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Organization And Life Of The Family

( Originally Published 1915 )

The Family as a Social Unit. The family frequently has been called a social unit because it is the smallest organized group of individuals and because it is the most constant factor among varying social organizations. It is an essential part of modern social life. In it the elements of the larger social life occur in such measure as to make it a means of training for social order.

Up to a very recent period everywhere, and even yet where the industrial revolution has not come with the introduction of machine industry, the family was producer of wealth, to a degree, also the distributing center for the goods made in the home, and in turn was the chief social agency concerned with the consumption of goods. The rights of property and per-son are learned and practiced in the family. Self-restraint, obedience, and service are taught, and each member knows by experience his relation to others and recognizes duties to be fulfilled and rights to be enjoyed. In the family, religion, morality, and general culture make their earliest and most lasting impressions. It matters not what form of general social order prevails, whether it be the loosely bound horde, the definitely organized patriarchal group, or the civil state, the family is a constant center from which issue influences tending at once to stimulate and to perpetuate social order.

The Primitive Family. It is difficult to determine the beginnings of the family. So far as historical records are concerned, it has always existed in some form. Moreover, among the lowest types of human beings and also among the higher apes family relationships exist. Doubtless natural selection secured a more or less definite form of family life among some birds and among the higher mammals.' In the instinctive stage the survival value of the cooperation of both parents in the rearing of the young insured its establishment and continuance.

Probably, like all other social institutions, it has had a slow and irregular evolution. The natural hypothesis for the earliest relation of the sexes is a state of promiscuity. Yet there are no living tribes in which a complete state of promiscuity actually exists nor is there any historical record of such a state. In the tribes that approach most nearly to this state, pairing for indefinite periods occurs. Under such circumstances family organization lacks permanency, and family relationships are indefinite. Among all tribes there are occasions when the regularity of sexual relations in the family is disturbed. It seems, however, that such irregularity may have come about in the transition from an instinctive control of sex relations to control by the developing reason of man. Without a broad basis of human experience it is not surprising if the strong passions of primitive man without the steadying control of the inhibitory instincts of animals sometimes led to practices which we now see to have been socially injurious.

As the rearing of children is the central idea of family life, the form of family organization has always been modified to suit the conditions of ordered life. Hence,we find in the development of human society a great variety of matrimonial institutions and we observe that the modern monogamic family with its established home relations is a result of an evolution. So important for social development are the changes in family life that some have estimated the progress of civilization by its evolution.

The Metronymic Family. Two chief systems of tracing descent are found in the history of society. They are the metronymic and the patronymic. In the former, descent is traced through mothers ; in the latter, descent is traced through fathers. Until the appearance of Bachofen's great work, Das Mutterrecht, in 186x, it was generally held that the patriarchal form familiar to us in the Biblical records and in the classic nations of antiquity was the original form of family. He found evidence, as he thought, of an early period in human society when women rather than men dominated the family. His researches were supplemented by McLennan in 1876 and by Morgan in 1877. The latter based his conclusions upon an extensive study of the American Indian tribes. McLennan and Morgan, however, were not interested so much as Bachofen in proving the existence of a matriarchate, — the dominance of the mother. But all the evidence they found pointed toward metronymy, or tracing descent through the mother, quite a different thing from the matriarchate. Scholars generally agree now that among many primitive peoples a patriarchate either has never existed or else was preceded by a system of descent traced through mothers. Hence, rather than the term " matriarchate " for this state of family life the term " metronymic," or maternal, family is preferred. In this form of family a child does not belong to the kindred of his father as in our patronymic form of the family, but to the kindred of his mother. On the other hand, control of the family rests not with the mother, but with the mother's male kindred, although the women exercise much greater influence in the affairs of the group than under the patriarchal form of family.

The Patronymic Family. — The patronymic form of family, on the other hand, is characterized by tracing the descent of children through the father and following the kindred of the father. This type of family developed the patriarchate or rule of the family by the father. It is illustrated in the classic family of antiquity and the family among the early Hebrews. This type of family will be illustrated more fully in another section.

Genesis of These Forms of the Family. The condition which gave rise to a metronymic form of family probably was not promiscuous sex relations among primitive peoples, as Morgan tried to show, but the fact that maternity was much more easily recognized than that of paternity.' Moreover, the attachment of the child to the mother during infancy made the tracing of relationships through the mother a most natural procedure. In addition to this was the fact that in all metronymic families the husband and father left his own kindred and went to live with his wife. She remained with her kindred. Where mates were selected from outside the kindred, the husbands, of course, were not of the same kin as the group into which they went. Many times, perhaps no two of the husbands of the women in that group were akin. Hence, in times when the social bond was kinship, control over the children naturally remained with the group in which they were born. Even more natural was it that they should be held to be akin to that group.

Once established, the practice of tracing kinship through the mother would continue long after the fact of paternity was recognized. In fact, to break down the metronymic system it was necessary that new and powerful motives should operate.

