The Ever Changing American Family

The American family is not in a state of decline but rather in a state of change. The ever changing American family has seen the biggest change in the past quarter century. Starting back with the colonial era until now the mid-twentieth century has seen much change in the family structure or development. History tells about the three forms of the American family within the white middle class. The first form was named The Godly Family. In The Godly Family the father was the head of the family.

This was a religious era and this type of family was biblically based. The Godly Family began in the 1600s until about the late 1700s. During this period women had to be married to survive and have their basic needs met. Women did not marry for love but rather for necessity. Women were not allowed to own any land. Children worked starting at age seven. Children were to be seen and not heard.

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The relationship between parents and children was not very warm and affectionate.

The second family form was named The Modern Family. The Modern Family began in the late 1700s until the .early 1970s. The Modern Family can be divided into two periods. The first period was the Democratic Family. This period began in the 1780s through the 1900s. During this period women would and could marry for love. Husbands were to work outside the home at a job with pay. Women were to stay home and care for the children and the household.

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Women had fewer children during this period. Women and men were split into two forms of work, paid work for men and household work for women. The second period was The Companionate Family. This period began in the 1900s through the 1970s. This period stressed the importance of marriage fulfillment. Husband and wives were to be content and happy in their relationships with each other. In this era husbands and wives liked and were attracted to each other.

The Companionate Family emphasized physical gratification between a husband and wife. This gave way to the development of contraceptives. The use of contraceptives was legalized in 1936. Also The Companionate Family gave rise to a better, close and loving relationship between children and their parents. Children were given much more liberties. Children were given less work and adults began to view children in a different form. In this era children had seen the biggest change. Now in this day in age the family form in use is the Post Modern Family. This period began in the 1970s until present time. Many more changes took place during this time with women, children, men and families. What is seen in modern day society today is change. The American Family is in a state of change. The traditional American family has gone through a complete transformation. In every part of the American family is seeing a change.

This includes adults who enter into marriage, the number of those living in one household that are shaped by married people, the number of pregnancies, the financial role of women or mothers and even the significance of marriage. There has been a decrease in marriage. However, the decline in white people marriages is happening at a slower rate; then among African Americans. In the year 2000 22 percent of Caucasian women had never been married and 42 percent of African American women had never been married. Mother and father households with children are in a state decline or change. One parent households with children are rising. Decades ago back in the sixties 75% of households were married couples and their children. By the year 2000 that number dropped to 53%. Non-related households are now on the rise as well; as much as 31% are seen. Single parent household report for up to 27% of families.

Moreover, the greatest change seen is in African American families with children. These families reported for 4 out of 10 married households. However, no persons were exempt in this rising era of single parent families. Households headed by single parents include impoverished, never- married ethnic minority women or teenaged mothers, gay and lesbian parents whose unions are not legally recognized, never- married women who have adopted or borne a child, widows and widowers, and women and men who find themselves single after a marital breakup(Welch 2012). Seniors are also residing alone without any family members present. A change in cultural standards seems to have become of greater importance for private homes for seniors. In 1910 widows over age sixty five lived with their adult child. A small 12 percent lived alone. By the year 1990 about 70% of widowed seniors were living alone. The empty nest households also had seen a significant increase with older married couples having no resident adult children living in their home.

Not only have there been changes in the American families but as a result there has been an increase in single person and childless households. Women are also having fewer children and are not giving birth back to back. During the colonial era on average women gave birth to seven children. In this modern day age in society women are having on average two children. This may have been the result of contraception’s. The ever changing American family is not just happening in America but also in other parts of the country as well. The family issues that influence American changes are everywhere. Even religious Latin countries had percentages of births out of wedlock. These family changes are also affecting all of Europe and North America about the same time as it effected America. The traditional Modern Family as described earlier having one single father who works outside the home to support his family is no longer the norm.

Rather changing financial roles of mothers even in a two parent home. At the end of one hundred years only one in five families had one father working outside of the home as the only source of income. In families with children under age six there were only 36 percent of women who cared for their children at home and not worked outside of the home. Mothers who had given birth in a current year the majority of mothers by the following year were in the work force. This was more then half of the mothers in the year 2000 and in 1967 there were only one third of mothers who were in the work force. These working mothers were at a steady rise through the decades to come. By the year 2000 the majority of young children had their married mothers working in the work force. There are large numbers of single mothers in the United States giving birth and other women are having no children. Religion has a big impact in family structure and family size. Those families who are more religious tend to have more children. Religious families also have a more traditional family role. Seriously religious families have an average of eight children.

These families include Orthodox, Hasidic Jewish, Mormons and also the Amish with large birth rates. Serious Catholic families in the United States have on average of about four children back to back. Religious research has shown that religion is a huge factor in the United States fertility. However, for non-religious families in the U.S. mothers are reducing the number of children they are bearing. Mothers are also spacing out their children far a part. Women are marring later in life so this is reducing the fertility. The American family has seen a decline in fertility. Also the average age of mothers bearing children rose. The average now is 24.9 years and for non-Hispanic white was 25.9 years. Research has shown that the number of women choosing to not have children has remained steady in the past forty years.

It is obvious that the American family is different then what has been recorded in history. The change in family structure has been changing slowly through out the decades. Some conservative religious people believe that the American family is in a state of decline and the American family should return to the way of previous time. When having one male father breadwinner and having one mother at home caring for the children. However, this is a problem due to the different family types the have risen in the western culture today. This is also not possible in this modern age of today. The economy itself will not allow for this unless the family is wealthy. The economy plays a big role on the American family.

As described earlier women are having less children and it may be due to finances. Mothers are working more then ever before and seeking and paying for child care can be difficult and add to the family stress. What is seen in the American family today is positive change. What is typical in the American family western culture today is families with fewer children, mothers and fathers both working outside the home and mothers having children at a later age. More adults are choosing to live alone or are choosing not to marry.

Adult partner are choosing to cohabitate, women are giving birth without bring married. These changes seen in the American family are unlikely to go into the opposite direction any time in the near future. Who defines the norm in the American family? What was seen in the American family centuries ago was the norm at that time. What is seen in the American family today is the norm for this modern age in society today. The American family has gone through many positive changes but some will always disagree.

Aulette, J.R. (2010) Changing American Families (3rd Ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon Family households: In a decline, but still the norm. (2001). Growth Strategies, (930), 4-4. http://search, Farhadian, T. (1999).
Families Inc: Some reflections on the American family in the 80s and 90s---universals, hegemony, and drag. Radical Society, 27(1) 49-69. http://search. Mintz, S. (2008). No direction home: The American family and the fear of national decline, 1968-1980. Journal of Social History, 4194) 1047-1048. http://search. Moore, L.R. (2003). American values in decline: What can we do? FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 72(1), 15-15. Welch, K.J. (2012). Family Life Now Census Update (2nd Ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon

Updated: Sep 07, 2020
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The Ever Changing American Family. (2016, Dec 11). Retrieved from

The Ever Changing American Family essay
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