finally click on "Run the Table."

   This will generate the parental values for 1986 respondents only. The results from this table should be needed for you to complete column 1 of Table 4.2.  Again, to make sure that you have the right tables, compare your tables with the one below. The table below is based on 1986 data. If the results do not match, you will need to rerun the table.

   Now click here to go to SDA analysis page. Click on Frequencies or crosstabulation and click Start.  Follow the steps outlined above. This time, Selection Filter(s) should be YEAR(2000). After you obtain the data, enter them into column 2 of Table 4.2. Let's make a comparison now. Do respondents in 1986 show similar parenting attitudes compared to their 2000 counterparts? Or have you noticed any significant changes over the 14 year period? Discuss in detail any differences in parental values that can be observed. For extra credit go to the GSS Website or any other electronic bibliographical resource for sociological research to see if any sociological has emerged documenting recent parental value change.

Project 2: Comparative Family Structures 

    How do American marriage customs compare with those of Turkish villagers? Go to the site Social Organization in a Turkish Village for a concise summary of the marriage customs of Turkish villagers. You will find information on the marriage customs of Turkish villagers that was collected by the late Canadian anthropologist Paul Stirling. Stirling made numerous trips to Turkey from the 1950s till the early 1990s describing two Turkish villages that he investigated in depth. To learn the marriage customs of Turkish villagers you will need to click the buttons for marriage patterns and for Chapter 9 to find all the material presented. If you come across some unfamiliar terms like endogamy and parallel cousin marriage, click on the hypertext buttons to get more information.

    One of two assignments could be done to complete this project. Assignment one is the following one: to compare and contrast marriage patterns of Turkish villagers with that of Americans marrying today. First, from the material offered at this Web site, prepare a concise description of how Turkish villagers marry. Then, covering the same issues and from your knowledge of these things in America, explain how a typical middle-class couple would go about forming a marital union. From what you present, also offer some speculation on how lasting Turkish and American marriages will be and explain why you have arrived at your interpretation.

    An alternative assignment for this project will be to review how marrying customs for Turkish villagers may be different today from the way they were when Paul Stirling first described marriage patterns there. Stirling offered some information on how village life and marriage was changing in a section found at this site entitled Notes and Advice for the Database. http://lucy.ukc.ac.uk/Stirling You may also have to consult other bibliographic sources to better understand how Turkish village marriage customs may be changing and evolving today. Please use the same footnoting format as applied by your textbook authors. All reports must be typewritten and should be between 2-4 double-spaced pages.

Project 3: Marriage and Family Changes in the United States

    Marriage in America and in most other postindustrial societies isn’t what it used to be. We’ve all heard about our rising divorce rates. Have divorce rates risen steadily over the past twenty-five to thirty years? What other changes have been taking place in our marriage customs—whether we get married at all, whether we have smaller families and whether more couples choose to remain childless, whether we get married later in life, whether more couples have cohabitation relationships prior to marriage, whether it is now more acceptable for gay couples to form lasting unions, or other changes?

     To examine these questions the General Social Survey with its yearly or bi-yearly surveys of our adult population can be very helpful.

     First, let’s go the GSS data analysis site at the University of California, Berkeley.  Choose the Frequencies or Crosstabulation option and click on the Start button. Enter divorce as your selected Row variable. Next, enter year as the Column variable choice. We will collapse the long list of yearly surveys by applying a command to code the data into a shorter list of combined categories. Use the syntax below to code year as it is shown here:

year (r:1972-1974;1975-1977;1978-1982;1983-1985;1986-1988;1989-1990;1991-1993;1994-1996;1998-2002)

    Last, mark the boxes requesting Column percentages, Color coding, and to show the Question text; then press the Run the Table button. If you are not sure about what to do, look at the following layout carefully. Due to the small box size of the Column variable, you only see year (r:1972-1974;1975-1977;1978-1982;1983-1985;1986-1988;1989-1999.  Actually the correct syntax should be year (r:1972-1974;1975-1977;1978-1982;1983-1985;1986-1988;1989-1990;1991-1993;1994-1996;1998-2002).

    Interpreting this data, does it show a steady rate of divorce over the period, or a falling or increasing pattern? And are there any points of sharp rises or falls? Discuss this result in detail.

     Next, let’s us investigate whether marriage rates are changing any over time. Here, the appropriate row variable to insert will be marital. You will need to code this variable as follows: marital (r:1-4"All others”;5 “Never Married”). You will apply the same year code command and the same set of additional commands to plot the pattern of people never marrying over the 30 year period of the surveys.  Now, let’s go the GSS data analysis site again. Choose the Frequencies or crosstabulation option and click on the Start button. Enter marital (r:1-4"All others";5 "Never Married") as your selected Row variable. Type year (r:1972-1974;1975-1977;1978-1982;1983-1985;1986-1988;1989-1990;1991-1993;1994-1996;1998-2002) as your selected Column variable.

    Last, mark the boxes requesting Column percentages, Color coding, and to show the Question text; then press the Run the Table button. Again, if you are not sure what to do for this exercise, check out the following syntax layout.

 

      Interpreting this data, does it show a steady or constant rate of remaining unmarried over the period, or a falling or increasing pattern? And, are there any points of sharp rises or falls? Discuss this result in depth.