The development of a pastoral mode of life supplanting a hunting stage was the important economic influence in bringing about this change. To follow the flock the family had to separate from other groups. Moreover, the labor of as many as possible was desirable to look after the herds. The man was not obliged to be absent so long from the home. Regularity of relations took the place of the irregularity entailed by a hunting economy. The wife was no longer indispensable as family provider because of the more dependable source of food in the flock. Moreover, the labor of sons in tending the flock became more valuable.

War was another influence which broke down the metronymic family. Women were captured in war and of course were then under the control of their husbands. In fact, being spoils of war, they were now personal property. Children born to them were also the property of the captor. A modification of this plan is to be found in wife purchase. Similar results in relationships, however, were reached as in wife capture.

The dominance of the male once established, religion entered in as a mighty force to uphold it. The worship of ancestors was probably not unknown in the metronymic family. This is suggested by the worship of female divinities. In the patronymic family, however, ancestor worship gathered into a focus of mighty power all the potentialities of male self-aggrandizement. It debased woman, and gave rein to all the aggressive propensities of the male. Sons had been desired from the economic point of view as workers and to feed the flock ; from the social point of view, they were valuable as fighters ; now they were desired intensely in order to carry on the worship of the ancestral spirits. The woman was accursed who did not bear sons. She was not only useless to the group, but was hated by the gods. Barrenness was the greatest curse that could befall a woman. Only less terrible was her fate who bore in her sorrow only females. The unchaste wife was not only a criminal in the eyes of the family and the group, but was a sinner in the sight of the gods. While ancestor worship survived, death was the only possible fate of the adulteress. One great thing it accomplished, however, albeit at great cost, — it established female wedded chastity.

The Early Forms of Marriage. — Family life existed before marriage ceremonies. Family life man has in common with the brutes. Marriage is a social institution strictly limited to human kind. It has been doubted whether certain tribes possess any positive marriage ceremonies; yet it is certain that among many of the lower tribes existing now, society tacitly approves very simple ceremonies, and every society thus far studied, however low in culture, regulates the family relationships. Marriage begins when a more or less formal assent must be secured by the groups most intimately concerned, as, for example, the families of the two persons concerned.

How marriage sprang up out of a situation in which man and woman cohabited as they pleased can only be conjectured. Did the habit of society interfering with one of the most powerful instincts grow up by reason of the fact that sons and daughters were looked upon as possessions which could not be taken away without consent? Or did it originate with the strong man imposing his dominating habit as a general law for all men of his tribe in their dealings with women? Or, was it the fruit of male jealousy? Or, again, did it arise, as Ward suggested, " to prevent incessant strife among men for the possession and retention of women " — the conscious necessity of intertribal peace for social survival — after man had become conscious of the need of a more permanent and satisfactory form than ephemeral marriage ? 1

Certain authors, like McLennan, have attempted to show the evolution of marriage from a state of promiscuity to the modern monogamic marriage. While such a regular order of development does not seem to be firmly established, yet all the forms of marriage from temporary pairing to monogamy have been found in human society. Many of the lower tribes living to-day have very indefinite family relationships and forms of marriage entirely different from our own, yet it is difficult to assume that all mankind has passed regularly through all these forms of marriage as Spencer seemed to assume in his Principles of Sociology. However, if we examine primitive society, we shall find instances of marriage with very little ceremony and, in some cases, a condition approaching promiscuity. At least conditions are found where people mingle rather freely with the minimum of social regulation of their relations. On the other hand, among some of the groups of human beings lowest in the scale of culture, we find arrangements for the care of the child by the group.' There are other evidences of the union of a pair for a given time, until the child is born or until he reaches the age of independence of his mother. Another type of marriage permits the man to live with the woman at his convenience, giving him the right to choose a new mate whenever he pleases. Often, however, this right is subject to rather strict limitations by the wife's relatives.2 Also the later forms of polygyny and polyandry have been practiced by many tribes or nations at a certain stage of their development. Under certain customs men had the right of choosing more than one wife ; under others women had more than one husband. In some instances a group of brothers married a group of sisters. Then in the process of development the system of concubinage sprang up. The elimination of all other forms finally left the marriage of one man to one woman for life, — a form of marriage which we find persisting along with the others from first to last. While it may not be possible to show that all humanity passed regularly through these various stages of matrimonial life, still it is true that the modern pure home life has been the result of an evolution, and that there is a wide difference between primitive and modern marriage.

We may thus summarize the various forms of marriage : A pairing arrangement of short duration is perhaps the simplest form of family relationships. Such an arrangement is to be found among the Mincopis of the Andaman Islands. The father remains with the mother until the child is weaned. Relations lasting somewhat longer, but still temporary, have been observed among the Australian Aborigines, some of the Indians of Brazil, and the natives of northern Greenland.'

