Modern Family: What the Changing American Household Looks Like Today
Today’s modern family isn’t defined in the same ways it once was. The traditional family, as it was known as in the 1960s, consisted of two heterosexual parents who married young, a father that worked outside of the home, a stay-at-home mom, and the statistical 2.4 children. American households look much different today and continue to change with our socioeconomic fluidity.
Today, men and women are choosing to marry a lot later in life. With the divorce rate continually rising, the concept of “till death do us part” has diminished resulting in more divorce, remarriage, and diversity in the configuration of the family unit. Those complexities often require the expertise of a divorce lawyer to work out custody and child support issues and children’s ages are varying more with remarriage and economic shifts for families in the middle class. The law in many states is also coming to allow homosexual partners to marry and build families together. Supporting them in legal ways had also changed the dynamics of many household across the country.
When a second or third marriage occurs, the resulting relationships are referred to as a blended family. Step-children and new parents become a part of the newly formed family unit. Patience and understanding is required to reach the point of progressing from a blended family to a bonded family. Today’s family may include a blending of children of various ages from one or more previous marriages, as well as children born into the newly formed family unit. More and more blended families continue to shift the dynamic and diversity of what it means to be part of a family today.
Family Role Differences
While it was once the father who left home to go to work and the mother who stayed at home, that isn’t always the case with today’s family. There continues to be an increase in the number of stay-at-home dads. New laws which allow gay men and women to marry have resulted in the expansion of the definition of family as well. Bi-racial marriages and the union of two people from different cultural backgrounds have also brought a significant change to the landscape of the American family. This country continues to be a melting pot of cultural mixtures and changes the definition of family.
There has also been an increase in multi-generational living arrangements. Boomerang children is the term that has been given to adult children who return home after living on their own for a while, and that trend continues to rise with the rising cost of living and education.
Another multi-generational household configuration includes grandparents who have moved in with their adult children. Quite often, in this family grouping, there will be grandparents and grandchildren living in the same home. Social constructs of the role of grandparents is still flexible, with some being constant caregivers in the home. Young children who bond with grandparents early on will often be more empathetic and able to adapt with a changing environment.
Today’s American household and the house itself have taken on a different appearance. In a shared dwelling, it’s important that everyone have a place to call their own. Accessibility issues may need to be addressed in multi-generational housing situations as well as health and mobility. Today’s complex families are taking on new meaning and changing the landscapes of both youth and adult with how families are able to interact and share with each other. More diversity in the family, means more diversity across the board and laws and social constructs and changing to adapt to new grounds. More changes in the economy have also shifted what it means to be a middle class American family and where our values as a country lie.