James Quayle Dealey.

The family in its sociological aspects online

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Online LibraryJames Quayle DealeyThe family in its sociological aspects → online text (page 1 of 8)
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Professor of Social and Political Science
in Brown University



fL\fi. 3i&il)ecs(ttre ^resist Cambribse








In presenting this little volume to the general
reader, and to the student of social institutions,
no attempt has been made to include all the
problems relating to the family. The social
world is agitated by many suggested reforms
and remedies for known or suspected evils in
domestic relationships, and numerous writings
are constantly appearing dealing with various
aspects of this question. The new science of'
eugenics also is broadening its scope as it pushes
to the front; and, if given time for development,
will yet prove of inestimable value in any policy
of racial upbuilding.

In this work it has been the writer's desire to
present in a somewhat popular form the historical
background for studies of the modern family
and to indicate in general the apparent trend of
future changes. It is believed that much of the
pessimism of the time, so frequently voiced in
discussions of divorce, arises from a failure to
appreciate the present in its relation to the past.
A sociological viewpoint, on the contrary, tends
to develop a conviction in the essential integrity
of the American family, a recognition of a trend


towards a highly ethical form of monogamous
marriage, and a behef that famiHal interests will
be best furthered by an intelligent public opinion
expressing itself through law and moral code.

J. Q. Dealey.
May 8, IQ12.


I. The Family as a Social Institution ... i

II. The Family of Early Civili2;ation . ... 12

III. The Patriarchal or Patronymic Family . 23

IV. The Rise of the Modern Family «... 35
V. The Family and Religion

VI. The Family influenced by the Reformation '

and the State 62

VII. The American Family influenced by De-
mocracy 73

VIII. The Family influenced by Urban Condi- u^


tions '«'^'

IX. The Marriage Tie and Divorce .... 96

X. Democracy in the Marriage Tie .... 109

XI. The Family under Reorganization .' . .119

Bibliography 135





Throughout Western civilization problems
in respect to the family are coming to the front.
For the past three centuries men have devoted
themselves to the reconstruction of economic,
political, religious, and educational institutions,
but have up to very recent years utterly neglected
that most important and most fundamental of
all institutions — the family.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century the
rise of the theory of evolution aroused an interest
in the origin and development of social institu-
tions, and among these the family soon attracted
attention. The publication of Bachofen's Das
Mutterrecht in 1861 and Spencer's study of
Domestic Institutions contained in his Principles
of Sociology ^ stimulated increasing interest in
both the evolutionary and the practical aspects
of the question. In the United States the results
* Volume i, published 1873.


of such investigations are best seen in Lewis H.
Morgan's Ancient Society (1877); in the three
volumes on Matrimonial Institutions by George
E. Howard (1904) ; in the series of annual reports
issued since the year 188 1 by Dr. Samuel W.
Dike as secretary of what is now known as the
National League for the Protection of the Fam-
ily; and finally in the national governmental
reports of 1889 and 1908-09 on Marriage and
Divorce. These and similar studies of the family
and its problems have supplied firm foundations
for later investigations of this important social

Furthermore, the rise of newer theories in
respect to the family, such as that involved in
socialistic discussions, and the changes involved
in the rapid growth of urban centers with their
many problems, make it evident that the family
is breaking away from its semi-patriarchal basis
of the last two centuries and is passing into a
period of transition. These changes may to
some indicate retrogression, to others they sug-
gest the possibility of a higher and more ethical
type of family. It is essential, therefore, that
these changing conditions and standards should
be understood, not merely out of intellectual
curiosity, but for the reason that such informa-
tion becomes the basis on which society may de-
velop definite ideals of domestic standards and


a policy of improvement for existing conditions.
If modifications in the family must take place,
it is the part of social wisdom to keep these modi-
fications under control, so as to eliminate evil
tendencies and to strengthen what experience
and reflection favor as good. It is never wise to
allow important changes in social institutions
to develop unheeded. Forethought and insight
should characterize a high civilization, and every
important modification taking place in funda-
mental social institutions should be subjected to
the careful scrutiny of scientific students. Social
causation is no longer considered to be beyond
the ken of man, a fiat of fate to be accepted sub-
missively and blindly ; on the contrary, the causes
of social change are comprehensible and subject
to human control; and the social forces at work
can be resisted, modified, or guided through
scientific knowledge so as to accomplish ends
desired. This scientific point of view becomes all
the more necessary since on all sides, as attention
becomes directed to the study of domestic pro-
blems, may be heard warnings of the decadence
of family life. Sexual vices and diseases seem to
be sapping the physique of the race and destroy-
ing mutual confidence and love in the domestic
circle. "Race suicide" and an alarming increase
in the divorce rate seem to be closely allied fact-
ors in weakening the sanctity of home ties. The


demand for the labor of women and children in
poorly paid industries is ominous for racial vigor,
and the crowded conditions of modern urban
environment weaken the ties of kinship and make
impossible the close domestic circle of homely
fellowship like that depicted in Burns's Cotter's
Saturday Night. Yet this gloomy and pessimistic
outlook may itself be a harbinger of better things.
In a changing social order the evil first attracts
attention, but later comes a knowledge of con-
structive tendencies, and a comprehension of the
question in all of its aspects. The essential thing
is that careful attention be given to the study
of existing problems with the belief that larger
knowledge will result in wiser conclusions and a
safer social policy.

