The Evolution of the Family in the 21st century by L. S. Q. Marriages decline & divorces incline Where has the traditional family shifted to in the 21st century? Years gone by, families had meals together; today, meals are eaten on the run and the most important time for dialogue and sharing the day’s highlights; over dinner, is now non-existent, because parents have also become part-time students.
Not too long ago, there was only one television in the home, it was an enjoyable experience to sit together and view television programs together; today there is a television in almost every room, computers with internet access, mobile devices where you can do instant messaging so you can stay where you are and communicate, in addition to a entertainment so that children almost never leave their rooms.
As an institution, the family has constantly evolved, shaped and adapted to social changes, and although families have much in common, there is no longer such a thing as a typical family in the 21st Century. When people talk about the family, undoubtedly many think of the “conventional” nuclear family. However, stereotypical images of mother, father and children rarely holds true to modern families. The family, which has undergone a major transformation from the past generation, is poised to continue to change even more as time progresses.
Family and household structures are becoming more diverse with co-habitation, common-law arrangements, single parents and gay adoption all becoming increasingly common types of family units in the world today. Modern day families come in all shapes and sizes – divorce, remarrying, single parenting, out-of-wedlock and a number of other variables have turned the nuclear family into the exception rather than the norm. Even within the modern nuclear family, homemaker and breadwinner roles have evolved into something that makes it impossible to have one specific definition for family.
As a matter of fact, the stereotypic homemaker and breadwinner roles no longer exist because most households require the earnings of more than one person in order to get by. One of the major changes in family life from the early times to now is in parental arrangements for children. More children lived with both biological parents; who were married than occur in today’s societies. As a result of the decline in children living with both biological parents (that are married), the number of single parents and tepfamilies increased; these types of households are rapidly increasing due to rising divorce rates, women outliving men and the growth of young professionals living alone. The institution of marriage has weakened as the ideal institution under which children are raised and households are organised; today, people are marrying later in their lives and divorce rates and cohabitation numbers have increased. A growing number of children are being born out of wedlock.
Stepfamilies are the most common form of “non-traditional” families in today’s society, but think of the many variables within stepfamilies: everything from two partners with custody of their respective children (blended families) to households where one partner has children and the other does not among the other types of stepfamilies. In addition to the stepfamilies, there are still even more types of families: single mothers, single fathers, grandparents raising grandchildren, multi-generational households, the list is endless.
What should also be looked at is the distribution of marriage according to social class. Studies show that middle-class people are more likely to marry and remarry than working-class people; who are more inclined to remaining single or cohabitating. Because of the surge of women studying and working in the 21st Century, the number of households with unmarried people and increasingly, more and more households are having no children; becoming the most common living arrangement in the country.
Even within today’s marriages, the changes have been profound as more and more women have entered the labour force and gender roles have become more homogenous between husbands and wives. There have been significant changes in the roles that women have fulfilled over the course of history. One thing that has not changed is that families have always depended on the work of women; what has changed however, is only the nature of the work that has changed. In today’s society, because of the call by feminists for gender equality, women fulfil many roles.
Society has gotten to a point where women are out of the homes and in the workplace; from clerical to service industries, they are employed in professions and own their own businesses; they are a part of the military and some are even professional athletes. Whether in part-time or full-time, blue or white collar jobs; they are also wives and mothers that struggle to meet the demands of both careers and families. If we examine our personal lives, we could see that a couple generations ago, our mothers and randmothers having jobs outside the home was something unusual, but what had been unusual then, has become the norm today. Gone are the days when only the father would go out and bring in the income to take care of the financial needs of the home while the wife took care of the domestic needs; there has even been a very small increase in stay-at-home fathers. It is clear that most persons still hold the traditional values of their societies, evident in their attitudes; but the changes of the structure of the family are having a great impact on how people think about family life.
As a result of women’s roles in the workforce, parents’ expectations of their children have changed; children are taught and expected to be more responsible when before, the mother did most of the domestic duties. Although there has been a decrease in marriages and increases in single parent households; the percentage of children living with a single parent has increased dramatically; attitudes towards the traditional family arrangement of husband, wife and children are still what people see as the ideal situation; however, it is likely that non-traditional family arrangements will evolve toward being more accepted.
Already, persons have found it acceptable for women to be gainfully employed, alluding to families in general and children in particular not suffering as a result of this. Additionally, because marriage is seen as an institution for persons who are in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together, persons do not see children being born out of wedlock as a major issue, because people believe that having children is not the purpose of marriage; the number of women giving birth out of wedlock increased dramatically over the past generation.
So although we know the ideal situation to be that of a nuclear family; the reality of the situations is that those who see families only in stereotypical terms of a mother, father, and children have a very inaccurate image of families. References <http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/2064593/families_of_the_21st_century_are_not. html? cat=25> (accessed 20/6/11) <http://chronicle. uchicago. edu/991202/families. shtml> (accessed 20/6/11)