June Cleaver: Myth or Reality?: A Data-Driven Learning Guide
Goal & Concept
The goal of this exercise is to determine whether the realities of women's lives in the 1950s match the idealized view of that time period we have today. Crosstabulation and comparison of means will be used.
Sociologists consider the family one of the most important social institutions, a building block of society. Indeed the family is responsible for the biological and social (re)production of individuals, and it is widely understood that the norms, values, statuses and roles that organize it are designed to meet the wider needs of society.
In the US at the turn of the 21st century, it is not unusual for commentators to lament the collapse of the traditional family, along with the commitments and values that it represented. Many who express concern over the state of the family see women's changing roles as partly responsible for destroying the warmth, security and stability of family life, thereby giving rise to a number of social issues.
Among the traditional images of family that come to mind during these discussions (the strict patriarchal discipline of Colonial families; the gentle domesticity of Victorian families; the tightening of kinship networks during the Great Depression), visions of 1950s family life (informed by reruns of old television series such as Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet) are particularly powerful. Contemporary rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation and single parenthood are thus contrasted with the idealized 1950s nuclear family centered around a breadwinner husband and a mother fully absorbed with her homemaking duties.
However research suggests that what we think of as the "traditional" family may have never existed. In this exercise, we will compare and contrast the realities of women's lives in the 1950s to our idealized view of them during this period in American history.
Examples of research questions about the family:
- What did the majority of families look like in the 1950s? What do they look like now?
- Is the divorce rate consistently rising across time?
- What percentage of married women worked outside the home in the 1950s?
- How do changing family forms relate to the socialization children receive?
- In what ways are White, African American, Hispanic and Asian families similar? Different?
CITATION: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. June Cleaver: Myth or Reality? A Data-Driven Learning Guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2011/11/15. Doi:10.3886/1950swomen
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