Group marriage of a rather peculiar kind has been reported from the Hawaiian Islands. When first discovered by Captain Cook there were found there families made up of a group of brothers married to a group of sisters. Each man was the husband of every woman and each woman was the wife of every man in the family. A similar situation seems to exist among the Todas of India today.2

Polyandry, or the family relation in which one woman has more than one husband, has been described most carefully by travelers in Thibet and a section of India. In these two places two distinct types of polyandry have been observed. One or other of these forms with many variations has been observed elsewhere. Giddings has collected testimony showing a similar state of things in Ceylon, although much intermixed with the Thibetan form of polyandry and with polygyny .3

Polygyny is a better name than polygamy for that form of the family in which one man has several wives. Polygyny means many wives, while polygamy means many marriages. Polygyny is a term used in contrast with polyandry. In polygyny sometimes the wives are of equal rank; often, however, there is one principal wife and several subordinate wives known as concubines.

Monogamy is the term used to designate that form of family life in which one man and one woman form family relations for life. This form has tended to displace the other forms in societies advanced in culture and capable of conscious consideration of the effects of the various forms of family relationships as well as in the less developed societies where economic conditions have made it impossible for a man to support more than one wife.

While for purposes of clearness we have set forth these various types of family as isolated phenomena, in actual life they generally exist side by side. Thus, polyandry often is found in bleak and inhospitable regions where men have difficulty in supporting each a family and where the economic conditions have made women of small economic value so that female infants are often killed. Sometimes, however, it probably arose from religious motives. Side by side with it often exist polygyny and monogamy, as in Ceylon, and even in Thibet. Polygyny also is never the only form in any society. It would be impossible to have it universal since the world over, so far as we know, about as many males are born as females. Usually the rich practice it while the poor are monogamous or polyandrous.

Conditions of Primitive Family Life. — In primitive society the food supply was limited and the protection against the climate through clothing and houses was meager, and only a few primitive industries were carried on by unskilled hands. Machinery and power derived from the forces of nature were not developed. The political organization was not well developed. Even where the beginnings of general social order appeared, there were no politics and no state as we know them to-day. Religion, in many instances, was an unorganized superstition without an ethical element. The family, existing under such circumstances, had no outside power or regulation to summon to its support. It stood alone, and bore all of the responsibility of the social order. It was the result of the blind forces of nature. Produced by natural selection rather than by the conscious purpose of man, its sanctions were either instinctive, superstitious, or economic.

The Ancient Monogamic Family. — The evidence among the Greeks and, in fact, among all the groups of the Aryan race, so far as their history can be determined, shows that the mono-gamic family was one of their cherished institutions. The pure home life consequent upon the union of one pair for life exercised a perpetual influence on the development of the character of the Aryan people. The little family group had its own religious life, its own social advantages, giving protection and care to the young and old alike. The family group was enlarged both by natural increase and by adoption. There was a tendency for grown-up children to remain within the family circle. Hence, this ancient organization represented a large group of relatives compactly organized.

The Patriarchal Family. — A peculiar form of the ancient family has become known as the patriarchal. It appears strongest among the Semites and Aryans. It represents the leadership of the eldest male member of the group. He was at the head of the family or group of families representing all the relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption. Holding it in trust, he virtually owned all the property of the whole family of which he was the supreme ruler. In some societies he had the power of life or death over each member. In others, even in primitive societies, among the Australian Aborigines, for example, as Malinowski points out, it is limited by the blood vengeance of the woman's relatives.' He was priest, judge, king, military leader, lawmaker, and chief executive of all social affairs. This family was not ruled by law or decree so much as by custom. Each member was born under status, not under law. Indeed, the patriarchal leader himself was bound by the customs of his fathers. Yet essentially there must have been a slow development of customs, otherwise law and the state could never have risen.

The Influence of Religion on Family Life' — So close was the relation of religion to early family life that some authors have made it the foundation of the family. They are wrong, for the family rests primarily upon a biological rather than a religious basis. Yet in each stage of social evolution religion has strengthened the ties of the family and added to its power. In the development of matrimonial institutions religion has exercised an important influence. This is most clearly observed in the patriarchal family. Among the Aryan people we find an especially good illustration of the effect of ancestor worship. It tended to strengthen kinship, to give it unity, dignity, and power. Each family group had its private family altar and family worship, to which no stranger could be admitted. Each family group worshipped its patronym or hero, the eldest male member, the founder of the race. Libations were poured to his departed spirit, and prayers were uttered in his name. This custom established the unity of the family groups and developed their power to resist enemies in the struggle for existence.

Association, too, came to be limited by religion. Those without the religious pale were considered unworthy of association, much less of close union. This was an incident of the integration of the family life. Intensity of feeling and narrowness often go together. Thus the Hebrew scorned the Gentile, the Greek and the Roman the Barbarian, the patrician the plebeian. The religious life, especially after tribal organization had been well developed, had much to do with the development of separate racial characteristics. It aided in the process of group unification. It made more apparent similarity within the group by making more apparent the difference between members of the group and those outside it. In the period when kinship was giving way to mental and moral likeness as the social, bond, religion came to be the chief maker of groups.'

