Could you please read my essay and give me some feedback?1) Interracial relationships
In a news article titled "Interracial Marriages Surge across US" released in USA Today on April 12, 2007, David Crary stresses the continual ascent of the number of interracial marriages in the USA since the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws forty years ago. However, black educated women mainly spearhead this social change because they break community and gender stereotype barriers in the workplace, public, and private spheres. Indeed, they tend to more and more marry white males of higher socioeconomic status, which arouses fierce political debates in addition to creating biases conveying a deleterious vision of African-American men.
Although American citizens have increasingly identified themselves as "multiracial" (Benokraitis, 2008, p.112), an attribute that has been recently incorporated into US Census Bureau Surveys' variables (Crary, 2007), scientists have avowed that minors are mainly the ones who claim this multiracial characteristic (Benokraitis, 2008, p.113; Crary, 2007). This perception has been all the more important as the acculturation to the American heritage has favoured interracial marriages (Benokraitis, 2008, p.115), albeit trends have presented substantial variations depending on intra and inter racial-ethnic relations (Benokraitis, p.113; Crary, 2007). Supporting the filter theory of dating, socio-cultural forces in the black community such as peer-pressure and propinquity have imposed severe constraints on individuals who would like to date "outsiders" ((Benokraitis, 2008, p. 113; Crary, 2007).
Finally, scientific research and mass media emphasize the prevalence of exogamy over endogamy. Although its development has largely been heterogeneous, the main stimulus has seemed to be a perceived shortage of eligible partners in one's group (Benokraitis, 2008, p. 114), a theory mainly based on gender-related trends giving weight to evolutionary sociology. Indeed, people's desire to ameliorate their reproductive fitness may tip the scales in favour of interracial marriages to the detriment of patriarchal or segregationist community ideals when a group does not display sufficient members who could satisfy the need of eligible partners with high level of resources or reproductive success.2) Homosexuality, bisexuality, or trans-sexuality
In the news article "Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight" published in the New York Times on October 9, 2007, Jane Gross draws attention to the individuals' perception of elderly LGBT people and the concrete governmental actions aimed at the aging LGBT community in the USA. Gross particularly stresses the sufferance entailed by covert and open homophobia although people are currently more informed and open-minded than they were a few decades ago. Gross does not forget to describe the influence of ageism in addition to the financial burden generated by the expensive costs of institutions for elderly that pressurize families.
Albeit homophobia has been in regression (Benokraitis, 2008, p.215; Gross, 2007) and the overall acceptance of LGBT people (Benokraitis, 2008, p.215; Gross, 2007), elderly, and above all old men who have never been acquainted with non-heterosexual people (Benokraitis, 2008, p. 215), have continued displaying homophobic behaviours (Gross, 2007). Furthermore, institutional caregivers have needed to be correctly trained because they have been still fearing accidental HIV contamination (Gross, 2007), though medical researchers have ascertained that this is not possible through simple contacts, such as simple care giving acts, which do not require an exchange of blood or semen (Benokraitis, 2008, p.218).
Gross's news article sheds light on the demographic evolution of the American population and the political transformation of the US political scene as regards the LGBT community. Indeed, self-identified non-heterosexual people have not only represented about ten percent of the US population (Benokraitis, 2008, p.214) but they have also progressively benefited from various forms of legal protection warranting them the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts in several states as far as officially approved mating relationships are concerned (Benokraitis, 2008, p.215). However, as Gross (2007) have referred to, federal laws are still inexistent although LGBT people take an active part in the funding of the Medicaid and American Social Security Systems. Moreover, people pertaining to the LGBT community are more likely to experience difficulties when they are old than other heterosexual elderly because, according to Benokraitis (2008), about half of the latter have been taken care of by their children or children-in-law (p.538). Subsequently, the legal recognition of the LGBT at the state level, which has already provoked changes in the daily relations caregivers-recipients in addition to attitudes (Gross, 2007), will necessarily emerge on the national stage.3) Family violence
Julies Bykowicz reports, in a news article released in the Baltimore Sun on February 25, 2008, an initiative of the Baltimore Courthouse office aimed at implementing an innovative program concerning domestic assaults. City officials are going to create a task force constituted of specialized investigators and social workers who will be able to ameliorate the available immediate assistance to secure the medical, legal, and financial future of victims who tend to be averse at terminating a violent relationship and prosecuting their abuser.
