The study of the family faces various difficulties. The difficulties essentially arise from the changing forms of families in the United States in the modern times. The legalization of same sex marriages in the society is one of the sources of definition problem in the recent past. People get it hard to call the union of people of the same sex family since the union may not fulfill the roles of a family such as siring children. Another problem has arisen from the internal shift from a case where the father used to be the leader of the family to such family setups like single motherhood and single fatherhood.
(b). The Traditional Family
In the United States over the years the traditional family was comprised of the father mother and children. The father was the head of the family whereby he provided for the family by working in the public space. The mother was subservient to the father and her duties were restricted to the domestic space (Skolnick & Skolnick, 2008, p6).
Over the past hundred years changes have occurred to the traditional family. The changes have been influenced by the industrialization that led to work for women and also by the changing of psychological orientation of the people in the country.
The realization of women’s ability to perform in the workplace that was initially the province of men has made women ask for more equality with men in those areas where they were initially oppressed. With hard economic realities children have to study hard in order to be successful in the future, hence Children are occupied in education for most of their days and are absent from the family most of the time. They have changed from being domestic workers alongside their mothers as the society has shifted to education for survival.
(c). Several Myths Regarding The Family Exist In The Contemporary World.
Skolnick & Skolnick (2008, p5) writes that four myths about the family exist. The first is the universality myth. This myth holds that families are the same all over the world. This myth has been promulgated by anthropologists who seek a universal definition of the family. However this myth is not truth because different cultures have differing constitutions of the family. For instance there are incidences of monogamy and polygamy. The myth of universality is thought to be influenced by the notion of taking nuclear monogamous family as the ideal. It is however not fair to subscribe to this myth as different families have different member construction.
The myth of harmony is another notion that has been used when referring to the family. There has been a long history of seeing families as either happy or unhappy, or normal and abnormal. This myth has however been proven as false since the family may have many problems that are kept secret by the members of the family. It is common for families that are seen as normal by the society to have domestic violence going on. This myth has the effect of making people oblivious of the real situations that families go through.
Another myth is the myth of parental determinism. This myth tries to take the responsibility for functional family from the family members by laying the blame on the way one was brought up. This myth does not stand in the face of studies that have come out with conclusion that a child’s behavior is not totally dependent on what their parents or the society teaches them. The study informs that people’s behaviors are influenced by their own thinking and temperaments and characteristics.
The myth of a stable past holds that there was a golden era of the family whereby members of the family existed with minimum or no conflict. This myth claims that evils that dog the family in the modern times were not existent in the old times. However, no evidence has been adduced to support this myth. Any attempt to give evidence reveals how past generations were afflicted by social ills such as premarital sex, infanticide and illegitimate children.
2. Conservatives, Liberals and Feminists views on the “Decline of the Family”
The family in the USA has been facing several problems in the modern times. According to conservatives, symptoms of the decline of the family have been seen in the increased number of single parents, reduction of births, increase in gay and lesbian relations, couples refraining from getting children in marriage, divorces, female spouses’ economic independence in marriages, divorces among others (Skolnick & Skolnick, 2008). Liberals don’t see this as the signs of decline but rather as the signs of welcome change in the way people perceive the family.
Feminists, who have for long pressed for the release of the woman from her traditionally imposed roles in the family, sees the developments that enhance the freedom of women in marriages such as economic independence or even divorce as welcome developments.
For liberals who advocate for the societies breaking away from old traditions the apparent changes in the family today are welcome. They argue that these developments are a source of more liberty to the family members as they help make an environment for the home that is new. Liberals place a premium on the capacity of the family to create happiness for its members and they hold that the happiness results from the realization of individual family members desires.
The result is a rather flexible definition of the family whereby people get to have diversity of what can be called families and also family values. In the circles of liberals these developments are transitional and are essentially progressive hence they should be embraced. They are said to lead to a better society.
Conservatives views on the modern changes of the family are directly opposite to those of the liberals. The conservatives see them as the signs of the ultimate family decline. The conservative’s opinion puts them in contrast with feminists as well. The stance of the conservatives is widely criticized because they support systems that are known to be unprogressive just for its own sake and never adapting to change. They for instance, by advocating for the traditional kind of family, they support male chauvinism in the society whereas women have become empowered and hence play roles men used to play in the past.
Feminists have been accused for causing breakups in families since they advocate for the liberation of the woman. The society has faced situations whereby the mother who would like to put their families first is scorned upon by feminists. The role of the woman in the family hence becomes attractive to disagreements some which end up in separation and divorce
There are questions ranging about the family in the country in the modern day. People ask of the family whether it is an institution headed for extinction of whether it is undergoing transition. It is no doubt that the developments on the family are deeply influenced by the ideological emphasis of the American people on values of individual liberty and choice.
There is no doubt that the society in general and the family in particular must in a way accommodate the changes that have happened in the modern world. The changes such as the financial empowerment of women and the realization of gay as well as lesbian rights have irrevocable impact of bringing change to the roles of members within the family. Consequently relations in the home are bound to be altered of redefined. Equality of the sexes in the society, unlike the traditional patriarchy also contributes to the changes happening to the family.
The changes have the impact of bringing more happiness in the society and they are welcome to a great number of people. Caution should be taken, however to avoid the situation of imposed decline on the family by adapting thoughtlessly to the tide of change. The family has for long been a source of emotional and moral support and its end would bring disillusionment to the society. The changes to the traditional family should not destroy the traditional role of the family such as procreation.
There is a need to adapt to the roles of the modern woman in the home and do away with the traditional roles, for it seems that it is by embracing roles that the family stays together.
3. Decline of gender inequality in America
Gender inequality has been on the downward trend since the 1840s. The era of decline of inequality since then is divided into four parts which mark the steps in the progress towards equality (Skolnick & Skolnick, 2008, p105).
The era of separate spheres existed between 1840 and 1890. In this era equality of the sexes was formally instituted. Only single women worked and a few number of women attended colleges. This are had minimal divorces that happened only out of dire circumstances. In the realm of procreation there was no control of births. Also in this era was subordination of the women by their husbands as an aspect of culture.
The era of egalitarian illusions followed. This era that is known as the era of assimilation occurred between 1890 and 1940. In this era jobs for married women began to be found in the society. There was increase in the rate of divorce in the society but it was not easy to get divorced. The family also enjoyed increased control over reproduction. Mothers in the society in this era were well educated and could be employed in the public service.
1940 to 1990 was the era that followed. Hereby is when jobs became available for women of all kinds and women could access education the same way as men did. The era also saw the increase divorce in the society as it got increasingly accepted. Again there was increased sexual freedom in the society and the cultural values included pursuing careers and equality in marriages.
The subsequent era that is from the 1990’s to the present day has seen women occupy the highest offices alongside men. There is a conscience that duties of the domestic setting pull women back. However, in this era whereby women seem to have made the great strides towards equality with men there remains some lucrative domains in education that are dominated by men, for instance the domain of engineering. Moreover evils perpetuated against women in the society such as rape are still at high levels. These residual inequalities are currently being dealt with and it is hoped that the completion of the equality may take effect soon.