The Changing of American Families

Television reflects how American families are viewed. Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch were the ideal families in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and in the 80’s, it was Family Ties. When the 1990’s approached us, television shows took on a whole new outlook on American Families. There were shows such as Full House, which was about a single father raising three daughters with the help of his brother-in-law and his best friend. Roseanne was also another show that showed the “dysfunctional” side of families.

American Families keep changing, and they will continue to change in our future. Topics such as the changes in family logistics are important to be informed about in this day and age. Therefore, it is important to know about all sorts of families because they exist differently as they did in past centuries. As talked about in the previous paragraph there are many different scenarios for families. Examples in variation of family are homosexuality, divorced parents, single parent families, and children growing up with both parents working. With the end of World War II, families were developing all over. Ideal families in the fifties consisted of a working father, a mother who was a housewife, and a few children.

Many men joined unions to take care of their families, where they were able to receive pensions and health benefits. The government also supported most families with their financial situation after the war had ended. Although the “ideal” family life was pleasing, it did not last very long. According to Pauline Irit Erera in What Is A Family, “The main reason for family change was the breakdown of the postwar social compact between government, corporations, and workers” (Erera 353). As the sixties came along, the economy grew worse. “Public policies aggravated these problems by cutting taxes, for corporations and the wealthy while cutting spending for services, public works, and investments in human capital” (Coontz, 1997).

This caused many financial problems for families, which would cause them to change their lifestyle that they had valued. More and more women were pushed into the work force. “The 1960’s and 1970’s became an era of diversity and identity politics as a host of “others” sought recognition and liberation from the constraints of discriminatory laws, social policies, and negative stereotypes” (Erera 354). As more women were entering the work force, they were becoming financially independent and were able to live on their own.

This led to many women who were unhappy in their marriage to divorce their husbands and raise their children on their own. As more and more women became financially independent, the more appealing single life became to them. Soon women all over were adopting and fostering children, and many also decided to give birth while still remaining single. “With the increasing numbers and visibility of single-parent, step, and adoptive families, the gay liberation movement opened the way for the emergence of gay and lesbian families” (Erera 355).

Gay and lesbian families were starting to become more common as the seventies had passed. The eighties and nineties were a time when everyone was arguing over what a family really was. Erera states “Voices on the right blames changes in the family for a wide range of social problems, while voices on the left look to the family to provide the basis for a more communitarian society” (Erera 356).

People were starting to blame the increase of family diversity to almost anything they could. From child poverty and declining educational standards to substance abuse and homicide rates were just a few issues that were the “result of the new diversity in families. Single mothers were struggling to raise their children on their own with high poverty rates. According to Rethinking Family in the Postmodern Age by Stacey, “Welfare benefits to impoverished single mothers and their children in the United States declined markedly from the 1970s to the 1990s, and in 1996, the federal welfare entitlement was abolished in favor of a drastically limited employment-based program (Stacey, 1996). Father’s of the children who were raised by a single mother were often viewed as “victims” out of the marriage.

Even though the children’s father would pay their ex-wives child support to help raise their children, it usually was not enough money for the expense of raising a child. Many people think that when children grow up with divorced parents, that they will have many problems once they are older. According to Charles Murray, “Attacks on single-parent families are also based on claims that families without fathers cannot socialize sons into civilized manhood (Wright & Jagger, 1997). I do not agree that young boys will not grow up into a “civilized manhood”.

My brother, for example, grew up with a single mother and he plays college football, cannot go a day without lifting weights, and is one of the manliest guys I know. There may be some downfalls in having divorced parents, however, this may be what some consider the “ideal” family. Today, the “ideal” family does not consist of a working father, a stay at home mother, and perfect children.

The diversity in marriage has changed drastically since the 1950s, and it will continue to keep on changing. I do not think it matters what type of family you have. Your parents could be gay or lesbian, divorced, married, single, or you may even have been adopted. The type of family you have does not matter, what matters is if your family supports your decisions in life, will do anything for you, and loves you with all of their heart.

BibliographyCoontz, S. (1997). The way we really are: Coming to terms with America’s changing families. New York: Basic Books. Erera, Pauline Irit. “What is a Family”. Writing in the Disciplines: A Reader for Writers. Mary Lynch Kennedy et al. Pearson. Upper Saddle. 2004. 350-364. Stacey, J. (1996). In the name of the family: Rethinking family values in the postmodern age. Boston: Beacon. Wright, C., & Jagger, G. (1999). End of Century, End of Family? Shifting discourses of family “crisis.” In G. Jagger & C. Wright (Eds.), Changing Family Values (pp. 17-37). London: Routledge.

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