Bykowicz (2008) has underlined the necessity of developing solid cases to succeed in putting perpetrators in detention because court records have seemed to demonstrate that it is an indispensable measure not only for stopping intimate partner violence but also to prevent abusers from murdering their victims. Benokraitis (2008) has buttressed this empirical evidence through the presentation of the cycle theory of domestic violence, which had been supported by Walker since the late 1970s (p.425). However, this scientist has argued that the recurrence of domestic violence between intimate partners has induced women into terminating their violent relationships by killing their aggressor, a hypothesis that she labelled the "battered-women syndrome" (Benokraitis, 2008, p.425). Furthermore, Bykowicz (2008) has underscored one of the many reasons inciting women into preserving their couple despite domestic violence: destitution. Benokraitis (2008) has presented several hypotheses that had been proposed by the scientific community as regards economic hardships experienced by women (p.442). On the one hand, advocates of the "resource theory" have advanced that domestic violence might emerge from the male's perception that their female partners might be interested in extra-conjugal affairs to obtain more resources (Benokraitis, 2008, p.442). On the other hand, proponents of the exchange theory have contended that females' financial dependence and males' desire to enforce their power have initiated an "economic" relationship between partners in which gains compensate sacrifices (Benokraitis, 2008, p.442-443).
Although Benokraitis (2008) has broached theories based on large-scale panels (p.449-450) and Bykowicz (2008) has reported a singular initiative, they have both promoted the implementation of interventionist and preventive programs. I would defend another approach, derived from the Darwinian theory of evolution, hypothesizing that domestic violence could be a human adaptation to adverse environments. Individuals' chances of survival and reproduction augment albeit the presence of domestic violence since partners' death is atypical. Accordingly, rather than attempting to eradicate domestically violent behaviours, governmental and local authorities should endeavour to improve the standard of living of the US population by acting on macro and micro-level economic forces, on the one hand, and publicize alternative means to tackle deprivation, on the other.4) Adoption (any aspect)
In a news article titled "Fewer foreign children adopted" and published in USA Today on February 10, 2008, Wendy Koch introduces readers with the consequences of the evolution of adoption trends and policies abroad on American prospective parents. She contends that Americans, who are accustomed to adopt children, gradually resort to adopt children from foreign countries because the domestic pool of eligible children is not sufficient.
American prospective parents faced with infertility may resort to domestic or international adoption to transform their family of "non-procreation" into a nuclear family (Benokraitis, 2008, p.332; Koch, 2008). American prospective parents have primarily relied on American children eligible for adoption (Benokraitis, 2008, p.332; Koch, 2008) because of the promotion of adoptions from American foster care over the past few years (Koch, 2008) and because of foreign bureaucracies' restrictive policies (Benokraitis, 2008, p.335; Koch, 2008). However, since the delay for obtaining a child has been from three to ten times shorter abroad than in the USA, American families have hinged on foreign contributions (Benokraitis, 2008, p.334), which has constituted an aggregate pool of about one hundred and forty million orphans (Koch, 2008). Although international adoptions have usually proved to be satisfying for adoptive parents and children (Benokraitis, 2008, p.335), they have generated expensive costs due to intermediaries' chicaneries or briberies aimed at the civil service personnel (Benokraitis, 2008, p.335). Moreover, substandard foreign health systems providing ailing children (Benokraitis, 2008, p.334) or aversive foreign administrations (Benokraitis, 2008, p.335) have impaired international adoptions because American prospective parents have rarely been cognizant and aware of these concerns (Benokraitis, 2008, p.335). Finally, although more and more American households have adopted Chinese children since 1991, restrictive regulations passed by the Chinese and Russian governments as regards the number of children allowed to be adopted in the USA have strongly contributed to the decline in international adoptions (Benokraitis, 2008, p.335; Koch, 2008).
