Families are the foundation of all societies, they comprise small groups to dozens of individuals, it also ranges from simple structures comprising a married couple with one kid living under one roof- to complex combinations of more than one generation living in one or more households. Human societies are still evolving, so do the family structures. The traditional structure of the family- mother, father and children continues to triumph over the past few decades (Peterson & Bush, 2013). US society, for instance, has experienced an outstanding transformation in their family structures and daily life routines.
American family life
The American family is not what it was 50 years ago. It has seen a dramatic rise in divorce rates, cohabitation rather than marriage, bisexual families of both gay/lesbian and heterosexual design, and children born out of wedlock- more than half of all the African-American children. This has drifted away from the ideal meaning of marriage, that is, companionship which was popular in the 1920’s to egalitarian relationships, self-aspirations, and enhanced freedoms. The question is whether this change is an indication of culture change in the society or it is all about democracy and self-actualization (Bolton, 2000). As from the late 1960’s the society has changed drastically to become more inclusive, and women are now more independent financially, which has resulted into increased instability in marriages. There is no more distinction between individualism and the concern for others generativity
In marriages characterized by conflicts such as those with extreme violence and emotional abuse, children always benefit when the marriage is dissolved (Castelloe, 2011). However, in families where conflicts are minimal, children will always suffer the aftermath of divorce. Adults who are unable to solve their conflicts carry them into parenting and romance, they re-enact their own childhood experiences and dramas and often put their own needs for gratification before the needs of their kids.
The emotional distress caused by divorce, more often than not result into a feeling of loss, bitterness, and mourning for those who fall victim. Generational boundaries needed by children for their own protection and control may be lacking within families. One instance is reported concerning two parents who were on the verge of divorce and were furiously blaming each other over the phone, while their daughter who is in her early teenage is sitting lonely in a mental hospital after the psychotic turbulence related to the breakup. In the wake of divorce, such child will have a hard experience in trusting the so called ‘loved ones.’
Social changes in America
The United States is “accumulating a deep psychological national deficit” for its future generations. A study carried out in 2001 showed that adult children who were brought up by divorcee parents were two times more likely to breakup from their marriages as compared to those whose parents remained and raised them together. Collaborative parenting and nurturing through diverse childcare forms is the best way to avoid the rampant rupture of families. In addition to this, parents need to expose their children to role modeling, for instance getting children in touch with the extended family members and ‘au pairs,’ this helps the children to learn from other people and be able to control themselves emotionally, be tolerant to frustrations and delayed gratification. As couples opt to have kids later in life, support from the extended family is not available in many cases (Dumaret, Constantin-Kuntz, & Titran, 2009). From the experience, if one stays for long without having children, the grandparents’ tolerance to the kids’ mischiefs will be so minimal. There is no more village for a child to be raised in good morals. The society has become more mobile and complex such that grandparents, aunts, and cousins are not living just across the backyard anymore as it used to be in the 20th century.
Media has taken up the place of the parent to become a surrogate parent. Perhaps Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp is the ‘new breast.' Technologies such as social networking, video games, smartphones, and iPhones have infiltrated into homes and has totally altered how kids relate to the important others. However, the Internet is not bad at all so to speak, since it provides a venue to explore the world from the comfort of our homes ("Children in changing families: life after parental separation", 2002). But the lack of control over its use has serious effects on family relations.
Domestic arrangements at home have been transformed by the rise in a dual career- two income marriages. Employment statistics in 2010 showed that more American women were in employment than men within that year. Despite the involvement of husbands in child caring, most of the parenting and house-chores still fall on women; this has adversely affected the balance on caregiving demands, spousal responsibilities and demands, and job duties (Bolton, 2000). At the end of the day, home is no longer a ‘home’ to go to.
Are there still any adults in this present age? Or rather, are women and men adults? What is the meaning of one being called an adult? Maturity in parenting as couples depends on how both husband and wife can negotiate their conflicts, worries and fear, and basic anxieties without being furious to each other. What complicates parenting and role-play in families is the problematic economy with work long hours. Sometimes the conflicts arise on how house chores are to be shared (Peterson & Bush, 2013). Adding to the mix of the problems is the seductive power of the upcoming consumer culture which increases the drive for money; walking into the prestigious Walmart supermarket for shopping is sexy.
Due to the society becoming more diverse, family arrangements will always continue changing. The reverse effect is also true as the evolution of families will impact on the existing societal structures. Rising cases of single parenting; more gay and lesbian families; and virtual parenting are expected to be the order of the day, especially in the industrialized societies. The eventual result is family complexities due to issues relating to cohabitation, single-parent families, and divorce.
Bolton, M. (2000). The third shift. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Castelloe, M. (2011). Changes in the American Family. Psychology Today. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-me-in-we/201104/changes-in-the-american-family
Children in changing families: life after parental separation. (2002). Choice Reviews Online, 39(08), 39-4655-39-4655. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/choice.39-4655
Dumaret, A., Constantin-Kuntz, M., & Titran, M. (2009). Early Intervention in Poor Families Confronted Early Intervention in Poor Families Confronted With Alcohol Abuse and Violence: Impact on Families' Social Integration and Parenting. Families In Society: The Journal Of Contemporary Social Services, 90(1), 11-17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.3840
Peterson, G. & Bush, K. (2013). Handbook of marriage and the family. New York: Springer.
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