The typical families nowadays come in many forms and they include: single parent families, families where the parties involved were divorced and are now remarried, divorced but not remarried, couples living together with children and couples living together without children.
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With these different types of families, each type accommodating a massive number of people, it becomes hard to single out one group as the typical household family. This paper shall nonetheless, seek to explore the topic of a typical household family in the contemporary world and come up with findings on whether or not it is possible to single out a certain category as the typical household family.
A typical household family
A household in the United States of America is defined as all the people living together in an apartment or in a particular house. These people, who live together in the apartment, are considered to be a household but not always a family. An example of an arrangement of a household that does not comprise of a family is roommates who live together in the college.
The term ‘family’ is defined differently by different societies. In the United States, a family is considered to be a group of people who are related by blood or through marriage. Those who have adopted children legally and are living together are considered as belonging to the same family.
A family household therefore, is a term used to refer to an arrangement whereby a group of people, who fit the definition of a family, live together. A nuclear family is understood to mean a unit consisting of the father, mother and the children, while an extended family is comprised of the nuclear family together with the rest of the family members, for example, aunts and uncles.
The concept of a typical household family is increasingly becoming hard to define because of the rapid changes that are occurring in the family unit. A typical household family in the 21st century is very different from the how it was a hundred years ago.
According to Thompson & Joseph (100), marriage has been commercialized so much value is placed in material wealth rather than the core values which used to govern this important institution in the society. Physical appearance has also become a major factor that people are considering before getting into a marriage covenant with a person. Single parents are also mushrooming, overshadowing the typical husband, wife and children nuclear family.
It is also becoming acceptable for one to have multiple sexual partners instead of one settling with a particular person as one’s spouse. Most young people prefer to settle for this arrangement instead of the conventional marriages. All these, coupled with other factors have contributed to the difficulties experienced in defining a typical household family.
The current families are virtually different from the families that existed in the past. Almost everything in the modern day family has changed compared to the past understanding of a family. This includes the definition of what people consider to be families. From the perspective of the young people in the modern culture, there is a common a belief that there is no need of being bound to one person in the name of a marriage when one can have a number of women to satisfy their canal desires.
With time, this view may change. The notion that committing oneself to a marriage agreement is risky is also common. While contributing to the raging debate on the composition of a typical household family, Arland (880) states that the way the family is today reflects the many changes that have occurred in the society today.
Changes in the typical household families in the USA
For example, in the United States, it is hard to clearly state how many people would be found in a typical household family because of its nature as a highly multicultural society (Arland 875). A typical household is perceived to consist of a husband, wife and their children. This has not always been the case in the united sates. Such typical families makes up lower than a quarter of the household in the United States.
The other type of family that is common is one consisting of a married couple who have no children. The figure of such a household arrangement is higher than that of the nuclear families. Married couples comprise about 28.9 % of all households in US. The nuclear families with varying sizes make up about 24.1 % of all the households. 25.5 % of the households are estimated to be made up of single men or women who live alone.
There has been a decrease on the number of the nuclear family household arrangement and also in the number of the married couples who do not have children (Smith 428). In 1970, 40.3% of the households were nuclear families with no many children. About 30.3 % of the entire households were couples with no children, though this was an estimate. Other family types, which could not be classified under the categories mentioned above, were about 10.6%.
During the year 2000, these family arrangements changed and the number of nuclear families dropped by 40%. The other types of family arrangements that had been grouped under other family types had also increased drastically, up from 10 % to 51 %. The group of singles living alone had also gone up to an estimated 25.5%, a figure that is almost double of that which was obtained in 1970.
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Although most of these households had experienced a significant rise, except the nuclear families which had declined, the households consisting of single men living alone were the ones that had increased most. The estimated figure of this group in 2000 was twice that of 1970 because the households had increased from the previous figure of 5.6% to 10.7%.
Difficulties encountered in the definition of a typical household family
Due to these vast changes that have occurred in the modern society, it is not possible for the nuclear family or the couples with no children to be defined as the typical household families. According to Dykstra (1520), childlessness has become the norm in the modern society.
Studies by Forssen & Carlstedt (1019) have gone further to put forth claims that childless adults are happier than their counterparts who have children. This claim has motivated even the men and women who are able to bear children, choose to remain childless for the sake of remaining happy. In America, findings from statistics that have been conducted on the topic of a typical family suggest that currently, it is hard for one to single out what would be considered to be the typical household family.
This is largely because America is a multicultural state and hence, there is a lot of diversity in the family arrangement. The typical nuclear family that consisted of four people can longer be identified as a typical family because there are hardly any people in such family arrangements (Williams, Stacey & Carl 50).
This kind of a family was the kind that was considered an ideal one for many people but the notion is changing and whenever a typical family is mentioned, this type of a family rarely crosses people’s minds. This is mostly because such a family would not represent the diversity that exists in the family arrangement in the modern day society.
Instead of a limited way of thinking when defining what a typical family is, the term ‘postmodern family’ has been coined in order to include all types of emerging families. These include the families comprised of couples who have no children and the families made up of single parents.
It is however, expected that the average Americans get into the marriage institution at least once in their lives. These marriages do not last for most of them and they end up divorcing. Currently, it is estimated that slightly more than half of the households in the United States have a married couple living there.
This trend shows a decrease in the same number of households in 1970 that were estimated to be over 70%. If this trend continues, there will be a major threat posed to the marriage institution, which is the pillar of the family. What is the norm in the modern-day society is for people to marry at an advanced age and then divorcing almost immediately.
The average age which most of the men will choose to get into a marriage institution is estimated to be 26.8, while that of the ladies is estimated to be 25.1. Since it is very common for people to divorce after their first marriage, statistics reveal that most of these people remarry. For example, of all the marriages that existed in 1990, 40% were marriages that had been started after divorce.
A typical household family is currently a difficult concept to demystify because of the evolving trend on the composition and the nature of the modern-day household families. Unlike in the past, when it was easy to describe a typical household family as one consisting of the father, mother and the children (mostly two), the current families have become more complicated and hard to categorize a specific group as that typical one.
The 21st century has been characterized by different types of families, that in the past were grouped under ‘other family types’ because they were few in number. Because of the unpredictability of the trend of the marriages in the United States of America, it is hard, almost impossible for one to define what a typical household family would be.
Nonetheless, it is right to conclude that the average American will get into a marriage institution at least once in their lifetime. This is then followed by divorce and remarriage for some, while others opt to remain as single parents. It is apparent that the family structures in the US have been changing over time and is not a static situation.
Arland, Thornton.’Changing Attitudes toward Family Issues in the United states’. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51. 1989: 873-93.
Dykstra, Pearl. & Hagestad, Gunhild., Childhood and parenthood in two centures: different roads different maps? Journal of Family Issues, 2007. 28(11), 1518-1532.
Forssen, Annika & Carlstedt, Gunilla., You really do something useful with the kids. Health Care Women Int, 2009. 29(10), 1019-39.
Thompson, William & Joseph Hickey. Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2005.
Williams, Brian; Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom 2005. Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Smith, Daniel. ‘The Meanings of Family and Household: Change and Continuity in the Mirror of the American Census’.Population and development Review, 18 1992: 421-56.