Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts Volume 8: The Changing American Family

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Numerous changes are confronting American families, such as racial equality, the relentless decline in marriage, pregnancy disputes, feminism, financial troubles, racism, divorce and single-parent statistics, the growing difficulty of obtaining an education, and the rising age of those who marry and have children. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and female rights are two of these central issues that families face. While racism has been a long-fought encounter that continues to rage on, women of all colors, as well as the LGBT community, face unending discrimination and hatred. Society and family are composed of individuals; the building block of society is founded on family health and structure. A good society is based upon justice and equality; therefore, the health and status of the American family are what impacts our past, present, and future. America will never be a perfect society because people are imperfect. In the past, the treatment of women and those in the LGBT community was considerably less tolerant. However, this treatment should have a tremendous reduction in the present day, regrettably, it does not.
Feminism; the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men, is a very vital aspect of the changing American family. 1 out of 2 women give birth to their child without a husband in America, so it is valuable for these single-parent women to be able to support both themselves and their children. Children born to single-parent families are 600% more likely to be poverty-stricken in the future. It is a ridiculous expectation of these women to be able to do this appropriately if they only receive a fraction of the pay as their male counterparts and seldom obtain the high job positions as men. Per the Pew Research Center’s article, “The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families,” “about six-in-ten wives work today, nearly double the share in 1960” (Pew Research Center, 2010). With this escalation of employed wives, it is imperative that they are treated in the same manner men are, such as receiving equal salaries for identical jobs. In the Pew Research Center’s article, “10 Findings About Women in the Workplace”, they state that “today’s young women are starting their careers better educated than their male counterparts” (Pew Research Center, 2013). Despite this fact, the Pew Research Center additional states that, “in 2012, young women earned 93% of the average hourly wage of men the same age” (Pew Research Center, 2013). Education serves as an integral part in women’s goal of obtaining equivalent positions as their male counterparts. Per the Pew Research Center, “in 1960, less than 6% of women had a college degree. By 2008, that share had climbed to 29%” (Pew Research Center, 2010). As women’s education and employment statistics rise, the American family therefore evolves.
Per the Pew Research Center, spousal roles are shifting. Women have begun to outpace men in educational attainment, ability to manage others, as well as, more resistance in stressful situations. This creates tension between both men and women, as well as their families, because, as we all know, for many people the ideal American family is the typical nuclear family consisting of a father, mother, and their children; with the archetypal ‘normal’ gender roles of marriage. These roles as we know it generally includes the husband serving as both the primary source of income and guardian and the wife as a homemaker and mother; however, these standards are changing. While these new variations to what we once thought was an average family come to light, we must, as a nation, greet them with open arms.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in America has had a very problematic journey in America in obtaining equal rights. Per Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address,” Lincoln states, “four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (Lincoln, 1863). This, unfortunately, isn’t the case with many individuals of the LGBT community. While many dare to come out and freely admit they are LGBT with the help of comforting and understanding societies, several others are still facing hatred and intolerance. Public attitudes toward gay marriages have altered in recent years. Per the Pew Research Center, “in 2007, 50% said more gay and lesbian couples raising children was bad for society (vs. 43% now)” (Per Research Center, 2010). While this change in opinion appears promising, the previous few recent years have seen no progress towards LGBT acceptance. The LGBT community is the key factor of the changing American family structure. Per the Pew Research Center, “some 3 million (37% of) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults have had a child at some point in their lives” (Per Research Center, 2014). A recent analysis by the Pew Research Center also found that homosexual marriages have greatly increased over the past year, and fewer than half of the 15-year polls on this issue have been opposed to those of the LGBT community to marry each other. Homosexual marriage is beginning to be more acceptable in America. Per the Pew Research Center’s article, “Gay Marriage Gains More Acceptance,” “this year, 60% say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, while 30% oppose this” (Pew Research Center, 2010). Gay marriage is now becoming legal in many states in America, leaving some still in the process. The battle for LGBT rights is continued to be fought as many demographic, political and religious groups are leisurely coming to terms with this change to the American family.
The entire United States is experiencing economic and socio-political changes; an individual’s value, the standard family model, and the social system all are shifting towards new directions. Also, these variations all have a mutual effect on society. The changes towards individual values will affect the standard family model, and then, the changes to the standard family model will influence the social system as well as many other areas of American culture. Recently, the Pew Research Center explained that there is a sharp decline in marriage and a rise of new family forms which have been shaped by attitudes and behaviors that differ by class, age, sexual preference, and race. It is a great challenge for men, family unity, as well as the society of the United States. The changing role of women and men in a family is the most significant factor that causes divorce.