From a biological point of view, the adoption of a child who does not belong to one's kinship seems inconsistent with one's somatic and reproductive efforts. Why would individuals like to allocate their time and resources for children who do not carry their genes while they could increase their inclusive fitness by transferring their parental investment to kin altruism? Contrary to some evolutionary scientists, claiming that this type of adoption is one of the legacies of the so-called "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" and that this is a gesture of absolute altruism, I would dare to advocate another approach. I deem that these famous scientists tend to overemphasize our reproductive efforts and gradually ignore our somatic efforts when they analyze the behaviour of our species. Their viewpoints tend to disregard the importance of our survival. Contrary to them, I would theorize that individuals adopt children with a coefficient of relatedness whose value is null, namely complete strangers, because they endeavour to secure their future. Indeed, in case of unemployment or disease, their adopted children could be of valuable financial or physical help. This hypothesis would be especially true if the "selfish gene" were demonstrated. Actually, the multitude of selfish genes in an individual's body could be illustrated by a flock of birds in the sky in which each bird interacts with its closest congeners for its own benefits without knowing the overall movement of the group. Thus, I envisage that selfish genes tend to individually secure their survival even if they are unaware that the whole system, the human body in which they live in, is unable to reproduce. My theory could shed a new light on why same-sex couples want to adopt children as well.5) Extra-marital sexuality
E. J. Dionne Jr. relates the John McCain's extramarital affair, the incarnation of the phenomenon known as infidelity, in the news item titled "McCain's Lobbyist Baggage" and released in the Berkshire Eagle on February 22, 2008. Dionne emphasizes the difficulties experienced by pre-eminent political leaders for preventing intruders from infringing on their private life, which can seriously tarnish the presidential contender's image. Dionne also underscores the economic and political implications of such an extra-conjugal affair.
First, Benokraitis (2008) has stressed the fact that the customary definition of adultery encompasses emotional infidelity (p.211); in the same way as Dionne (2008). Whereas Americans have tended to deem that infidelity is mundane in today's US society (Benokraitis, 2008, p.212), research have demonstrated that it is exceptional since only about one in six Americans confirms to have had an affair (Benokraitis, 2008, p.212). However, researches (Benokraitis, 2008, p.212) and public opinion's reactions (Dionne, 2008) have firmly condemned adultery because of its immorality. One of the many reasons for this rejection might be that this affair may be based on pragma, namely practical considerations aiming at drawing mutual benefits (Benokraitis, 2008, p.165; Dionne, 2008). Although the actual micro-level and macro-level igniters have still remained vague or unconfirmed, such as a probable revenge, a need for emotional satisfaction, or the evolution of the purpose of marriage at the dawn of this third millennium (Benokraitis, 2008, p.213), this relationship might be considered as economically motivated (Dionne, 2008), namely giving weight to the social exchange theory (Benokraitis, 2008, p.213).
The geographic, social, psychological forces underlying the selection of human beings' pool of prospective partners emerge from both physical and cultural influences. Furthermore, they are likely to provide each individual with his or her most appropriate dating partner. Moreover, since individuals can improve the qualitative and quantitative results of their selection thanks to various artifices, such as online dating for men or sophisticate makeup for women, the filter theory of mate selection may be considered as an epitome of the Darwinian theory of evolution applied to the Homo sapiens sapiens species. Indeed, individuals adapt to selective pressures so as to ameliorate their reproductive fitness. Consequently, John McCain's extramarital sexuality may be an adaptation to overcome the selective agents of its ecological environment.6) Births outside of marriage
On July 1, 2007, Sharon Jayson titled one of her articles in USA Today "Unwed births shift to older, cohabiting couples", in which she explained that out-of-wedlock children tend to be born to older mothers. Moreover, she establishes thanks to primary and secondary sources that this increase may be correlated with cohabitation, which is more present in the USA and better perceived by the American population nowadays.
Although research on relationships and parenthood have spotlighted an escalation in both out-of-wedlock births since about the 1960s (Benokraitis, 2008, p.341; Jayson, 2007) and cohabitation in the USA (Benokraitis, 2008, p.271; Jayson, 2007), they have diverged on the acceptation of these phenomena by the American population (Benokraitis, 2008, p.271; Jayson, 2007). Some scientists have argued that the increase in cohabitation might be a causal factor of the rise in out-of-wedlock birth rates (Benokraitis, 2008, p.341; Jayson, 2007). Indeed, women aged more than twenty-five may have tended to favour their professional career (Jayson, 2007) or to ignore the socio-cultural yoke as regards the obligation to marry before having children and, thus, securing the legal recognition of children by fathers (Benokraitis, 2008, p.341) since about half unmarried births have been to cohabiting mothers (Jayson, 2007). However, these figures have greatly varied according to mothers' educational levels, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age (Benokraitis, 2008, p.341). Though the number of older mothers have augmented, these mothers have still been a minority (Jayson, 2007) since the bulk of them have been in their teens (Benokraitis, 2008, p.342; Jayson, 2007), despite a decrease due to the implementation of pro-abstinence programs, school sex education, and a period of economic growth in the 1990s (Benokraitis, 2008, p.342).
What is astonishing with birth rates for unmarried women in the USA is that changes in the rates depend on the age of the mothers. The age of eighteen-nineteen appears to be the limit defining a bascule in women's choices of bearing out-of-wedlock children. Since scientists find it difficult to establish the reasons why teenage pregnancy has kept diminishing, I would spotlight the fact that this age bracket accords with the age when females effectively experience freedom from parental supervision, though they reach their majority when they are twenty-one. Consequently, rather than searching what policies may be at the origin of the birth rates changes, I wonder if it could be a consequence of parenting in US families. Indeed, the change happened in the mid-1990s while minors' mothers had experienced the sexual liberation of the 1970s. It may be possible that birth rates in the mid-1990s could be the first perceptible effects of the women's liberation movement. Women committed to feminism may have preferred cohabitation or single life while women who have not been committed to feminist ideals may have favoured marriage and enforced a stringent discipline on their daughters to prevent them from becoming pregnant teenagers.
7) Marriage trends/statistics
Elise Kleeman dwells on shifts in marriage trends in the USA in a news item tilted "Experts weigh shift in marriage trends" and published in the Pasadena Star-News on February 13, 2008. She explains that, albeit the emotional and economic benefits of being married, Americans more and more favour cohabitation or single life rather than marriage. On the other hand, she also stresses that divorce rates are dwindling.
Marriage trends have been shrinking (Benokraitis, 2008, p.269; Kleeman, 2008) because many people have been not married or have postponed marriage (Benokraitis, 2008, p.258). Furthermore, after having come to a climax in the 1980s, divorce rates have been declining (Benokraitis, 2008, p.269; Kleeman, 2008). Moreover, cohabitation and single life have also been preferred to marital life (Benokraitis, 2008, p.269; Kleeman, 2008). Although the stability of a marriage might be a successful key to partners' happiness (Kleeman, 2008), marital stability and marital satisfaction have highly been contingent on the influence of individuals and socioeconomic factors (Benokraitis, 2008, p.296; Kleeman, 2008). Marriage education might be beneficial to a relationship if effective communication patterns of handling conflicting situations were learnt such as the awareness of one's partner's needs and compromises (Benokraitis, 2008, p.314; Kleeman, 2008), which could explain why marriage education and divorce rate have been correlated positively (Kleeman, 2008).
The current disaffection of marriage in the USA reveals the macro and micro level influences affecting the American society. Changes associated with marital commitment results from personal choices such as one's religious or political convictions in addition to personal constraints such as the difficulty to find eligible partners because of drastic limitations imposed by propinquity. Furthermore, those changes also demonstrate the powerful influence of pressures exerted on the American society such as health or employment policies. Finally, marriage trends simply mirror individuals' adjustments due to economic, religious, and political evolution of their environment at the dawn of this twenty-first century.8) Blended families
In a news article titled "Blended families face financial challenges" released in the Dallas Morning News on July 16, 2007, Pamela Yip underscores the financial predicaments in blended families. She stresses the various possibilities to tackle expenses issues in blended families in addition to children's inheritance rights.
Stepfamilies have been on the verge of outnumbering traditional nuclear families in the USA (Benokraitis, 2008, p.485; Yip, 2007). Not only have remarriage complicated families' genogram (Benokraitis, 2008, p.496) entailing social and psychological changes for stepfamilies' members, but it has also posed legal and economic challenges (Benokraitis, 2008, p.490-491; Yip, 2007). Consequently, evolution rather than stability have epitomized stepfamilies' life because of occasional opposite members' concerns (Benokraitis, 2008, p.498; Yip, 2007). This is all the more significant as stepparents have seldom acknowledged legal responsibility for their partner's biological children (Benokraitis, 2008, p.491), which might induce stepfamilies' members into performing ambiguous roles (Benokraitis, 2008, p.501). Moreover, remarriage have seldom clearly established stepparents' legal responsibilities when issues such as medical coverage and inheritance rights have been addressed (Benokraitis, 2008, p.491; Yip, 2007). Furthermore, the distribution of parental resources between biological children and stepchildren in blended families might prove to be aggravating (Yip, 2007) since biological parents might reject any financial responsibility for their partner's children, whatever their partner's income might be (Benokraitis, 2008, p.491). Blended families have had to apprehend the unique nature of stepfamilies' necessary adjustments (Benokraitis, 2008, p.497; Yip, 2007) to cope with unexpected expenses due to biological children legally bound to ex-spouses, or other financial obligations, which might arouse diffidence and anxiety between partners due to different personal finance management styles (Benokraitis, 2008, p.491; Yip, 2007). Finally, inheritance laws that have usually ignored stepchildren's rights have often provoked the emergence of covetous feelings between biological children and stepchildren (Benokraitis, 2008, p.491; Yip, 2007). However, life insurance policies allowing subscribers to control the allocation of their assets after their death in addition to minimizing the effects of estate tax measures might help stepparents in their endeavours to circumvent such predicaments (Yip, 2007).
The social behaviour of remarriage, or successive mating, highlights the human beings' commitment to religious and legal bounds to satisfy their sexual and somatic needs. Remarriage provides both spouses with the certitude that they will be tightly tied to partners resolved to secure both their biological children and their stepchildren, thanks to the social, economic, and legal pressures resulting from religious and legal seals. Moreover, these religious and legal links assure both spouses that their respective partners will not abscond from their new family and, thus, jeopardize their own existence in addition to the survival of their children. Consequently, remarriage is a cultural adaptation to selective agents such as environmental, community, and individual constraints. The progression of blended family trends may be defined thanks to the study of long and short-term macro and micro level forces acting on the American social, political, legal, and religious stages in addition to individuals' psychological motives. For example, is the current progression due to economic motivations or to the Evangelical movement's influence in politics?9) Childfree couples (may address childfree lifestyles or workplace issues)
In a news item titled "America becomes a more 'adult-centered' nation" and published in the Christian Science Monitor on July 10, 2007, Ben Arnoldy depicts the current fertility trends' influences on the American political stage. Indeed, researches spotlight the marked emergence of both motivated and involuntary presence of childless families in the USA. Moreover, such findings stir up political agitation among conservatives because they fear an intellectual and financial rejection of social agendas associated with children.
First of all, researchers have noticed that the Total Fertility Rate has kept dwindling since the 1900s (Arnoldy, 2007; Benokraitis, 2008, p.324). Fertility rates have underscored the more and more obvious refusal of some American households to have children (Arnoldy, 2007; Benokraitis 2008, p.347). As a matter of fact, contemporaneous couples have no longer deemed that children might constitute a keystone for personal and marital accomplishments, an idea that has mainly been advocated by females (Arnoldy, 2007; Benokraitis, 2008, p.347). However, other causes leading to such low rates have resulted from inertia or indecision concerning marriage and pregnancy, as well (Benokraitis, 2008, p.348). Although federal welfare policies have still been detrimental to childless employees, employers often endeavour to establish equity, to the great benefit of childless women (Arnoldy, 2007). Furthermore, albeit people's motivations for being childless have mainly stemmed from their desire to achieve professional success other reasons have been displayed, such as an increased marital satisfaction, a noteworthy personal fulfilment, or the fear of legal parents' answerability for children's acts (Arnoldy, 2007; Benokraitis, 2008, p.347). Although this self-centred fervour for freedom have worried conservatives, fearing that childless couples might lobby against budgets aimed at securing children welfare and education, childless people might feel more interested by such programs than expected (Arnoldy, 2007). The bottom line is that proponents and opponents of childfree households have been alarmed about future American family patterns (Arnoldy, 2007). On the one hand, childfree people have wanted a social recognition and, on the other hand, conservatives have wanted to safeguard the traditional family model at the root of the American social fabric (Arnoldy, 2007).
