Around 1985, President Reagan in his state of the union address said that as the family goes so does the concept of civilization. Sociologists have considered the family as a form of a cell, making up the society and when this cell is undernourished, then the entire body will succumb. The family disintegration can be easily traced back to family breakdown caused by loss of direction and values.
Family as the most important agent of socialization
The family is considered the most prestigious institution since it is the first system where children are acculturated and have the opportunity to learn core values and attain their sense of belonging. Therefore, family as an institution is vital since it is a basic unit of social structure in addition to being a primary agent of socialization. The family is, therefore, critical in enhancing the stability of the society (Popenoe, 1993). The family can further shape an individual’s character through regulating one’s social behaviour. The family often assumes the primary responsibility to develop a child and has been argued to have a considerable guise in the integration with society.
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The dramatic changes to the American family
It is worth to note that the American family is not exactly what it used to be because it went through a drastic change, starting from the year 1960. The 19th century brought with it significant changes to the family. For instance, throughout the first half of the century, a considerable majority of married women started to access property rights as established by the Married Women’s Property Acts, which had been set in motion in in 1839. According to Popenoe, (1993), around 20th century, some states allowed married women to own property, to sue an individual, and in turn, to be sued. The family stability was mainly tested by the Great Depression as increased rates of unemployment in addition to lower wages forced a majority of Americans to delay their marriages and procreation. At this period, divorce rates dropped rapidly since it was very expensive for most people to afford it. A large number of children were forced to take part in various part-time jobs, and the women supplemented the family income. After the Great Depression, the WWII began, and families had to cope with new issues such as lack of housing, prolonged separation and even lack of schools (McPherson, Smith-Lovin & Brashears, 2006). The women were forced to run the household and to look after children and some had to work in the war industries. War-stricken state caused to massive family disintegration, unwed pregnancies and increased juvenile crimes.
For the last 60 years, US family has seen the massive rising of divorce cases the highest of any industrialized state. There are increased cases of cohabitation rather than committing to marriages. There has also been a blended family of both gay and heterosexual design, and a significant number of children are born out of wedlock. All these have indicated a shift from what used to be an ideal family in the early 1920s. Since the year the 1960s, the society has turned to be highly inclusive, and women have ventured into career gaining financial independence. These have caused greater tension in modern marriages. In most marriages characterized by increased levels of conflict, which for instance may include overt emotional abuse or violence, the children benefit greatly when such partnerships are dissolved. The adults in most instances tend to bring their unresolved conflicts into parenting and romance and ion the process put their needs for gratification before the children’s interests (Popenoe, 1993).
The differences in marriage and family life
The primary differences in marriage and family life are that most people have turned out to be highly open- minded. In the recent years, it has been argued that is it acceptable for individuals to marry beyond their races and classes ideas that highly and strongly prohibited by communities. In addition to this, the married women have come out increasingly to become dual or the primary income earners of the family. On the other hand, men have also stepped out talking increased responsibilities with various household chores and even helping their wives with the role of children rearing. The other significant change in the family is based on the fact that gay and lesbian partnerships have become accepted in the modern society. Today, we have very many lesbian and gay couples (McPherson, Smith-Lovin & Brashears, 2006).
Trend toward diverse families is positive
In my understanding, I believe that the trend towards the diverse families is positive. It is important that all people should have a say when it comes to the decision making of the partners they would wish to get marriage to (Bianchi, Robinson & Milke, 2006). Further, it is the personal choice for a person to either get married or not. There is thus the little problem with the change regarding the living situation today and the past. It does not necessarily matter whether an individual is married before having children or even couples are divorce and moving in with another person who would help in rearing the child. Today, as it has been established, gay and lesbian marriages have increased and have become accepted by the society, and some states have further legalized marriage. It can be said that families have become diverse because the individual has become more accepting and open-minded than before. Cultures and ethnic communities have blended effectively in the US than any other state implying that families would continue to be diverse.
If the trend changed toward traditional (pre-World War II) families, how would that affect women?
In the event the change experienced had moved towards traditional (pre-world II) families, then it would have followed that the society would become highly obsessed with the idea of returning women back to what was believed to have been their proper place. They would have remained as homemakers while at the same time convert men from the adventurous soldiers to a dependable breadwinner (Bianchi, Robinson & Milke, 2006). The women would not have been allowed to pursue educations and engage into careers rather; they would be confined at home looking after children and home. Men would have been increasingly involved in making money to care for their wives and children. Women would not have attained their independence, and this might have reduced the increasing rates of divorce. Evidently, a lot had changed and cannot be returned to the initial days when women were homemakers. However, women have been forced to perform the dual tasks of looking after the children and advancing in their carriers.
It is clear that the family is the most important institution in the society based on the critical role they play regarding socialization. There has been an increased dramatic change that has rapidly changed the American families. Marriage and families have also changed in the US. Evidently, the trends experienced have changed the entire aspect of the family than what it used to be.
Bianchi, S. M., Robinson, J. P., & Milke, M. A. (2006). The changing rhythms of American family life . Russell Sage Foundation.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Brashears, M. E. (2006). Social isolation in America: Changes in core discussion networks over two decades. American sociological review , 71 (3), 353-375.
Popenoe, D. (1993). American family decline, 1960-1990: A review and appraisal. Journal of Marriage and the Family , 527-542.