The very concept of marriage has existed for several centuries already, but its sense altered greatly due to the economic, social, political, and other changes faced by the world. The majority of people require someone to support them, to share ups and downs. Human beings create families with their nearest and dearest. They get married, leave their parents’ homes, and build own ones. As individuals start living together, they are generally treated as a real couple that is ready to be independent and has their kids.
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Still, while previously people were not allowed to live together unless they were married, today it is normal practice, and no one sees it as something wrong or indecent. Coontz (27), as well as Cahn and Carbone (77), admitted that the life of families in the 1950s and 2000s is not the same. During these fifty years, it was affected by different factors that influenced the roles of family members and their financial condition.
When people speak about a family, they often forget about the alterations observed in the sense of this concept and refer to the meaning of the 1950s. At that time, the majority of women had already married before they were 24 while the marriage is usually postponed today. But this can be explained by the fact that children had to leave school and start working even before they were 15 years old, which made them grow up faster.
Having little spare money, families spent much time together and were very close. They played board games or had fun outside. Women were occupied at home. They took care of children and did housework, having no time for other activities because they had to wash by hand, buy fresh food every day and cook it (“Family Life in the 1950s” para. 3). Today, various devices allow to streamline these processes and give time for working. In this way, women became more independent.
While they had to remain married previously for their husbands to provide kids with basic needs, they can divorce and support the family on their own. For the same reasons, the roles of men and women altered, making them more equal. Being negatively affected by the Great Depression and the war, people used to value families more, as they were often unwillingly disrupted. The postwar economic boom enhanced this situation greatly and gave couples a chance to make their dreams about family life come true. The more stable and calm situation nowadays does not incite such desires. Thus, differences in the lives of people from the 1950s and 2000s affected their views on the family.
The fact that our world is not static can also be proved by the innovations made in various spheres that affect people’s lives greatly (such as an appearance of the Internet, new technologies, treatments, etc.). Still, the representatives of the general public rarely pay attention to the changes in society and family life. With the development of the economy and education as well as with the transformation of the community’s values, Americans had built a new system of marriage and family that is somehow based on the principles accepted previously but also totally different.
It is now easier to build relationships and get married or even possible to remain just a cohabiting couple with children and not be condemned by society. Still, the changes that seem to streamline and simplify people’s personal lives also have a wide range of drawbacks. They put enormous pressure on young people, requiring them to be better, to develop constantly, to earn more, to be approved by others, to be able to support all family members, etc. As a result, many couples turn out to be unable to live this way, and divorce rates increase.
Trying to find out why families collapse, professionals pay attention to different external factors. They wish to define the time and conditions when couples were likely to stay together. Coontz stated in her article that although the 1950s had many advantages such as financial stability and low unemployment rates, she prefers the present society (44). On the contrary, Cahn and Carbone think that at that time, there were fewer conflict situations, which proves that it was better to live in the 1950s (85). However, even though families face particular issues, it is better to raise children in the current society than in the 1950s, as people can have more opportunities in their lives.
In her work, Coontz paid attention to the economic stability of the 1950s (27). She emphasized that this feature was a limitation for the society of that time even though it was positively perceived. People just lived as they used to and did not think of something better. Of course, some professionals may also discuss the benefits of the 20th century from this point of view. At that time, development was rather slow, and it did not affect the population greatly.
People were happy with what they have and were not looking for any enormous changes. Coontz claims that “it’s easy to see why people might look back fondly to a decade when real wages grew more in any single year than in the entire ten years of the 1980s combined” (28). With these words, the author describes a negative side of that economic stability that is often highly valued and discussed as an advantage. Of course, it is good that there were no substantial downs that could lead to increased poverty and unemployment rates. However, the situation at that time was already adverse. People just had no choices for them to improve their lives. While in the very 1950s, everything seemed to be fine, the next decades revealed the degradation of that state.
It might be decent to create a family and have children in the 1950s, but just in several years, these people would have faced enormous problems due to low wages and limited working opportunities. The 1950s are well known for the gender problem and racial discrimination that surely had no positive effects on young families and their kids. Children had little education opportunities and often failed to receive the required knowledge, which determined their future.
Technological development at that time was rather slow, so those with disabilities or disorders were not able to find a good job at all. However, today people have more opportunities to obtain better knowledge and skills and to get a well-paid job. The government supports even those who fail to do so and are unemployed or homeless. They have a chance to find shelter and a job to get back to a decent life.
Cahn and Carbone’s view of today’s situation is opposite to the one that Coontz has. They claim that “the age of marriage is going up, the rate of marriage is falling, and almost half of all marriages fail” (Cahn and Carbone 77). In this way, many children today turn out to be raised in single-parent families, which limits their interaction with mother or father. Cancian and Reed support such view and state that 5% of children were born to unmarried women in the 1960s while 50 years later this number increased to almost 40% (22).
Professionals claim that the main reason for such a tendency is economic inequality. They believe that people started to face more financial problems, which affected their personal life adversely. However, they underline only this cause while in the 1950s issues also occurred due to gender and racial discrimination, slow progress, limited opportunities, etc. In this way, the 2000s seem to be less problematic and full of potential.
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Thus, it can be concluded that it is better to get married, create a family, and raise children today, but not in the 1950s. Currently, young people can cope with possible financial issues, as they can receive a decent education and get a well-paid job. Even though those who have special needs can act as other representatives of the general public due to the advanced technological innovations. Volunteer organizations and governmental agencies develop initiatives for vulnerable populations to have more opportunities and receive the required support.
The economic situation in the country is not stable due to the continuous changes and business expenditures, but the wages increased greatly in comparison with the 1950s, which is sure to be beneficial. Even if children grow up with unmarried mothers, they do not always face financial problems because women can occupy the same positions as men and even earn more.
Cahn, Naomi, and June Carbone. “From Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family.” Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 77-85. Print.
Cancian, Maria, and Deborah Reed. “Family Structure, Childbearing, and Parental Employment: Implications for the Level and Trend in Poverty”. Focus 26.2 (2009): 21-26.
Coontz, Stephanie. “What We Really Miss About the 1950s.” Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 27-44. Print.
Family Life in the 1950s 2014. Web.