      Next, let’s investigate the ages when people marry to see if any shifts upward or downward in ages at first marriage have occurred.  The variable for age at first marriage is agewed. You will need to code this variable, too. Do it as follows:

agewed (r:12-20;21-24;25-29;30-35;36-73)

    Next, you will apply the same year code command and same set of additional commands to plot the pattern of ages of first marriages over the period of surveys.  Do you need to see how it is done? Well, if you do, it is shown below.  By this time, we hope that you feel comfortable analyzing GSS.

       Interpreting this data, does it show any change in when people marry, at younger or older ages, or at any points in between in the age categories that we have established? And are there any points of sharp rise or fall when people started to marry later or earlier in life during this twenty-four year period? Discuss this result in depth, too.

     Next, let us examine the matter of having children. Are people having bigger or smaller families today than they did twenty-four years ago? Click here to go to the GSS data analysis site again. Choose the Frequencies or crosstabulation option and click on the Start button. Use the variable childs to do this analysis. This code will also be necessary: childs (r:0;1;2;3-8). Put childs (r:0;1;2;3-8) into the Row box. Next, you will apply the same year code command and same set of additional commands to plot the pattern of child bearing over the period of surveys.    

    Interpreting this data, does it show any change in the numbers of children people are having now? Are more people not having children today? Are larger families becoming more passé? Is it more acceptable for people today to have a single child? And what change has taken place in the practice of having two children? Discuss this result in depth.

    Another issue of interest to us in understanding contemporary families is whether homosexuality and homosexual unions have become more acceptable than they were in earlier times. To examine this question you will need to use the variable homosex. Next, apply the same year code command and same set of additional commands to plot the pattern of attitudinal acceptance of homosexuality over the period of surveys. Pay particular attention to the responses of “not wrong at all” and “always wrong.” Have there been any changes showing greater acceptance of homosexuality? Are there any points of sharply rising acceptance of gays, has it been a slow, steady change, or has it been flat over the period? Discuss this result in depth. Make sure you go to the GSS data analysis site first. Choose the Frequencies or crosstabulation option and click on the Start button. Use homosex as your Row variable and year (r:1972-1974;1975-1977;1978-1982;1983-1985;1986-1988;1989-1990;1991-1993;1994-1996;1998-2002) as your selected Column variable.

   A final issue we will explore here with the GSS data is acceptance of cohabitation before marriage. The Row variable to insert is cohabit, which asked respondents whether they had ever lived with their spouse prior to getting married. Only two previous surveys had asked respondents about their cohabitation experiences prior to marriage, 1987 and 1994; therefore, will not be necessary to code the year variable. Examine whether any changes in cohabitation occurred over this seven-year time period.

     An additional question to investigate about cohabitation is whether it is a class-related behavior. To answer this question insert cohabit as the Row variable and put class in as the Column variable. Comment on whether there is a pattern showing class-related differences in cohabitation.

    A final question to assess is whether there has been any increased acceptance of cohabitation prior to marriage among the various classes between the survey years 1987 and 1994. Do the working classes or the middle classes now accept cohabitation to any greater extent than they did formerly? This is an interesting question to explore, because if such a trend was noted it could portend a broad base shift in marriage practices taking place. To do the necessary calculations, you will need to pool together the number of different class subgroups. (The numbers of cases of each of the four categories are somewhat few.) Coding will enable us to create a combined group of working- and lower-class members to be contrasted against those identifying themselves with middle- and upper-class membership. The code command for class is as follows: class (r: 1-2"working"; 3-4"middle"). Remember to put cohabit in as the Row variable, year as the Column variable, and the coded class variable in as the Control variable. Have both groups remained the same in their acceptance of cohabitation over this period? Have the working classes increased their acceptance of cohabitation? Or have the middle classes done so to a greater extent? Discuss these findings and refer back to the original question posed.  To make sure you can answer this complicated question, one last syntax is shown below.

    

    The very last part of this assignment calls for you to compare and contrast these GSS-based findings with what your textbook authors have presented on recent American family changes. Do all the things they present reconcile with the data that you have interpreted here? Discuss all convergences and divergences. 

 

 Project 4: Film Analysis Project

Films are often rich in sociological content. Some popular films can tell us a great about society, family life and our social selves. In this assignment you will have an opportunity to view a film that helps to better understand how families may be changing in America. Depending upon your ability to gain access to either one of the three films mentioned below, select one of them and do an analysis of what it says about family life and marriage at that time in America. Select either "House of Mirth", which deals with getting married during the 1890-1920s period or "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," dealing with the life of a upper-middle class married couple during the 1930s, or "True Love" about working class courtship and marriage in the late 1980s. You should be able to rent either of these films at your local video store outlets. After viewing one of these films, write an analysis discussing how people courted and married at that time and the problems than men and women may have had with the prevailing courting and marriage customs. Basing your discussion heavily upon your text book readings, also reflect on courtship and marriage customs presently. Discuss earlier problems with marriages and family life that may have been alleviated by today's marriage customs and/ or new problems that may have emerged now, and would not have existed during those earlier time periods. If you wish to introduce other social science literature in your discussion, by all means do so. Please use the same footnoting format as applied by your textbook authors. All reports must be typewritten and should be between 2-4 double-spaced pages.