The Psychical Influences in Family Organization. — The development of the sentiment of love within the family has had enormous consequences in the creation and preservation of social order. The propagation of the race has become the foundation of all the finer sentiments of human affection ; the home and the family have fostered and developed love in ' the human race. While it cannot be said that the family and the home are the only bases for altruistic sentiments and cooperation, the highest developments of altruism have owed more to the family and the home than to any other influences. Remove the sentiments arising out of this idea and the fabric of society would not stand the strain of the savage instincts of mankind. The family relationships have brought to their present development the harmony of feeling, thought, and will which enables people to associate for innumerable purposes. The art of living together profitably and harmoniously has its foundation in the love sentiment brought about by family unity .2

The Economic Basis of Family Life. — As already observed, the family represents an early producing unit of society. In the definitely organized families of ancient times the product of the chase and the spontaneous products of the soil were brought to the homes to be held in common and to be distributed among the members of the household. Later, in the pastoral and agricultural periods, arose a communal ownership of property. Lands, herds, and flocks belonged to the household, or expanded family. The house and all the more directly personal goods and chattels belonged to the small family group or else to the individual members of the group. In every instance the home became an economic center. Although the income of a modern family generally flows through an individual who is the head of the family, others working faithfully in the preservation of that which is acquired and in its proper use, the family is not so economically united as it once was. The economic unity of the family is well illustrated, too, in Colonial times in America, when the weaving, spinning, and the making of garments were performed in the home and when, indeed, nearly all of the implements about the house and farm were of home manufacture. The early Colonial family showed to a large extent the character of the primitive home before division of labor and power manufacture had come into use. But even to-day there are many articles of wealth produced every year in American homes. This is seldom reckoned in the estimate of the wealth-producing power of the community, although the product of home manufacture amounts to millions of dollars a year, not to mention the fact that in our present factory system usually most, if not all, the adult members of the family are at work and share in the production of the family income.

Economic Changes and their Effects upon the Family. — The changes which have come into our economic life in the past fifty years have seriously affected family life. The in-creased earning capacity of women and the opportunities offered them to make their own living, by enabling them to be more independent, have impaired the old-time unity of the family group. Homes become places of domicile for individuals of the family, while each maintains his own share of the expenses and lives an independent economic life.

With the advent of factory life, however, and the consequent massing of laborers, the economic function of the home has become of steadily decreasing importance. Hence it has come to pass that seven millions of our women do their work outside the home. In mill, office, and shop they spend their days rather than in the home. Industry itself has well-nigh destroyed the economic basis of the home. It has made the woman who has remained in the home more dependent economically. Her services are narrowed to the biological function of bearing children and the social function of rearing them. If she leaves the home in order to contribute to the support of the family (fulfilling again her primordial economic duty), under the new conditions, her functions as bearer and rearer of children are sadly interfered with. Moreover, even as affecting the male members of the family, modern industry has had serious results upon the family and the home. Often it has taken the husband and father away from the home so that he can no longer help to rear the family. He no longer is the important social factor in the home that he once was. Once he worked in his shop in the home. There his children played, or, when old enough, worked with him. His presence was constantly a restraining and guiding influence. Now he works away from his home. Furthermore, the influence of the family and home upon the children has been much interfered with by the change from the domestic to the factory system of industry. Once the children contributed to the support of the family by working with their parents in the home. Now, if they share in the economic burdens of the family, they must leave its fostering care. The home, after sixteen at latest, often becomes merely a boarding house. In 1909, in manufactures alone, 19.5 per cent of the wage earners of the United States were women, while 2.4 per cent of the wage earners were under sixteen years of age.' In 1900 only 18.4 per cent of the women bread earners were en-gaged in work which took them out of their homes. 18.8 per cent of all the women of the United States in 1900 were engaged in gainful occupations other than agriculture. This phenomenon is not confined to America, however. In fact, only Russia has a smaller percentage of her women engaged as bread winners. In the United States 14.3 per cent of the women are bread earners. In Great Britain 24.9 per cent, in France 33 per cent, in Germany 25 per cent, while in Austria it rises to 44 per cent .2 Illustrating the tendency of modern industry to take from the home the man as well as the woman, is the fact that in 1900 61 1/2 percent of the men in the United States were engaged in occupations other than agriculture, making it perfectly safe to assume that at least 65 per cent were engaged in work which took them away from home and family.

Effects of Other Social Changes upon the Home. — The school took out of the home for five days each week over eighteen millions of children in 1909.1 Even play is often impossible in connection with the home in cities.

