We will write a custom Essay on American Family’ Changes since the 20th Century specifically for you
301 certified writers online
In order to comprehend the transformation in the contemporary American family, it is imperative to review the dynamics of family life from the middle of the 20th century. This paper reviews the past census figures to quantify the changes within the American family over the years.
Changes in the American family
The scope of family life has experienced a series of changes in America since the middle of the 20th century. The debate on the American family has been characterized by criticism of degradation as marriage setting shifted from conventional gender roles and conservative marriage values to the current equal role allocation.
The middle of the 20th century in America was characterized by turbulent alterations in civil rights, macro economy, sexual freedom, and significant enhancement in longevity and wellbeing (Himmelfarb, 1996). The dynamics in these factors have shaken the institution of family in America.
Several trends designate the changes in the American family. For instance, the rate of ‘births to unmarried women’ changed from 18.4 in the year 1980 to 40.6 in the year 2008. Besides, the marriage rate declined from 15.9 in the year 1980 to 10.6 in the year 2008. However, there was little decline in the divorce rate from 7.9 to 5.2 over the years.
Moreover, the number of single parents increased from 6,061 in the year 1980 to 10,536 in the year 2008 (US Census Bureau, 2012). This means that single parenthood is on the rise within the structure of the American family. Apparently, these trends show a clear shift from the traditional marriage values of the middle of the 20th century.
There is also change in the age at which most Americans get married for the first time. The age for the first marriage increased. This could be attributed to postponement of marriage to pursue education and career establishment, since the changes in the economy were not conducive to people with dismal education (Himmelfarb, 1996). Apparently, the postponement of marriage is evident by “continued increase in the ‘births to unmarried women’, though the pace of change slowed in the year 1990” (Casper & Bianchi, 2001, p. 23).
The family roles are shifting in the American family as the element of equality in role fulfillment changed the previous perception. Over the years, fathers have assumed wider roles in the family. For instance, the census statistics indicate that there is a rise in the “number of father-only families; a shift toward shared custody of children in case of a divorce” (Mayer, 2007, p. 19). Besides, there is a steady rise in the magnitude of father figure involvement in family upbringing.
There is a steady change in the arrangement of family in America. As more women become empowered and gain economic independence, the role of breadwinning, raising children, and taking care of other needs have shifted from being a sole responsibility of a man, but to that of either of the parents. Over the years, the number of single parenthood among the women has risen (Coontz, 2007). The rise could be attributed to more “acceptance of divorce, cohabitation, sex outside marriage, and more tolerance to blurred gender roles” (Waite, 2000, p. 31).
The American family has experienced transformation from the previous traditional position to the modern unit characterized by late marriage, changed family roles, increase in single parenthood, and acceptance of same sex marriage.
Casper, M., & Bianchi, S. (2001). Trends in the American family. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Coontz, S. (2007). Taking marriage private.
Himmelfarb, G. (1996). Second thought on civil society.
Mayer, S. (2007). What money can’t buy: family income and children’s life chances? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
US Census Bureau. (2012). Families and work in transaction in 12 countries, 1980- 2001.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
Waite, L. (2000). The ties that bind: perspectives on marriage and cohabitation. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.