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Ethnographic Paper

Ethnographic Paper
By: Heather Warczinsky
Wayne State University

Ethnographic Paper

What makes a family? There are many different ways how family is defined by
depending on what you believe in. In the book it defines family as a composition of people who
decide to live together (2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p. 660). But the definition of family is
changing, like it has progressed in the past. For instance, back in the day family was more
traditional; women took care of the children and did the housework, while the husbands went to
work. They did more things together as a family because there were fewer distractions. For
example: there were not a lot of technology and video games that distracted a family from one
another. That’s why they ate at the dinner table together as a family and did things as a family.
Today, families are separated; there is not a lot family support, guidance within a family. There
are a lot of single mothers and fathers who are raising their children by themselves and working
to support their children. Overall, family is not very important to some people and people have a
different meaning of family. Also, the book states that, societal standards related to marriage and
families have changed and will continue to change. For example, before the Civil War, African
American slaves were not allowed to marry and it was illegal to have an interracial relationship.
Today, it is a normal thing for an African American to date and/ or marry a white person and
have children. Currently, a disagreement that surrounds gay and lesbian couples who want to
marry and want to have the same rights and responsibilities that straight couples do. People argue
that because they think legitimizing gay and lesbian marriages and families would ruin the
establishments of marriage and families. Therefore, the book states a family is an arrangement of
people who decide to act as a family. This definition can take into an interpretation of variety
forms of family might include single-parent families, gay or lesbian couples, elderly people not
Ethnographic Paper
related by blood but living together as a family group, and other extended family groupings (
2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p. 161).
According to the book, Biophysical dimension is the biochemical, cell, organ, and
physiological systems that represent the material substance of a person ( 2010, Ashford &
Lecroy, p.657). Here is some of my family history that is an example of biological dimension. In
my mother’s family diabetes runs in her family. My mother’s father (grandfather) had diabetes
when he was in his forty’s and my grandfather’s sister also had got diabetes around the same age
as my grandfather. My grandfather developed type one diabetes which is caused by failure of the
pancreas to produce sufficient insulin (2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p.90 & 91). My grandfather had
to use insulin injections daily to replace what the body fails to produce ( 2010, Ashford &
Lecroy, p.91). Then my mother developed diabetes in her forty’s. She is trying to lose weight
and exercising three days a week so she can control her diabetes. My mother’s father died at a
young age of sixty seven years old. He developed a condition called Gastroparesis, which is
caused by uncontrolled diabetes and his stomach stopped working. He also could not digest his
food and it was hard for him to keep his food down. According to PubMed Health it is defined as
a condition that reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents. It does not involve a
blockage (obstruction).
On my father side of the family, cancer runs in the family. My grandfather died of
kidney cancer. It was controlled by chemotherapy for a while, but then went out of control. He
died at the age of 83 years old. We feel that it was caused by all the chemicals that he used on his
Ethnographic Paper
farm. My grandfather farmed all his life and we feel that the chemicals used to grow crops that
caused the cancer.
Then my oldest brother came down with cancer. My brother’s name is Trevor, and he
was only 14 years old when he developed cancer. Trevor’s type of cancer that he was diagnosed
with is called Leukemia. Leukemia is a blood disorder that affects your blood stream. According
to WebMD, Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue
inside most bones. Bone marrow is where blood cells are made. Trevor had to of had the cancer
for one year before they finally found out what was wrong with him. Trevor was not giving a
chance to live when he was finally diagnosed. He was Ninety eight percent full of cancer when
he was finally diagnosed. The doctors and nurses called him a miracle child and were also told
that he would never be able to have children. Trevor had chemotherapy and radiation for five
years of his life. The doctors said that we had four times greater chance of getting cancer, than
anyone else. So the doctor advised our parents to get move off the farm, so we moved closer to
the hospital, and away from the farm. Five years later, within a five mile radius, seven more
people came down with different types of cancer.
We feel that on the farm we were surrounded by chemicals that were put in the ground
and airplanes would fly over to spread chemicals on the crops. We think that is how Trevor got
cancer called Leukemia, so we wanted to move as far as possible and off the farm. According to
the text, the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, this disease remains a leading cause of death in
the United States ( 2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p.86).

