20 Families and Intimate Relationships

Rebecca Yoshizawa

That means that different societies in different places and different times have different ideas of what constitutes a family. The concept of “kinship” helps us articulate these "A rule white sheet of paper with the following words handwritten on it: pool, flock, troop, caravan, herd, family, sounder, brood, swarm, gaggle, quiver, pack."ideas. We could say that groups of individuals are families when they “do family things” – cohabitating, sharing resources, and sharing daily experiences of life. Families also ebb and flow, always changing as new intimate relationships are forged and created or broken, and with births and passings.

Families serve important purposes for individuals, groups, and societies. Families provide the context for primary socialization. We learn about culture, identity, behaviour, roles, responsibilities, values, beliefs, and just about any aspect of social life from our families. As such, we can argue that they are the most important social unit of any society.

Functions of Family Creation and socialization of children
Sharing resources and/or habitation
Sexual intimacy
Heirs and generational transference of wealth
Social status
Guardianship and responsibility
“Family” has emotional, legal, and practical functions

An intersectional analysis attunes us to how relationships between different social hierarchies will produce privileges or oppressions associated with different family constitutions. For instance, heteronormative, white, and economically-privileged families are better enabled to survive and thrive compared to families that are marginalized along lines of race, class, or sexuality. For example, Indigenous children are overrepresented in the child welfare system (e.g., foster care), and this is the result of centuries of systemic racist and colonial policies designed to diminish capacities of Indigenous families. Until 2005, it was not legal nationwide for same-sex couples to marry in Canada, denying spousal rights to such couples as well as the recognition that they constitute families. Within families themselves, we can observe intensive gendered dynamics at play, particularly in how household labours are divided.

Socialization: process of reciprocal influence that occurs with any social interaction; the process by which we learn how we are to behave and participate in society
Kinship: networks of intimate social relationships



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Gender in Canada: A Companion Workbook Copyright © 2023 by Rebecca Yoshizawa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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