Dynamics of The Modern Family
Sat, April 10, 2021

Dynamics of The Modern Family

The concept and role of families have remained constant throughout the years. That is, with a primary role serving as a stronghold for raising children, and as an avenue to care for the elderly / Photo by: pikselstock via Shutterstock

 

The concept and role of families have remained constant throughout the years. That is, with a primary role serving as a stronghold for raising children, and as an avenue to care for the elderly. But after the 1950s, and accelerating over the last few years, the setup for marriage, divorce, cohabitation, parenthood, and childbearing have changed. This adds new dynamics to each role in the family, and creates a more complex interpersonal relationship that can span even more than just one household.

Shrinking Families

Looking back on years before the 1950s, men and women acted in ways according to what is more socially acceptable, making choices and following strictly only what is available to them: who to form relationships with, how many children to have, or even where to live. But today, according to a Population Bureau Report (PRB), "Dynamics of Family Change in the United States" show that even the prevalence of marriage is declining. In 2014, half of United States adults were married, compared to three-fourths in 1960. Factors driving this include divorce (with less getting married after divorce) and delayed marriage in favor of marriage at an older age. Although this is seen in the United States, numerous other countries are also following in a similar manner. 

Single Parenthood

Alongside growing changes in the structure of the family, we're also seeing a shift in the roles of women both in the workplace and in the household. While expectations still remain with the males as the breadwinner of the family, the roles of females show that more and more are entering the labor force and becoming the primary breadwinners-- earning more financially and having less of a presence in the home. As a result, there is no single dominant figure of the household wherein children are raised; children end up being raised alongside an evolving form of the family. 

Americans are exiting marriage at a higher rate than those in the past. Among men, 76% of first marriages that began in the 1980s were still intact, but in the 1950s, 88% lasted the same length. Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization that conducts public opinion polling to identify trends shaping America, shares that in the 1960s, 73% of all children were living in a family with two married parents on their first marriage. In 1980, only 61% of children were characterized with that kind of family. Today, only 46% (or less than half) are living with a "traditional family" setup. Moreover, the number of children living in households with two parents is at the lowest in 50 years, but even those from two-parent households are experiencing different kinds of family arrangements. 

Alongside growing changes in the structure of the family, we're also seeing a shift in the roles of women both in the workplace and in the household. While expectations still remain with the males as the breadwinner of the family / Photo by: bokan via Shutterstock

 

Blended Families

Typically, babies in the 1960s were born as a result of marriage. Today, four in ten births occur in women who are single or living with a non-marital partner, as mentioned by Pew Research Center's report "Parenting in America." Additionally, the number of children living with two parents has declined significantly, and in the same way, the number of children that live with just one parent, with grandparents, or without any other relatives has increased by almost three times as much. In this setup, we can see families with children from different parents, some adopted, and from different nationalities; cohabitation is on the rise. 

Related to non-marital births are what many call “multi-partner fertility.” As described by Pew Research Center, this is a measure of births from individuals that have had biological children with partners within and outside marriage, and with more than one partner. This has to do with increasing divorces, serial remarriages, cohabitation with non-marital partners. Estimates indicate that 20% of women near the end of their childbearing years would have children from more than one partner. Additionally, three in ten of those would have two or more children, particularly common among Hispanics, blacks, and the less educated.

Families over the years have changed significantly. While the trends may be that families today are getting smaller, from single parents, and with cohabitation from individuals more than just family, maturity and the age of marriage are inversely increasing. In the 1970s the average age of a new mother was 21 years old. Since then, the average age has risen to 26 years, amidst a decline in teen birth. Moreover, unstable living arrangements and complex family relationships affect all individuals alike. Although data from this article is taken from American families, similar scenarios are growing prevalent outside of the United States and Westernized countries.

The shift in dynamics of the family, now becoming known as the "Modern Family", has a likelihood of affecting how individuals deal with one another and indirectly places a risk on growing up poor and reaching old age without a spouse, as mentioned by Alicia VanOrman, PRB Research Associate and Lead Author. Whether this is considered as a positive or negative change is still up for debate.

Families over the years have changed significantly. While the trends may be that families today are getting smaller, from single parents, and with cohabitation from individuals more than just family / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock