Home Page




Other Pages:
Key Words

Home Page
Lecture Notes

Site Map
Utility Documents
Useful Links


Ordering your observations

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Handout

How Can We Use the Six Dimensions In Designing Family Research?

Take some of the material about the six dimensions and do research, and go beyond, putting in your own analysis and reasoning (not mere opinions).  The best description of the six dimensions are in the paper: What is Community?

  • Foremost, the six dimensions as a set provide a way of organising research data. Since cultural data belong to one or another of the six dimensions, you can examine what you are collecting, or plan (intend) to collect, and ask if they are balanced between the dimension.

  • The six dimensions can be used as a checklist to ensure that all the social and cultural features of each studied family are recognised.

  • To the degree that families have elements in common, the six dimensions can be used to make information comparable (not necessarily the same) between them.

  • As Baker (2005) points out, there is a microstructural bias in most family literature. Using the six dimensions allows for a means of counteracting that bias.

  • The six dimensions can be used as a base for identifying more specific features of your research. Those may vary.

  • Referring to the six dimensions, and what each includes, the researcher can be directed to specific questions.

  • In the sense that a family is like a community and is like a society in itself, it must (by definition) have all six dimensions. All six are therefore valid for doing research.

Be careful not to say that the researcher must include all six dimensions. While it is logically true that removing one dimension by definition will remove all dimensions, that applies to the family (culture) but not to research. It is not an argument for including all dimensions in the research.

It would be OK to list all six dimensions, but you were not asked to define or describe the cultural dimensions as such. You were asked how they would be applied in research design. The following looks at how each dimension might be used in that research design.

Technological Dimension: How does the human constructed material environment (house, furniture, utensils) contribute to family dynamics? How is it affected by family dynamics? How has the broader (societal) technology and its changes affected the structure and organisation of the family?

Economic Dimension: How is wealth (anything scarce and useful) allocated within the family? How does the wider economy affect the family? What is the overall family income? Does it come from only one member? Two? If so, is it distributed equally ? or by what principles?

Political Dimension: How is power and influence allocated and exercised within the family? What effect does the political dimension in the wider society have on the internal structure and dynamics of the family? Is there any evidence of recent changes? If so, how did they come about and what are the implications?

Interactional dimension: With the microstructural bias in family literature, this is the dimension that is most affected. As well as the roles and relationships within the family, however, you can also ask what class is the family within the wider society, and does that affect the family? What other roles does the family play in society, and what are its relationships with the rest of society outside it, and with individuals outside the family?

The Values and Aesthetics Dimension: The research can ask if all members of the family share the same values. (Does dad like hip hop or rap?) What is the level of prestige of the family as a whole, and how is that affected by individuals within it? Do family members share political ideology? Are values and aesthetics discussed or taken for granted? How do community standards and social values affect those within the family? Are they aligned?

Worldview: Do all family members attend the same religious services? Are they members of the same religious organisation? Do they share the same beliefs about cosmology. Does the family pray together (and stay together)?

The document on using the six dimensions for community research can provide a few guidelines for using them for family research, especially since the differences between family and community are becoming more blurred.

The kinds of questions asked here are wide and varied.  They are generated by taking each dimension –– and asking what might be sociologically important in it.  What is it in that dimension which affects the structure and organisation of a family?

These are some ways how the six dimensions can be used in family research design.

Here again is the list of six dimensions –– in historical perspective:

The Technological Dimension of Society
  The Economic Dimension of Society
  The Political Dimension of Society
  The Institutional Dimension of Society
  The Values Dimension of Society
  The Worldview Dimension of Society

Reference Cited:

Baker, Maureen, editor 
     2005       Families: Changing Trends in Canada, Fifth Edition.
             Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson

If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author(s)
and link it back to cec.vcn.bc.ca
This site is hosted by the Vancouver Community Network (VCN)

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2012.06.08

 Home page