Ethnographic Paper

The book defines Social dimension as the systems of social relationships that the person
interacts with individually or in a group (2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p. 666). In the next
paragraphs, I ‘am going to give you some of my own experiences that I was involved in with
examples of sociological dimensions. I had a childhood that started out being raised on a farm in
a small town. We grew crops, raised beef cattle and it was a fun life and a very busy time of our
life. I enjoyed our farm very much, felt very safe and could go and we had a lot of space to work
with and play sports. My father was a teacher, coach, and a farmer. He was a hard worker and
always made time for his family.
We were always playing sports when we were not busy planting and harvesting our
crops. In the winter we spent a lot of time in the gym at the school where my father taught and
coached at. When I was in the third grade our lives turned upside down when my brother was
diagnosed with cancer. Then we had to move to the city, which were a very different world and a
huge eye opener. We had a big change in our lives, moved from the farm to the big city. My
father became a teacher in Detroit and was also a coach.
My parents got us involved in sports clubs. First it was the YMCA, which helped us stay
busy and our minds off of our brother’s cancer a little bit. They also knew that keeping us
involved with sports would keep us on the right path. Then we tried out for AAU basketball with
different teams and organizations. AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union and it is where it is
an organization involving any kind of sport that compete during the year and travel all over the
state to become the number one team in the state. Then you would play for a national
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championship in a different state. You would have to qualify to be invited to go to the national
tournament. Then you would have to do fundraising to raise money because it was very
Depending on what team that you were involved in, you would have to pay out of your
pocket and raise money. We would pick up bottles at Pine Knob and we would have car washes
and bake sales and we would also run our own tournaments to raise money. Being involved not
only made myself and my 3 siblings good athletes but kept us busy. But we learned commitment,
responsibility, management, being on time, respectful, well travelers and most of all never to be
afraid to go to college and we were very diversed and rounded people and our biggest fan was
my older brother Trevor who was diagnosed with cancer who was not able to play. I was always
involved in the mesosystems that was always being involved in groups during the social
activities that I was in.
We learned a lot from watching my brother Trevor be strong and he never gave up.
Trevor never felt sorry for himself and he never stopped living life for the moment and he lived
each day to the fullest. He was truly the strongest person I know and I look up to him and he is
the reason I have not giving up on school or anything I do in live. Trevor became a psychologist,
after missing all his high school years, now he helps children believe in themselves.
Psychological dimension is defined as the systems that contribute to the organizations
and direction of an individual’s mental process (2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p. 664). I have some
examples of Psychological dimensions in my family history that I will be explaining in the next
paragraphs. On my father’s side mental illness runs in his family. It is called bipolar disorder,
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which is a chemical disorder. You totally have no control over what you do in your behavior.
According to WebMD, Bipolar disorder is defined as a complex genetic disorder. The mood
swings associated with it alternate from major, or clinical, depression to mania or extreme
elation. The mood swings can range from very mild to extreme, and they can happen gradually
or suddenly within a timeframe of minutes to hours. When mood swings happen frequently, the
process is called rapid cycling. Along with the dramatic mood swings, patients with bipolar
disorder may have disturbances in thinking. They may also have distortions of perception and
impairment in social functioning.
My father’s two brothers have bipolar disorder and my father’s two sisters are on
depressant medication. There are seven children on my father’s side. My uncles were diagnosed
with bipolar disorder at the age of fourteen. They were hospitalized in a mental hospital in
Traverse City, Michigan. They were put on many different types of medication and many
different doses and they had to be hospitalized to get there medication right. Everyone is
different and people react differently depending on the individual. Once they are giving the right
doses then my uncles were able to go home and live a normal live.
Every few years, my uncles would either stop taking their medication or they would take
their medication and drink alcohol while they were on it, which caused the medication to cancel
out. Due to their medication canceling out, they would act goofy and they would end up back in
the mental hospitals to get better. Both of my uncles would have different reactions when they
would not take their medication. My one uncle would act really nice and would spend all his
money on everything and anything. My other uncle would act mean when he was not taking his
medication. Now that my uncles are in their sixty’s, they are still on their mediations but they
have not had an episode yet. Neither one of my uncles is married nor have children because they
Ethnographic Paper
could not handle being married nor have children. I believe that Sigmund Freud who developed
the Psychodynamic Theory approach best fit my uncles and their mental illness and the
personality is made up in three parts which are ID, ego, and superego. The ID component of
personality fits my two uncles because it is an instinctive component and operates from the basis
of the pleasure principle. When my two uncles went on their manic stages, there physic thinking
which was based on irrational, illogical, and fantasy-orientated concepts; which they would be
disconnected from reality. ( 2010, Ashford & Lecroy, p.96).
My cousin Dustin was dealing with depression really bad. Unfortunately, both of his
sides of the family dealt with depression, so he had it really bad. He turned to drugs for 5 years,
and then went to rehab centers to try to overcome the depression and drug problem he was
experiencing. He was living homeless for a while, and then just last year he told his mom ( my
aunt) that he was going to go back to school and do better for himself and the next day he died
and crashed his car. It was a very sad time for the family and we knew what he was dealing with
and now he is in a better place.
In conclusion, as you can see there are three dimensional phases in my life and the
examples that I have giving you are only a few parts of my life that have made me a whole
person. As you can see, family is the most important to develop each and every person and the
experiences alone are stepping stones on how to deal with situations that you are going through.
Family is a very important thing to have in life, they are the only ones who are there for you and
to help you get through a difficult time that you are facing. Life experiences are what prepare
you for your journey in life.
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1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2012, October 8). Gastroparesis. Retrieved March 7, 2013, from
2. Cancer Health Center. (2010, December 17). Leukemia. Retrieved March
7, 2013, from

3. Depression Health Center. (2012, February 1). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved
March 7, 2013, from

4. Ashford, B. Jose. , & Lecroy, W., Craig (2010). Human Behavior in the Social
Environment: A Multidimensional Perspective (fifth edition). Belmont, CA. Brooks/Cole.

Ethnographic Paper


This is a picture of my brother Trevor and his family. His wife Jamie and two little boys
name Gavin and Ryder. I wanted to share this picture with you to show that he was told he
would never be able to have children or graduate and be alive today. But he proved
everyone wrong and has two beautiful little boys and a wife and is a school psychologist.