An American family composed of the mother, father, children, and extended family. The American family structure is considered a traditional family support system involving two married individuals providing care and stability for their biological offspring. However, this two-parent, nuclear family has become less prevalent, and alternative family forms have become more common. The family is created at birth and establishes ties across generations. Those generations, the extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, can hold significant emotional and economic roles for the nuclear family.
Over time, the traditional structure has had to adapt to very influential changes, including divorce and the introduction of single-parent families, teenage pregnancy and unwed mothers, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and increased interest in adoption. Social movements such as the feminist movement and the stay-at-home dad have contributed to the creation of alternative family forms, generating new controversy and concern for the American family.
CHAPTER I - Family at a glance
1. Nuclear family
The nuclear family is considered the "traditional" family. The nuclear family consists of a mother, father, and the children. The two-parent, nuclear family has become less prevalent, and alternative family forms have become more common. These include homosexual relationships, single-parent households, and adopting individuals. The nuclear family is also choosing to have less children then in the past. The percentage of married-couple households with children under 18 has declined to 23.5 percent of all households in 2000 from 25.6 percent in 1990, and from 45 percent in 1960.
The popularity of the nuclear family in the West, as opposed to extended family living together, came about in the early 20th century, prompted in part by business practices of Henry Ford, such as the "8 hour day, $5 week", and later the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This enabled more and more families to be economically independent, and thus to own their own home.
Family arrangements in the US have become more diverse with no particular households arrangement being prevalent enough to be identified as the average; however, 70% of children in the US live in traditional two-parent families.
Current information from United States Census Bureau shows that 70% of children in the US live in traditional two-parent families, with 60% living with their biological parents, and that "the figures suggest that the tumultuous shifts in family structure since the late 1960s have leveled off since 1990."
If considered separate from couples without children, single parent families, or unmarried couples with children, in the United States traditional nuclear families appear to constitute a minority of households with rising prevalence of other family arrangements.
Family arrangements such as blended families, binuclear families (separated spouses marrying new spouses with children), and single-parent families are typically referred to as postmodern families.
Today nuclear families with the original biological parents constitute roughly 24.1% of households, compared to 40.3% in 1970. Roughly 75% (or percent) of all children in the United States will spend at least some time in a single-parent household. According to some sociologists, "[The nuclear family] no longer seems adequate to cover the wide diversity of household arrangements we see today." (Edwards 1991; Stacey 1996). A new term has been introduced, postmodern family, which is meant to describe the great variability in family forms, including single-parent families and child-free couples."
Families in the United States: Their Current Status and Future Prospects (Mark A. Fine)
Marriages and families (Nijole V. Benokraitis)
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