isolated nuclear family units ,” said one H u m a n i t i e s

isolated nuclear family units ,” said one H u m a n i t i e s

Essay Question:

At the start of his textbook, “Public and Private Families: An Introduction” (2017), family sociologist Dr. Andrew Cherlin shares the following story:

“In August 2014, a group of friends consisting of two couples with children, a couple without children, and two other individuals bought a house together on Scarborough street in Hartford, Connecticut. [The elegant street is lined with] mansion after mansion…But the eight-bedroom home they had purchased had fallen into disrepair and had been on the market for years. The Scarborough 11, as they came to be called, deemed it perfect. “We didn’t need to live in those isolated nuclear family units,” said one of the residents. “It’s sustainable for the earth, it makes economic sense, and it’s a better way to raise children. We didn’t need a multifamily house with separate kitchens and separate living areas.” The group includes two school teachers, a college professor, employees of a clinic and of a cultural center, and a stay-at-home dad. They share the renovation costs, the monthly bills, and the household chores. Each pair of adults cooks dinner for everyone one night a week.

The problem is that Hartford’s zoning law prohibits three or more unrelated individuals from living together in a single-family home. The law defines a family as two or more people who are related by blood, marriage, civil union – which is pretty much the definition that the U.S. Census Bureau still uses. Defenders of the zoning law argue that it is necessary to protect residential neighborhoods from the establishment of rooming houses or (worse yet!) fraternities. By this standard Scarborough 11 comprised too many families: a Census taker in the hallway might see one family consisting of parents and children to her left, a second family of parents and children to her right, a third family formed by the childless couple in the next room, and two other unrelated people making dinner in the kitchen. By her rules, which Hartford follows, none of the three families is related to each other, nor to the two singles. So there are more than two “unrelated” people in the household, which violates the zoning law. Yet Scarborough 11’s radical claim is that they are one family and should therefore be allowed to live in a single-family home. “We have systems in place to ensure that we are functioning not just as a house but as a collective relationship,” a resident told a reporter” (p.4-5).

After being reported by a neighbor, the city of Hartford sued the Scarborough 11 for breaking the zoning law. The court case, and the activities that followed, resulted in the City of Hartford revising their zoning laws, ultimately dropping their case against the family in October of 2016.

To learn more about the Scarborough 11 you can review the following online resources.



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Essay Instructions: Compose an essay that provides a sociological analysis of the Scarborough 11 case. In your essay, you should apply at least THREE specific pieces of our course material or course concepts to this example. Course materials or concepts include assigned readings, in-module resources, lecture information, etc. Anything that is from our course materials counts – cite accordingly! In other words, which course resources or concepts can help us critically understand the Scarborough 11 case? How, specifically, do each of the resources/concepts illuminate a sociological understanding of contemporary family life


APA format, essay, and citation page

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