Moreover, the isolated home of former days has been under-going serious changes in recent years. In 1890 in the United States 34.1 per cent of farm homes, 63.1 per cent of other homes, and 52.2 per cent of all homes were rented. In 1900 the percentages for each of these classes of homes were 35.6 per cent, 63.8 per cent, and 53.9 per cent. In 1910 the percentages showed that 37.2 per cent of farm homes, 61.6 per cent of other homes, and 54.2 per cent of all homes were rented by the occupants.2 Thus, from 1890 to 1910 there was a steady increase in the number of rented farm homes. The increase in the number of other than farm homes which were rented went on from 1890 to 1900 but decreased in the decade between 1900 and 1910. The percentage of all homes in this country which are occupied by others than their owners has steadily risen. Increasingly we are losing that attachment to one spot which has helped to make the home a stable institution. Not only is there much truth in the maxim " three moves are as bad as a fire," but socially the constant moving which a rented house incurs is detrimental to family life. How much are the sentiments of loyalty to the home connected with constant attachment to one spot ! Certainly, while mere physical contact with a pile of lumber or brick would not seem to engender the tender sentiments involved in love of home, yet in reality living in one spot, the sense of familiarity with a place, has something to do with the origin and strength of these sentiments. Pride of appearance, sense of ownership, and development of interest in family affairs have much better chance to develop when the family owns the home.

This movement away from ownership of the home is especially remarkable in the large centers of population. In fifty cities of the United States in 1910 only one, Spokane, Washington, had less than half of its families living in rented houses. In thirty-nine of these cities fully three fifths of the homes were rented, in sixteen of them more than three fourths of the homes were rented. In New York City as a whole, nearly nine tenths (88.3 per cent) of the homes were rented. In the Borough of Manhattan alone of that city, less than 3 per cent of the families owned their homes?

Liberalization of Thought and its Effects upon Family Ideals. — Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that the tendency of the changes in the form of industry just discussed to bring about a change in the nature of the family has been supplemented by other influences. Once political opinions were formed in the home. Each man was of the same political party as his father. In America, however, during the last few years, there has grown up a spirit of independence in politics. The recent rise of the " mugwump," the " insurgent," and the " progressive " show a growing independence in political opinion in our American life.

This same independence of thought about fundamentals has shown itself in religious matters. Within the past forty years there has taken place in the minds of religious people in the United States a " liberalization " of thought along theological lines which has manifested itself most markedly in the lessening of interdenominational strife and a growing tendency to emphasize common rather than mutually distinctive denominational doctrines. Yet, the individual freedom which made possible in this country such a number of religious sects as in no other country in the world has gone on multiplying sects in spite of the evident desire on the part of the older ones to get closer together. Both these tendencies have shown the freedom which has characterized our American life and thought. More than that, it is during the past forty years that the very foundations of belief have been put to question. There has occurred a veritable revolution in theological beliefs. The preaching of today is no more like that of a generation ago than the science of to-day is like that of the eighteenth century. Churches are revising their creeds, others, recognizing the far-reaching changes involved in the liberal tendency, are banning liberalism in theology. Individual judgment in religious matters has gone so far that many people think that the very foundations of faith are being undermined.

In science also the most revolutionary changes have taken place in the past half century. Scarcely any opinion is held by scientists to-day which was the common teaching of science then. That is especially true of the biological sciences, but al-most as true of the rest. Darwin gave an impetus to the scientific spirit which has not yet ended in its revolutionary results, but which already has swamped the old world of scientific notions. It has become the scientific attitude to treat with a critical spirit old theories as well as new ones. The critical spirit is the proper spirit of the scientific investigator. It is only by having an open mind that any progress is made in the discovery of new truth. During this time everything has been questioned. First it was " natural " science which fell under the light from the new point of view, and then every other phase of human life subject to investigation and speculation gradually fell under the spell of the spirit of doubt and inquiry. Once all was settled. Now much is still unsettled in spite of the work of more than fifty years.

Likewise, in education, great changes have come. Here, too, questions impossible a half century ago are being asked about our school system. The American school, for so many years the palladium of our liberties and the shibboleth of the orator, has fallen upon evil days. Once a sacred institution not to be questioned, but to be adored, now it is the football in the center of every educational scrimmage ! Everywhere there is questioning and change in educational methods.

This same spirit is abroad in all spheres of life. Doubt of the old, and searchings for new foundations are everywhere manifest. It has reached even the family. That institution which we once thought was created in the Garden of Eden is said by travelers to exist in quite different forms in other and more primitive countries. Careful study has made it probable that there have gradually developed various forms of the family. These facts becoming known, it was easy to connect them with this questioning spirit of the age. These two influences, coupled with the change which has been going on in the economic basis of the family, and with the new freedom which has risen on the horizon of the weaker sex, has produced dire results for the sanctions of the family tie.

Furthermore, within the family itself, great changes have been going on, as shown by the decreasing size of the family decade after decade. In all the United States the family has grown smaller and the number of persons for each dwelling less. The number of persons to a family in the last two decades, 1890 to 1910, decreased from 4.9 to 4.5 and from 185o to 1910 from 5.6 to 4.5, while the number to a dwelling fell from 5.5 to 5.2. In certain parts of the country, especially in the large cities, however, the number per dwelling increased. For example, in New York City, Manhattan Borough, persons to a dwelling increased from 19.9 in 1890 to 30.9 in 1910,1 pointing not only to larger families in cities, but to the presence of boarders. The isolated home in that city is fast losing ground. People are becoming cliff dwellers in tenement and apartment houses owned by others. Large families are the exception. The Twelfth Census reported that only 2,929,799. families had more than seven members.2 And this is in New York City, where the presence of great numbers of the foreign born mask the prevailing tendency among American families.