The divorce rate has steadily increased since the turn of the century. Recent findings have shown that one-third of marriages in America end in divorce. With this substantial divorce rate, more families will become a single-parent run household, and therefore, their children will more likely grow into a single-parent household as well. The divorce rate presently is actually decreasing; however, this is just due to the decline of marriage. This decline in marriage and other areas that affect families in present-day America, all increase instability among both parents and their children. Additionally, the American family’s structure has changed, but only partly because of the transformations of women’s roles. Women’s roles have altered not only because of the women’s movement but also because of the changing economy. Our economy is now dominated by white-collar and industrial labor jobs; women tend to only make up a large part of the service sector.
Also, the Pew Research Center explains that “the share of births to unmarried women has risen dramatically over the past half-century, from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2008” (Pew Research Center, 2010). The public believes children of single parents face more challenges than other children and have many negative effects on American society such as child abuse, deprived educational outcomes, poverty, and unfortunate social well-being; these will be the threats to the development of the American society. The age at which Americans wed is higher as well; “today, the median age at first marriage is 29 for men and 27 for women—the highest in modern history. (In 2013, more than one-in-four (26%) of people ages 18 to 32 were married. But in 1960, well over half (65%) of Americans were)” (Pew Research Center, 2014). The factors that cause this growth in the age at which people marry is due to several influences such as finances and the changing roles of women in the American family. Mothers are also waiting longer to give birth due to these same reasons. The job of raising a child is considered to be harder than it was in the past and unless a suitable spouse is found, raising a child in America can be very problematic. This is due to the complications involved with balancing motherhood and their careers.
With these developments of the American family, society’s perception of America, as well as the American economy, continue to deteriorate. Per a new Pew Research Center nationwide survey, the transformative trends of the past 50 years have driven to an immense decay in marriage. However, couples are now finding themselves living together without the bonds of marriage. The Census Bureau released a report this year, stating that the number of unmarried couples living together has increased from 6.7 million to 7.5 million; this shows that marriage is deemed unnecessary in today’s American society. Although living together despite being wed can make financial sense as well as create an improved environment to raise children in, the benefits of marriage seem to not be adequate to outweigh the cost of the wedding itself, as well as potentially expensive divorces. Cohabitation has a momentous impact on the development of the economy. Per the Pew Research Center, about a third of adults who have had an unmarried, living partner say finances were a central consideration in their decision to reside together. While marriage is thought to be based on love, we are seeing a steady rise in the requirements of other areas such as income and availability for the other spouse to help in raising their children.
The reasons why these changes in the American family are so important are outlined in John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government,” which defines the concept of just power. He states, “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Locke, 2002). Locke also explains the social contract, which is an agreement of following just actions, and not so much the laws of our governments. We all abide by this social contract, and that is what gives us the God-given rights to pursue happiness by choosing how, why, and when we choose to start and care for a family. Locke further explains that people are inherently imperfect and that since society and government are comprised of people, they will, therefore, be imperfect.
We as a nation, live in a constantly evolving melting pot of different cultures, races, religions, sexual preferences, political views, and financial classes. As time goes on, the American nuclear family, as we were taught by our forefathers, is changing. Women now are rising to new educational and career heights and the LGBT community, while still in progress, is finally receiving less oppression and increased marriage rights and parenting acceptance. Due to many contributing factors, the divorce rate is declining in response to the reduction in marriages; and with this, a rise in cohabitation among Americans. Also, the median age for the minor few who choose to be wed is growing as financial and spousal issues become more prevalent. Unfortunately, more children today are being born to single mothers than ever before creating instability in the household.
Furthermore, racism is still prevalent in America, however per the Pew Research Center, “in 1980, just 7% of all marriages in the U.S. were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity. In 2010, that share has doubled to 15% of all new marriages in the U.S.” (Pew Research Center, 2014). With these changes to the American family, the future may seem unclear and even unsettling. However, one thing we do know is that the American society is finally starting to understand the words of influential figures such as John Locke and Abraham Lincoln, in that we are all born free to pursue the greatest dream of all for us and our families, happiness.
  
References:
Pew Research Center. (2010, October 6). “Gay Marriage Gains More Acceptance.” Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
Pew Research Center. (2010). “Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families.” Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
Pew Research Center. (2014). “5 Facts About the Modern American Family”. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
Pew Research Center. (1997). “Motherhood Today-Tougher Job, Less Ably Done.” Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
Pew Research Center. (2013, December 11). “10 Findings of Women in the Workplace”. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
United States Census Bureau. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
Locke, J. (2002). “The Second Treatise on Government.” Mineola: Dover Thrift Editions.
Lincoln, Abraham. (1863). “The Gettysburg Address.” 
 
 
 
 

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