The family historically has been and presum-
ably will continue to be the heart and center of
social life. Long before religion and the state
existed at all, the domestic group flourished as
the germ and nursery of all modern institutions.
It may be traced far back even to the instinctive
groupings of our animal ancestry, and finds even
yet some of its truest exemplifications in the con-
jugal and parental affection displayed among the
most highly developed of our distant kin, — the
birds and the quadrupeds. In these humble
forms of life are found many of the simple,
homely virtues of domesticity, but without the


vicious accretions added by a more intelligent
but an unmoral and at times immoral humanity.
Though the human family in its higher grades
has become nobler and finer than those of its
remote kindred, yet society as a whole would
even to-day be greatly improved if human par-
ents trained their offspring for life with as much
insight and devotion as higher animals use in
rearing their young. The sluggard may well go
to the ant to learn industry, but husbands, wives,
and parents may learn many lessons of fidelity
and self-sacrifice from the beasts of the field and
the winged creatures of the air.

These inherited animal qualities supplied to
primitive society the starting-point for human
achievement. Slowly these instincts broadened
through reflection into sympathy and altruism
and now find their best expression in the deep
love of a mother for her child — unless perchance
this be eclipsed by the less instinctive but more
intellectual affection of a father for his children,
which religion has taken as the highest type of
the love of God toward man.^ Yet these parental
feelings in their higher forms evolved but slowly
among human kind, since for thousands of years
the family has been struggling upwards, slough-
ing off from time to time some crude survival of
savage conditions, though handicapped by the
1 Ps. cm, 13; John ni, 16.


acquired vices of sexual morality and by an
environment only dimly comprehended. Never-
theless, the family as an institution has moved
steadily forward, developing collective helpful-
ness among its members and multiplying altru-
istic affection so as to Include within the kinship
a constantly widening circle of humanity. Very
early in civilization was established the hearth
or gathering-place of the kindred, and in the rude
homes of that time developed language, the
industrial arts, and the ability to domesticate
animals and to cultivate the soil. By reflection
also came beliefs in the supernatural, a recogni-
tion of the sanctity of custom, and the growth
of a civic unity safeguarding life and property.
Gradually all that made life worth living cen-
tered in the home and the kin, so that an out-
lawed, homeless man was abject in his mis-
ery — a man without kin, country, or gods,
against whom the hand of every other man was
raised. Religion, in its attempts to attract men,
has alternately pictured the other world as a
paradise, an elysian field, a heavenly city, or a
Valhalla of feasting and battle, but a belief in
immortality never proved attractive to the aver-
age man until heaven was depicted as a country
of homes for reunited kin, since by common
experience home and family ties have come to
represent the highest form of human happiness,


well worthy of being translated from an earthly
to a celestial habitation.

Since modern social students emphasize the
importance of the family as the starting-point or
unit of society, it is necessary to understand the
point of view from which the study of its devel-
opment and its problems should be carried on.
The family in its history has run through the
entire gamut of human experience. It has been
and is yet a group of economic workers engaged
in the production and consumption of goods.
From the standpoint of the state the family's
chief function was once considered to be the pay-
ment of taxes and the production of men cap-
able of serving in the army. Religion has em-
phasized it as a group organized for worship and
for religious instruction, and social Utopians of
all sorts regularly desire to dissolve or to reor-
ganize it in accord with some preconceived the-
ory of the family's place in a perfect social
scheme. But one-sided or visionary speculations
have had their day and henceforth the study of
the family is becoming sociological in kind, since
this science aims to synthesize whatever know-
ledge may prove useful in attempts to further
social progress. Since the end of the nineteenth
century it is becoming increasingly evident that
the family must not be considered as a mere
economic tool for the production of goods, nor