The Small or the Large Family. — From the standpoint of the family's welfare, there are two different and seemingly opposing sets of circumstances which should be faced. The smaller the size of the family, the better the care and the more money that can be spent on the children. That means better clothing, food, education carried further, and a better chance to get the higher-paid jobs. Moreover, it means better training in the home. The mother will have more time and strength to lavish on each one. On the other hand, it is a question whether the child who is reared in the home with adults or with only one other child enjoys the same socializing influence which is the privilege of the child reared in a large family. The give and take of child democracy is often lacking in the small family. One has only to observe in rural districts the greater family affection manifested by the members of large families than that seen in families with few children. In this case, however, as in so many such, much depends on the conditions of life in the two kinds of families. Without a doubt, the child reared in the small needy family is better off than the children of a large family in similar circumstances. When they can all stay in the home, doubtless it is best for children to be reared in a large family. On the other hand, where there are so many that the older ones are driven to work in some shop or factory at the earliest possible age, huddled into small and ill-kept rooms called a home, forced to get their recreation and do their courting on the street, or at least outside the home, it is quite certain that the large family of children has no advantage over the only child.'

No doubt the present tendency towards small families has a direct connection with the changed attitude towards the home and especially towards the family. When there were available in the United States free farms, and where there was great need for men to people and subdue the wilderness, and either farming or the domestic system of manufacture was the method of making a living, a large family was an asset. Moreover, large families had the benefit of a religious sanction. " Children of the youth are a heritage from the Lord ; Blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of them," was Scripture, and also good economics. Moreover, it accorded well with the habits of the European peasants who had peopled the Colonies. With-out a doubt there has developed a conscious recognition of the economic and social advantages of the small family and deliberate limitation of the number of children by American families in the last half century.

The Marriage Rate and the Family. — In connection with the smaller number of children per family should be considered the striking fact that the marriage rate has increased in the United States in the last thirty years. In 1890 it was 316 per ten thousand of adult unmarried population and in 1900 it was 321. The United States did not stand alone in that tendency. It characterized more than two thirds of the leading countries of the world, according to statistics available in 1906.1

Various factors may contribute to the decrease in the size of the family. It may be due to the later age at which people marry, or to voluntary limitation of the family, or both. Or it may be due to increasing physiological inability to have children due to vice or other causes. Mayo-Smith gives some figures which seem to show that a thousand women of the age group from fifteen to twenty generally have more children than the same number from any other five-year period.' If, therefore, there are any customs which make for a later marriage by women, we should expect the number of children to become smaller per family. The reports of the last Census, however, do not show any such postponement of marriage by the youth of the United States. Instead of that tendency, the figures show an increase from 1890 to 1910 in the proportion of married youths in the group from 15 to 19 years of age.' A similar increase in percentage of married persons from 1890 to 1910 is to be seen in the age group, 20 to 24. These facts directly contradict the assumption sometimes made in discussions on race suicide that the marriage rate has been decreasing in the United States.' On the contrary, in the fecund age classes at least, the marriage rate has been increasing. Therefore, the decrease in the size of the family must be due to other factors than postponement of marriage or cessation of marriage.

Race Suicide and the Family. — The following table, however, shows unmistakably that from 1870 to 1910 there has been a considerable decrease in the number of children in the United States.

These figures make it probable that social factors rather than physiological have played the important part in the reduction of the birth rate. It is impossible to say what part of the lessened birth rate may be due to vice or a weakened stock. All sorts of assumptions have been made, but so far we have no figures on which to base any very safe conclusions. It is said, for example, that 75 per cent of the special surgical operations on women and 8o per cent of all deaths due to inflammatory diseases peculiar to women are due to the results of venereal infection.1 Dr. Prince A. Morrow estimates that 50 percent of the women infected with the venereal disease are rendered sterile, and believes that a large proportion of the sterile marriages are such not from choice, but from incapacity. It has been argued, therefore, that the lessened fecundity of women is due to inability to bear children. Interesting though these suggestions are, there have been no careful investigations which enable us to be certain of the part which these physiological influences have had.

Moreover, the question of the effect of certain poisons on the vigor of the children born of parents addicted to their use is unsettled. There is a general belief, however, held by many medical men that such poisons do tend to cause weakness of the offspring, if not sterility of the parents. These beliefs are based for the most part upon experiments on animals. Dr. Hodge found that cocker spaniels given a certain amount of alcohol each day showed a greater tendency to have deformed or weak progeny, than a pair to which no alcohol was given. Out of 23 puppies born to the alcoholic pair, only 17.4 per cent were viable, while out of 45 puppies born to the non-alcoholic pair, 90.2 per cent were viable. Moreover, of the 23 puppies of the alcoholic pair, 8 were born deformed and 9 were born dead, while of the 45 non-alcoholic dogs only 4 were deformed and none were born dead. In connection with the published results of these experiments, Dr. Hodge published the results of an investigation by Demme on alcoholic and non-alcoholic families, showing similar results on human progeny 3

Certainly the experiment on the dogs under strict scientific control is significant. One cannot be so sure with reference to the families reported on by Demme. It must be added, more-over, that some recent investigations by Pearson and his students and assistants at the Galton Laboratory at the University of London have not shown any positive relationship between alcoholism and weakness in the children.

