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Family life and family organization is an important determinant of social and moral satisfaction of the society. Over the years, the family life environment has undergone a lot of transformation, thanks to the changing contemporary environmental aspects in social, economic, cultural spheres. American family forms and values of the yesteryears are quite different from today’s, resulting from the influence of class (education levels and income levels), ethnicity, race, and the relationship between women and men, children and parents and relatives.
The diversity of family organization in perspective to religion, racial-ethnicity aspects, social-economic status, and employment patterns is of the essence in contemporary society. Two authors, Stephanie Coontz and Benokratis have expressed their valuable views on the contemporary American family based on research conducted about the changes that have occurred in the family over the years.
The role played by either partner affects family life either positively or negatively. Traditionally, men were considered to be the exclusive breadwinners in the family while women concentrated on household duties and child care. However, both Coontz and Benokratis agree that this trend is declining in today’s American family. Coontz (1999) points out that, most couples today have both partners working and tend to have more marital satisfaction and their children become more socially aware.
The couples also tend to be more egalitarian and share housework more than they used to do earlier on. Benokratis (2001) asserts that dual-earning marriages may affect the family either positively or negatively, which may influence the quality and duration of marriage and child-wellbeing. In addition, most women remain to be submissive and less likely to lessen their family work despite being in income-earning work. Men restrict themselves to tasks like repairs and lawn mowing and playing with children but not housework.
Marriage and Parenting
Unlike in the past, most women today prefer to postpone marriage and parenting in pursuit of education, a view that has been expressed by both Coontz and Benokratis. However, as Coontz’s view is that the educated career women eventually tend to have a better chance of marrying than do have the less educated and enjoy happy marriage; Benokratis’s view is that, although most highly educated and successful women tend to marry, most of the marriages tend to have conflicts as educated women like to have control of their lives.
Juggling Family and Work Roles
Both Coontz and Benokratis concur that most women today are entering the workforce for personal fulfillment and to exercise social freedom in controlling their lives. Coontz says that couples today are having fewer children than before thus increasing the average time they spend with each child and both parents are sharing the responsibility of child-rearing. In addition, many men prefer to marry working and educated women instead of housewives. However, Benokrati’s view is that, although many women prefer to work to care for themselves and their dependants, many men prefer to marry housewives who will exclusively be responsible for child caring and family work.
Marital Conflict and Divorce
In terms of income levels, Coontz says that, whether either of the partners is earning more than the other does not affect the family. Furthermore, where the wife earns more and works even harder, the quality of marriage improves as responsibilities are shared. However, Benokratis disagrees by saying that the family tends to disintegrate or become troubled where the wife out-earns the husband.
Life expectancy, Aging, and Ethnicity variations
Both authors agree that life expectancy has increased and the gap between white and black families has reduced significantly. According to Coontz, most aged people are surpassing the age of 65 years and most families are devoting time to care for the aged relatives. Benokratis also points that aged people above 65 years are getting more care despite restrictive working conditions and that the percentage of white families compared to black families has reduced.
Benokraitis, Nijole Vaicaitis. Contemporary ethnic families in the United States: characteristics, variations, and dynamics. 2001. NJ: Prentice Hall.
Coontz, Stephanie. American families: a multicultural reader. 1999. NY: Routledge.
Coontz, Stephanie. The American Family: Where We Are Today. U.S. Society and Values, U.S. Department of State electronic journal. Vol. 6. 2001. Web.