its members mere hands in the labor market for
sale to the highest bidder; nor is the family to be
narrowly interpreted as a sort of annex to either
church or state. From the social standpoint the
family is more fundamental than any other aspect
of social life and should not be subordinated to
any of them except as they clearly voice the
higher aspirations of society. The family is
socially fundamental because from it must come
each succeeding generation, and hence no other
social institution should exploit it to the detri-
ment of society as a whole. Society must, as a
sacred trust, maintain a high type of family life
for the sake of social progress and must safe-
guard it against the aggressions of other institu-
tions which aim to subordinate the family to
their own peculiar interests. From such a view-
point the study of the family as a social institu-
tion naturally falls to the lot of sociology, which,
using the scientific methods of observation and
comparison, adds the knowledge that comes from
the study of the evolution of the family as an
institution, and its proper relationship to the
other great fields of social activity. Sociology in
its study should show the biological and psycho-
logical bases for the family, how its energies may
be more wisely directed, and how the conditions
that retard or expedite its further development
may be utilized for social progress.


Within the family of higher civilization should
be in germ those potentialities that under favor-
ing environment should blossom and ripen into
work and play, love and patriotism, aspiration
and reverence, so that each member of it may
take his place in the economic, civic, and cul-
tural life of his time, not merely as a cog in some
specialized field of human activity, but rather as
a sort of microcosm in which is implicit the mac-
rocosm about it, for the individual within the
family, like the family itself, should center within
his own soul the possibilities of the whole of life.
The family with its members should be in very
truth an economic band, a body politic, a nursery
•for religious aspiration, a school for the broader
life of the world, and a home of cooperative
activity. In being so, it shows itself to be the real
social unit, the germ of society, the fundamental
social institution on the welfare of which depends
the hope of continued social progress. The twen-
tieth century with its trend toward reorganiza-
tion, recognizing that this is the true place of the
family in society, has definitely taken up the
study of this institution with all of its problems,
and will not rest satisfied until family life is on
a far higher plane in Western civilization than it
has yet attained.

One obvious result from these modern studies
is already manifest. As a survival from the era



of ancestor worship men have been prone to
exalt the goodness of past generations and to
idealize the men of that time by comparison with
those of the present. Historical researches make
it evident that, with due respect to our ancestors,
there never was a past generation, taken as a
whole, that could compare in quality with a
modern generation. The evolutionary theory,
furthermore, shows us that our best is before us,
not behind us, and hence that if humanity must
worship itself it might better worship its poster-
ity in preference to its ancestry. At any rate,
society is becoming much more deeply interested
in the rising than in the passing generation, in
the sense that it recognizes that the hope of
human improvement lies in the progressive
attainments of future generations. For that
reason just as society once fought for the rights
of man and now for the rights of woman, so in
the future it will demand the rights of the child,
insisting that each have the right to a vigorous
and virtuous parentage, to an intelligent educa-
tion, and to a fair opportunity for the develop-
ment of inherent capacities. This demand will
be achieved, not by any Platonic schemes of
scientific human breeding on communistic lines,
but by formulating wise standards and a system
of social control such that the, vicious part of
mankind may be eliminated, and the conditions


environing family life so readjusted as to encour-
age higher standards of conjugal and parental
obligations. Through scientific information im-
parted through education, and through the social
control exerted through capable social institu-
tions, the standards of family life can be so greatly
strengthened as to make possible and probable
the steady improvement of each successive gen-
eration of humanity.



Modern problems in respect to the family can-
not easily be understood, unless one has in mind,
as a sort of background, the history of the family
as an institution. Within the last fifty years a
large amount of research has been given to this
study, but many questions of fact are still un-
settled. Rival theories, however, stimulate fur-
ther research, so that ultimately there should
result a scientific consensus of opinion, at least
in respect to fundamentals, since knowledge of
the family during the earliest stage of human
existence must obviously remain inexact.

If mankind had developed its institutions uni-
formly among all races alike, as some theorists
too easily assume, the problem would be fairly
simple. But if environmental conditions play so
large a part in determining development as mod-
ern theories would assert, then the widely dif-
fering physical conditions environing human
races must have produced different kinds of
development in different parts of the earth.
Some notions of conditions in those early centu-


ries may by analogy be obtained from a study
of the family as it exists among higher forms of
animal life, as well as from existing customs
among the simpler civilized races of the earth
and from survivals or " social vestiges " of ancient
systems found among more advanced races.
Such investigations as these, but covering the
whole field of early civilization, have been vigor-
ously pursued by many special sciences, and
their united conclusions now form a fairly safe
basis on which may be constructed the history
of society. These sciences^ make it clear that
human society, with its social institutions, de-
velops in accord with the principle of causation
and that a generalized explanation of the devel-
opment of these institutions can be given, based
on what seem to be the conclusions most gener-
ally accepted. In presenting the results of such
studies in respect to the family, no attempt will
be made to give a complete outline of develop-
ment, but rather to indicate the main stages of
domestic history, so far as they seem to have
bearing on present-day problems. In the light
of such an explanation one may comprehend far
more clearly the reasons for present difficulties
in respect to the modern transitional family, and
yet see a scientific basis for the hope that domes-

^ As, for example, Anthropology, Ethnology, and kin-
dred sciences.


tic institutions are progressing, not retrogress-
ing, and may at the same time get a glimpse of
the possibiHty of systematically furthering this
progress by freeing society from handicaps in-
herited from previous ages.