Much more important, however, from some points of view, are the social influences which play upon woman to reduce her effective fecundity. By that term is meant her ability, not only to bring children into the world, but to give them that measure of vitality and care which will enable them to reach maturity. It is certain that the occupation of women in factories, especially married women, results in great infant mortality, and thus reduces their effective fecundity. A birth rate is of no consequence in the discussion of this matter. The important thing is not the number born, but the number reared to maturity. That is why the figures last given are of more importance than birth rates. Four investigations have recently been reported bearing upon this problem. Dr. Rosalie S. Morton of New York City made an investigation in that city of the effect of work in stores, shops, and factories upon the health of women. She came to the conclusion on the basis of that investigation and of other investigations which she re-viewed in her paper that " women may work in practically any field of modern industry, and not only retain but increase their standard of health. But they must be given hygienic and properly arranged buildings in which to work, and they and their employers taught the common sense of the laws of health." 1 Dr. George Reid, the county medical officer, Staffordshire, England, in reporting an investigation in six pottery towns in that county, showed that the deaths of children under one year of age born to " home mothers " was 146 per 1000 births, while of those born to mothers working in factories or away from home during the day the rate rose to 209. He also found that women working in lead works showed a much greater tendency to miscarriages and stillbirths.2 Dr. John Robertson, health officer of Birmingham, England, in an inquiry covering the women in one of the poorest sections of Birmingham, where the population was of very much the same status economically and socially and where just half the married women of child-bearing age worked outside the home, found that 52 per thousand of the women employed before confinement gave birth to children prematurely, in comparison with 38 per thousand of those who were not thus employed. Yet the mortality of infants of employed mothers was less than that of those who were not employed. Bad condition of the infants a year old occurred in the proportion, however, of 57 in the case of the children of employed mothers to 63 among the children of unemployed mothers. He came to the conclusion, nevertheless, that unfavorable conditions growing out of poverty in the family were much more inimical to the welfare of the children of these people in that part of Birmingham than employment outside the home.' In America an investigation at Fall River, Massachusetts, showed that the proportion of deaths of the infants of working mothers in that city from diarrhea, enteritis, and gastritis — the diseases which caused more than two thirds of the deaths — was over 8o per cent in excess of that of infants whose mothers remained at home? Moreover, those homes where the women do not work are better kept, the men are more sober — though that may mean either that the men are sober on account of the good home, or that women of intemperate husbands work in order to eke out a living for the family — and the children are better cared for, are healthier, and the family ties are stronger.

It must not be forgotten, however, that the home from which the mother goes out to work does not stand alone in this story of family disorganization. Studies have been made which show that the comfortable home, with a mother who is not employed outside, furnishes its quota of derelicts .4 The spoiled child is to be found in such homes. Such homes are the fruits of the modern questioning of all things old already discussed. Even reverence for parents has not escaped question and as a result respect and reverence have given way to a rank individualism which has undermined the family at its very foundations.

Education of Women and the Size of the Family. — Several studies have been made which purport to prove that the education of women has had a very serious influence on the decrease of the birth rate among such women. It has been shown, however, that the real state of affairs is not that the natural fecundity of college women is less than that of women in the same social class who have not gone through college, but that fewer of the college women marry and so the average number of children for college women is unusually low. In fact, college women who marry seem to be as fecund as other women who have not had a college education.'

When all these things are said, however, there yet remains the most important consideration of all. The causes of the declining birth rate in this country and throughout the western world are twofold. People limit the birth rate voluntarily either because they do not want children or because they think they cannot afford to have them. Those who do not want them are the women and men who have social ambitions and plenty of money. Children are an interference with the social or business plans of the man and with the desire for selfish enjoyment of the woman. Such people cannot well do the things which they are wont to do or wish to do and have children. On the other hand, the working woman feels that she cannot have both children and a job. The job is essential. Therefore children are denied. That same motive actuates families of the middle class. Because of the style of living to which both the husband and wife are accustomed they :feel that a family cannot be undertaken until such time as the business or profession has been established; therefore, the family is postponed, with the result that they have few children or none at all.

