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Identity Loss, Family, and Social Change

Andrew J. Weigert and Ross Hastings
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 82, No. 6 (May, 1977), pp. 1171-1185
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2777932
Page Count: 15
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Identity Loss, Family, and Social Change
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Abstract

The painful loss of an irreplaceable and personal indentity is a common theme of human existence. Reflection on social sources of such loss leads to recognition of the unique particularistic relationships constitutive of the family as a source both of identity bestowal and identity loss. The archival function, the retention and display of symbols of highly personal identities, furthers the family's potential as a reactive and proactive source of identity loss. Furthermore, if social change is characterized by differentiation and rationalization, maintenance of traditional family structures may result in high potential for painful personal identity loss for which there is low social support and legitimation. Moderns would thus face the dilemma of whether to seek strong affective ties but risk nonlegitimated and meaningless identity loss or to avoid the sources of such identity loss but weaken affective relationships.

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