In conclusion, the case pro-child vs. pro-freedom reflects another already present and controversial issue in the USA: pro-life vs. pro-choice. Although both sides can endlessly put forward numerous arguments in favour of their respective viewpoints, the real sociological problem lies in a political choice as regards the kind of society that has been preferred for four centuries, which has been embodied by the first Amendment of the US Constitution, namely freedom. However, sociological studies warn US citizens that if the current fertility rate continues declining, the US population might seriously shrink and might, for example, in the end, lack political influence on the international stage to secure US citizen's freedom. Consequently, should US policymakers impose a multi-children obligation on American families in addition to implementing subsidies for effective procreation, to the detriment of individuals' freedom? One could argue that such a political choice might be considered as undermining individuals' freewill. Nonetheless, to what extent are US citizens really free given that they undergo various macro-level forces deterring them from having children such as women's greater opportunities of career development or the abatement of the patriarchal influence as regards the obligation to perform the traditional role of wife-mother?10) Disciplining children
In a news item titled "Study: Spanking may lead to sexual problems later" released in USA TODAY on February 28, 2008, Sharon Jayson portrays the current findings associated with the effectiveness and utility of spanking. The present stances as regards disciplinary methods, stemming from primary and secondary analyses based on research and educational literatures, are derived from at least diverse, if not opposite, results.
Although spanking has been an omnipresent disciplinary method in the USA (Benokraitis, 2008, p.360; Jayson, 2008), this physical punishment might gradually vanish along with the children development and might become quasi nonexistent when children enter adolescence (Benokraitis, 2008, p.360). In addition to securing immediate obedience to parents (Benokraitis, 2008, p.360), spanking might also take an active part in the process generating violence, insubordination and antisocial attitudes in children in the long term (Benokraitis, 2008, p.360; Jayson, 2008). Nonetheless, scholars and professionals' opinions vis-ŕ-vis the effectiveness and utility of spanking have been extremely divergent (Benokraitis, 2008, p.360; Jayson, 2008). On the one hand, spanking might be one of the many causal factors at the root of emotional or sexual matters during adulthood though most spanked children have never displayed long-term impairment (Jayson, 2008). On the other hand, advocates of non-physical discipline have contended that guidance rather than punishment might be more valuable because a high self-esteem, a well-delineated code of ethics, and a flexible decision-making methodology might empower children with the capacity to practically solve problems without resorting to aggressiveness as an adult (Benokraitis, 2008, p. 360). Finally, spanking as a disciplinary method might prove to be effective to raise well-mannered children though it has mainly been contingent on the way to administrate this corporal punishment (Benokraitis, 2008, p.360; Jayson, 2008).
Although spanking might be noxious from an ontogenic viewpoint, it could be an extraordinary adaptive process from a phylogenic point of view. Actually, one of the oldest written evidence of the necessity to perform corporal punishment lies in one of the biblical records. The transmission of the famous "spare the rod and spoil the child" saying (Proverbs 13-24) illustrates the fact that physical punishments have been recommended to educate children since at least the sixth century B.C.E. If spanking was so harmful for the development of children, it should have not survived until now for it would be too noxious for an individual's future reproduction. Consequently, what are the functions of spanking and how does it impact on individual's chances of survival and reproduction? Among the immediate functions of spanking, one could claim, for example, that it guarantees the almost instantaneous obedience on the part of the child or that it allows parents to air their frustrations. As far as long-term effects are concerned, spanking could be considered by many indigent parents living in environments with numerous selective agents, such as poverty-stricken and neighbourhoods deprived of safe places for letting children play, as a lesser evil when it comes to be sure that their children do not sneak away from their household. Such an attitude tends to support the "kin altruism" hypothesis assuming that individuals adopt particular behaviours in the short-term to safeguard their relatives' life in the long-term and, thus, secure the transmission of their genes. Finally, research may investigate to what extent individuals should employ spanking given the environment they live in.