Yet it may be well to emphasize at the outset
an obvious truth frequently forgotten, namely,
that standards and teachings, right and proper
in one age under set conditions, may seem to
another age entirely wrong and improper. There
is a sort of relativity of truth that an historical
student must keep in mind. If certain standards
are socially more useful under given conditions
than other standards ideally higher, the lower
standards are socially better than the higher.
If, however, the given conditions should improve,
then the lower standards become a handicap,
and higher standards become right. In past ages,
for instance, conditions have been such that low
ideals of marriage and crude standards of sex
morality were socially more useful than higher
standards, and hence in these days are not so
much to be condemned as to be understood.
Even in modern civilization conditions are such
that compliance with an ideal standard of a
permanent monogamous marriage is difficult for
many persons. There are in consequence many
forms of illegal marriages and sex perversions,
too often condoned by average public opinion.


Such problems can only be handled effectively
by raising economic and educational standards
as the basal condition for improvement in the
quality of sex morality.

In primitive civilization,^ therefore, one must
not expect to find the high idealism of races
advanced in domestic morals. The age to a large
degree was unmoral, human beings followed their
natural instincts, and had not yet partaken of
the fruit of the tree of knowledge so as to know
good and evil. Even in later centuries when some
knowledge of right and wrong had come to them
through intellectual development, it should be
remembered that the customs and standards
used and enforced by them represented their
mature conclusions, and therefore they should be
respected as such even though to us the reason-
ing seems crude and the people immoral in their
practices. The sex standards of modern civiliza-
tion are superior to those of even the highest
standards of ancient centuries. Yet in future
ages they will presumably seem low and debasing
according to the standards of that time. With
this preliminary caution the probable status of
the domestic institution in primitive civilization
may now be summarized.

* Primitive is often used in two senses: (i) as referring
to the earliest stage of human existence, information in
regard to which is largely speculative, and (2) any civiliza-
tion whatsoever preceding the patriarchal stage.


The term "marriage" should not be applied to
temporary sexual intercourse between male and
female, for it implies a somewhat durable con-
nection based on mutual needs, the most funda-
mental of which, historically speaking, are sexual
and economic. In primitive marriage when man
was just emerging from animal conditions, there
was of course no ceremonial form nor set stand-
ard of sex morality. At natural seasons, when
food supplies became abundant, the male wooed
and the female made choice from among her
suitors. In this way was formed a sort of com-
panionship, a copartnership to the success of
which both alike contributed. Possession, wont,
and natural inertia tended to make the connec-
tion fairly durable, so that monogamy probably
prevailed, though the conditions of life were too
precarious to insure a lifelong connection, and
marriage may have lasted no longer than during
the immaturity of the offspring. Again, it is
probable that sexual passion was not so strongly
developed then as now. The differentiation of
the sexes was not so pronounced and the condi-
tions of existence made food-getting and safety
from enemies the absorbing topics of the mind.
Sexual indulgence was so secondary that the
passions even had at times to be stimulated
by feastings and lascivious dancing. Marriage
tended to become durable because of mutual


companionship, the protection afforded the fe-
male in her times of weakness, and the economic
advantage derived from their respective shares
in food-getting. The male procured flesh foods
through hunting and later through war; the
female became expert in the selection of edible
vegetation and in devising means of shelter as
a home for her children. Maternal love was
instinctive and probably lasted only until the
young were able to care for themselves. The male
presumably had no comprehension of the signifi-
cance of procreation, since that knowledge came
only after long reflection. When children were
born the male instinctively guarded the little
band against attack and furnished foods for the
common use. His interest in the children was
secondary ; primarily he hunted and fought for her,
not for them. In fact, she had not infrequently
to guard them against his hostile attacks arising
through jealousy, and not the least of her tasks
was the necessity of sufficiently domesticating
him so that he would respect the hearth as a
sanctuary. In some such way as this, in the
"golden age" of human existence developed the
earliest form of human family. Language, in-
vention, religion, and social intercourse were all
in their beginnings. Intellect had not developed
sufificiently to give man more than a faint know-
ledge of right or wrong, and mental energy was

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Online LibraryJames Quayle DealeyThe family in its sociological aspects → online text (page 1 of 8)