English 102 the family

Rosaldo and Sylvia Yanagisako, who quite persuasively argue that the family is not “a universal human institution” (p. 1). As controversial as this argument sounds, one finds support from it in Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of Love and Sara Ruddick’s “Thinking About the Father.” Both scientific and anthropological perspectives on the concept of the family invalidate earlier understandings of the concept and establish that the family is not a universal phenomenon and even where and when it exists in its traditional form, reflects the human desire for familiar patterns.
The famed social anthropologists, Bronislaw Malinowski is responsible for the now popular misconception of the family as a universal phenomenon. As Collier, Rosaldo and Yanagisako argue, before Malinowski’s research and writings on the concept of the family, anthropologists believed that it was a culture-specific phenomenon, not a universal one (p. 1). Malinowski’s argument, which was based on his observations of the behaviour of Australian Aborigines, was based on the notion that sexual behavior was a determinant of the presence, or absence, of family. As he noted, insofar as Australian Aborigines only acknowledged one husband for any female and assumed that the husband was also the father, they acknowledged the phenomenon of the family (pp. 2-3). While he acknowledged the presence of sexual promiscuity among primitive groups such as the Aborigines and admitted that they engaged in orgies, he still argued that they recognized family units because, even in orgies, women were only allowed a specific sexual partner – their legally or socially recognized mate/husband (Collier, Rosaldo and Yanagisako, pp. 2-3). According to this argument, therefore, sexual behaviour was controlled in order to preserve the family unit and to ensure its survival. The family unit was preserved and protected by the