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Functionalist Perspective on Age, Aging, and Inequality
• Age helps maintain the stability of society by providing a set of roles and expectations for each particular age group or for a particular life stage.
• Roles are reinforced by our major social institutions— education, the economy, and family.
- • Each age group has its own func;on or role—the young attend school preparing for their adult lives; adults are employed and building their lives, and the elderly retire.
- • Disengagement theory
- • This perspective fails to acknowledge how vulnerable and powerless adults are in their older years.
defines aging as a natural process of withdrawal from active participation in social life.
– Older people disengage from society (from their work and certain parts of their lives), and in turn, society disengages from the them.
– The theory contends that people enter and exit a set of roles throughout their lives.
– These transitions are natural and functional for society (fuctiionalism)
• This perspective fails to acknowledge how vulnerable and powerless adults are in their older years.
Modernization theory of aging
- suggests that the role and status of the elderly declines with industrialization
- – Their power, wealth, and prestige are linked with their labor contribution or their relationship to the means of production
- • In modern industrial society, life experience is surpassed by technological expertise, thus the status of the elderly declines.
- • Two groups, the young and the old are in conflict with one another.
Modernization lowers the status of older people in four ways (Aging)
- 1. Longer life spans result in few worker deaths. Therefore, older workers are pushed into retirement, where they have less income and influence.
- 2. Younger workers have more opportunities to obtain education and technological skills and therefore have an advantage in the workplace.
- 3. The economic system is increasingly reliant on the most recent technology, which makes older workers obsolete.
- 4. Urbanization : the young migrate to urban areas seeking opportunity more than the old do.
• Produces a physical and emotional separation between a child and the family of origin
- – In 2009 85.3% of adults completed at least a high school degree.
- – More than 27% of all adults had attained at least a bachelor’s degree.
- – Approximately 76.5% of all Americans 65 years or older attained a high school degree or more compared with 87% of those 25 to 34 years old.
- – Educational attainment level of adults will continue to rise, as younger, more-educated age groups replace older, less- educated ones
- Functionalist Perspective: Education
- -manifest vs latent functions
- -argue that?
- • Manifest functions (intended consequences):
- – To educate, personal development, proper socialization, and employment.
- • Latent functions (unintended consequences):
- – Public babysitter, controls the entry and timing entrance into labor force, establish and protect social networks.
• Educational system has taken over functions of other institutions, particularly the family
• Functionalists argue that these additional tasks make it difficult to accomplish education’s primary task of educating young.
**Average Income by Educational Attainment (graph)
** Percent Poor by Educational Attainment among Adults 25 and Older 2010 (graphs)
** Education Pays: Unemployment rate in 2011 vs Median weekly earnings in 2011 (graphs)
Conflict Perspective: Education
Conflict theorists-education isn’t an equalizer, but a “divider”; the haves from have notes; the socialization function of education is part of the indoctrination of western bureaucratic ideology .
**Percent of Public school K-12 students nationwide (graph) & Compton vs Mira Costa High
**How Teacher ratings relate to a school’s poverty level (graph)
- • Research shows the replication of gender relations in schools by the privileging of males
- – Males have favored status in interactions with teachers.
- – Girls are invisible and treated as “second-class educational citizens” in the classroom.
- – Boys received more praise, corrections, feedback and active teaching
- – Girls received a cursory “okay” response.
- – Over Time the unequal distribution of teacher time and attention may take its toll on girls’ self-esteem, achievement rates, test s
cores, and careers (Sadker and Sadker,1994).
• Also promotes the cultural image of the young moving to something better, while the old are less behind Feminist Perspective
• The standards of our culture create more problems for women than for men as they transition into their middle and later years.
• Double standard of aging:men are judged in our culture according to what they can do (their competence, power, and control), but women are judged according to their appearance and beauty.
– Society considers men “distinguished” in their old age, but women must disguise the fact that they are aging.
Interactionist Perspective on Age, Aging, and Inequality
examine how the problems associated with aging are defined and by whom.
• Interactions reveal how our age‐related roles are socially defined and expected.
- • Age is tied to a system of matching people and roles
- • For example, we share a definition of what it means to be middle aged, and there is an expectation that we need to assume a particular role once we are middle aged. Role expectations can stigmatize age groups.
-a discrediting attribute
• Older adults are discredited in society, stereotyped as less capable, fragile, weak, and frail.
Households by Type: 1970 and 2007
-Men living alone rises from 5.6 to 11.7
-Households rise from 63 mill to 112 mill
-women living alone: 11.5 to 15.2
-Married couple w/ children decrease from 40.2 to 22.5
-Married couple w/o children decrease: 303.3 to 28.3
--> Even though nuclear family is not the statistical majority, its image as the "perfect family" still persists.
Functionalist Perspective: FAMILIES
- • The family is the most vital social institution. • Family confers social status and class.
- • Family helps define who we are and how we find our place in society.
- • Family provides for the essential needs of the child: affection, socialization, and protection.
- • Social problems emerge as the family adapts to a modern social society which has taken over many of the family’s original functions (religion, education, work)
- • Family functions in concert with the other institutions, so changes in the economy, politics, or law, contribute to changes and problems in the family.
- • Because of the family’s social and emotional functions, problems in the family (e.g. divorce or domestic violence) can also lead to problems in the society, such as crime, poverty, or delinquency.
Conflict and Feminist Perspectives: FAMILIES
- • Conflict theorists -the family is a system of inequality where conflict is normal.
- - inequality emerges from the patriarchal family system, where men control decision making in the family.
- • Men maintain their position of power in the family through violence or the threat of violence against women
- • Families are also subject to powerful economic and political interest groups who control social programs and policies.
- • Conflict arises when the needs of particular family form
Interactionist Perspective: FAMILIES
- • Social interaction helps create and maintain our definition of a family.
- • Within families, interactions through words, symbols, and meanings define our expectation of what the family should be like.
- • Problems arise when there is conflict about how the family is defined.
- • Problems may also occur when partners’ expectations of family or marriage do not
-Rising divorce rates are attributed to:
• Was rare until the 70s.
- • Rising divorce rates are attributed to:
- – no-fault divorce laws.
- – economic independence of women.
- – transition from extended to nuclear families.
- – increasing geographic and occupational mobility.
• As societal and cultural norms surrounding divorce have changed the stigma has decreased.
Stacey’s “postmodern family condition"
• Grandparents as Parents-
• The nuclear family is giving way to family structures that include single-parent, blended, adoptive, foster, grandparent, and same-sex partner households. 2 prominent structures are:
• Cohabitation -sexual partners, not married to each other, but residing in the same household.
• Grandparents as Parents- In 2002 3.7 million children lived in households where a grandparent is the primary householder, about 1.3 million children lived with their grandparents alone.
Interactionist Perspective: Education
- focus on how classroom dynamics and practices educate the perfect student and at the same time create the not‐so‐perfect ones.
- • The interaction between teachers and students reinforces the structure and inequalities of the educational system.
- • With tracking (separating advanced and regular learners) students are identified as college bound versus work bound.
- – Teachers, parents, and others might view students differently and the student’s true potential may be hindered.
median describess? know median age of us population over the decades and how it changes
- -One way to confirm population is to look at the median age (the age where half the population is older and the other half is younger).
- 1820: 17 years,
- 1900:23 yrs,
- 2000:35 years
- and in 2030: median will be 42 years.
-US has 13% of the elderly population with highest state: Florida 17.3%
which continent with highest elderly population:
Eastern and Western Europe
what year will ppl over 65 yrs outnumber children under 5