The Woman's Movement and the Size of the Family. — The woman's movement has had some effect probably in limiting the size of the family. Certain leaders have been loudly agitating for a limitation of the size of the family. Some have even gone so far as to urge that many women should not marry at all. Others have urged that a family should not have more than two children. Some of their arguments are due to a shrinking from the awful waste of life often involved in large families both for mothers and children who do not live, others are due to a reaction against the physical suffering of mothers involved in bringing children into the world. Pain of child-birth was once taken as a matter of course. It was the lot of woman. The new freedom of women in its reaction has some-times gone to the point of saying that it is unfair that such an amount of suffering should be borne by one sex. This doctrine grows out of the doubts and questionings of the twentieth century. It has found an echo in the heart of many women. Why should they have children when so many more children will be born in any case by the lower classes? Her children are not needed to keep up the population of the world. Of course, it is hardly necessary to point out that such argument bears only on quantitative needs of the world with reference to population. It does not touch the question of quality.

Physical Degeneracy and the Size of the Family. — Some students of the decline of the birth rate in American families have assumed that the reason for it is a supposed degeneracy or running out of the stock. It is argued by some that the preservation of the weaker individuals, both men and women; by reason of the measures taken by modern hygiene in lessening a selective death rate which would have weeded out many people with weak constitutions, has preserved a stock which naturally is relatively infertile. It leaves unanswered the fundamental question as to what causes this degeneracy, even if the theory were correct. No positive evidence, however, has been adduced to show that the race is degenerating except that there is a declining birth rate in native-born Americans. The chief evidence relied on by this theory is the analogy between our people and the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. A law of civilization and decay of people is assumed which offers the easy but useless explanation that civilizations have periods of youth, old age, and decline, just as individuals. The difference is that in the case of the individual physiological causes can be invoked to explain the fact, while in the case of nations the causes are not only physiological, but social and therefore much more complex and difficult to bring under scientific control. The fact is certain enough that in certain states the native white stock has a birth rate that is insufficient to keep up the population. The causes, however, are probably such economic and social causes as have been reviewed, rather than any inherent constitutional defects analogous to those which cause individual decline.

Thus it becomes probable that the causes which have affected the family in the last century in the United States are largely social and economic in their nature. While physiological causes may have affected the birth rate to a certain extent, psychological causes and social considerations have played a much more important rτle. So far as we have reviewed the evidence, the chief change in the family is in its decreasing size, not in any tendency to marry less or at a later age, except in particular classes. We shall now see that there is another change not yet touched upon which has come about in the family — the increasing instability of the family as registered in the increasing number of divorces.

Social Status of the Family. — It is evident from the fore-going that the family represents the unit of social order. Within it people are trained for the larger social life. Not only are they schooled in the art of producing wealth and trained in the rights of property, but also in the duties and privileges of individuals in association. Here they receive the elements of religious training, for it is in the home that the beginnings of all forms of culture appear. Politically the family and the state are entirely separated so far as civil rights and duties are concerned, yet the home gives instruction in political life. It is here that questions of public policy are discussed and members of the family receive their early training in political opinion. There was a time in the history of social order when a man be-came a citizen through his family relationship. Indeed, this is true in some of the Oriental nations like China, where ancient institutions stand like granite. Yet notwithstanding all this the individual gradually has come to have more and more a direct personal relation to the state regardless of family ties or family direction. In the modern democratic society all family relationships have become subordinate to, the state so far as civil government is concerned.


DEALEY, J. Q. The Family in its Sociological Aspects. FUSTEL DE COULANGES. The Ancient City, pp. 49-153. HEARN, W. E. The Aryan Household, pp. 1-111.

HOWARD, GEO. E. The History of Matrimonial Institutions, pp. 3-223. PARSONS, ELSIE CLEWS. The Family.

SMALL and VINCENT. An Introduction to the Study of Society, pp. 183-196. SPENCER, HERBERT. Principles of Sociology, Vol. I, pp. 667-712. WESTERMARCK, E. The History of Human Marriage. ;


1. What is meant by the matriarchate? The patriarchate? Metronymy? Patronymy?

2. Find the best chapter in the Bible describing a patronymic family.

3. What is the distinction made between the uses of the word "form" in the terms "forms of the family" and "forms of religion"?

4. What effects did the rise of ancestor worship have upon the strength of family life?

5. Note the changes in the family which have followed changes in economic conditions.

6. Show in what respects family life was changed when industry began to be carried on outside the home.

7. What are the results on the social development of children of moving once a year?

8. What bearing have the changes in the bases of the family life upon race suicide?

9. Point out the social advantages of a declining birth rate. The draw-backs.

10. If the birth rate is decreasing only in correspondence with the de-creasing death rate, what are the social consequences of the declining birth rate?

11. What are the effects upon the family of vice and its physical consequences?

12. Show what influence the employment of women in industry has upon the death rate of children. Suggest some measures that might alleviate these evil results without taking women out of industry.

13. Show how higher education might have a restraining influence upon the birth rate.

14. Analyze some small community which you know with reference to the size of family in different classes, and account for any differences you may find.

Outlines Of Sociology:
Social Life In General

Definition And Scope Of Sociology

Purpose And Method Of Sociology

Social Origins

Land And Its People

Social Activities

Social Organization

Organization And Life Of The Family

Disorganization Of The Modern Family

Origin And Development Of The State

Read More Articles About: Outlines Of Sociology

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