The Impact of Social Class on Family Dynamics

In their article "The Color of Family Ties: Races, Class, Gender, and Extended Family Involvement," Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian discuss the misunderstanding of family involvement in society. Their data shows that Black and Latinos/Latinas families tend to have lower levels of education compared to white families, leading them to rely more on family members for support rather than being independent (Gerstel and Sarkisian 49). The authors also highlight the influence of women's work and social roles on family dynamics and society (50).

They argue that economic conditions are the foundation of family structures, emphasizing the importance of social class in shaping family connections (54). While different groups have developed their own ways to navigate emotional and financial changes, social class plays a larger role than ethnicity in determining these dynamics.

Gerstel and Sakisian clarify that social class, rather than race, gender, education, or other factors, is the primary determinant of a family's characteristics and lifestyle. Social class is also indicative of a family's financial resources.

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While race and ethnicity may represent cultures, they do not dictate standards of living. The data highlights the impact of education on social roles within families. Discussions about the marital relationships of black and Latino/Latino individuals often point to more disorganization compared to white families, resulting in weaker connections within Black and Latino/Latino families (49).

Gerstel and Sarkisian argue that the perspectives on family relationships reveal disparities in education between blacks, Latinos, and whites. They suggest that blacks and Latinos are portrayed as lacking education compared to whites, resulting in less independence.

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This is evident in the way blacks and Latinos prioritize familial support over individual achievement. The authors emphasize that whites, particularly white men, have greater opportunities for higher income and education, highlighting the correlation between education and social class. By analyzing the authors' assertions, it becomes clear that the lack of education among blacks and Latinos contributes to the reinforcement of social class distinctions. Additionally, Gerstel and Sarkisian address the role of women in different social classes, noting that married women in lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to prioritize caregiving for their parents over unmarried women.

Throughout their research, Gerstel and Sarkisian suggest that married women often rely on support from relatives due to the social structure that emphasizes motherhood and family involvement. This is why married women seek mutual support from others, as they are more connected to their parents and siblings compared to unmarried women (52). This example highlights the role of women in culture and the relationship between social class and cultural values, illustrating different perceptions of social class. It emphasizes the importance of women's roles within the family, where social class plays a significant role in shaping people's characters while culture encompasses knowledge, ideas, customs, and traditions. Gerstel and Sarkisian contrast changing behaviors and improvements, finding that many people contribute to making their situations better by focusing on their behaviors.

The authors emphasize the importance of understanding the links between race and class in order to comprehend cultural values and social class differences. Gerstel and Sarkisian stress that social policies should focus on how families adapt to challenges, rather than attempting to change individual behavior. They highlight the significance of recognizing the need to improve economic status within the family, rather than relying solely on external support. The authors suggest that families should embrace new strategies and actions to enhance their financial situation, rather than blaming others for their circumstances. This underscores the importance of effectively managing daily budgets as a reflection of social class and communication within the family.The authors require the readers to comprehend the extent of support that extended family members should offer.

Although there are resources illustrating ethnic inequalities, evidence shows that enhancing economic opportunities and resources is crucial for family well-being. Initially, Gerstel and Sarkisian's thesis statement may seem confusing, but upon understanding the main points of their article, it becomes clearer. While I initially found it complicated when they discussed the impact of education versus social class on family dynamics, upon revisiting the text, I see their perspective. The authors emphasize the importance of education but highlight that social class has a greater influence on family involvement. This explains why Whites tend to be more self-reliant, as it is not solely due to race but also their social class. As Gerstel and Sarkisian delve into the social class of women in marriage, their arguments broaden my understanding of the interplay between culture and society.

It is argued that cultural and social factors can overlap, but social influences are broader as they are inherent to individuals before cultural values are learned. Additionally, the economic status plays a significant role in shaping family strategies and behaviors. Gerstel and Sarkisian emphasize the importance of understanding that economic challenges often drive family decisions and actions. Rather than solely focusing on changing behaviors, improving economic conditions should be a priority. This highlights the tendency for families to blame external factors for conflicts without addressing the underlying economic issues. Recognizing and addressing existing family dynamics is crucial in this context.

This text highlights the significant impact of social class on perceptions of family involvement, often overshadowing ethnicity. The authors' analysis demonstrates that while many acknowledge the importance of family ties, the influence of social class is frequently overlooked. The connection between education and social class is particularly pronounced in how different racial groups prioritize family interactions. For instance, statistics indicate that Whites tend to be more independent compared to Blacks and Latinos, as seen in their frequency of visits to relatives. However, disparities emerge when examining practical support within families, revealing that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to provide assistance than Whites. This nuanced understanding challenges conventional wisdom about the relationship between social class, ethnicity, and family dynamics.

The authors point out that Black and Latino men are more likely to live near relatives and stay in touch with them compared to White men, highlighting the advantage Whites have in terms of independence. Despite this, Blacks and Latinos have a higher percentage of visiting relatives than Whites. This connection suggests that White men have an advantage in education and social class, leading to greater opportunities for income. Gerstel and Sarkisian aim to show readers various family connections and emphasize the importance of social class over education, culture, and economic conditions. They argue that real-life experiences in social class shape individuals more than formal education, cultural background, or economic circumstances. This highlights the diversity of opinions and understandings within different social classes.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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The Impact of Social Class on Family Dynamics. (2016, Feb 26). Retrieved from

The Impact of Social Class on Family Dynamics essay
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