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American Family Paper

The American Family Paper

If your tutor told you to write a term paper on American family, the topic would be so broad. The sociological definition of the term has changed with time. In the past, marriage meant a union between a consenting man and woman of legal age. The traditional sociological interpretation envisages a nuclear unit made of a husband, a wife and children. The husband was the provider while the wife was the caregiver. That is the ideal American family according to history.


What changed?

The modern American family structure has changed. Domestic violence, which causes separation and divorce, has raised the phenomena of single parenthood. The roles and functions of members of the modern American families have changed. If you go back to the history of the 19th Century family, the purpose of marriage was to stay together until death. Divorce and separation were rare.

During the era of coverture, a married woman could not own property, enter into legal contracts or be sued or sue in courts of law. On the contrary, the husband provided for the family both in law and social norms. Men managed the finances of the family. The husband’s role was to help the survival of the family.

Getting children and living together outside marriage was legally prohibited. By the close of the 19th century, the family structure changed as marriage laws were lenient. People welcomed the common-law of marriage.


Government’s Role in the Family

The Married Women’s Property Acts, which began in 1839, allowed women’s property ownership. There were other developments in the American family that took place in the first half of the 19th Century. Women also became independent legal entities. They could enter into contracts. The only remaining part was that husbands defined the role of the women.

The government legislated for compulsory education, against child labor and gave pension to widows to help poor mothers to live with their children. All these laws did not threaten the fabric of the family.  The bond strengthened. Some more changes took place and the compassion and love brought the idea of choice in relationships.

The American family gradually started experiencing divorce and it went threefold between 1860 and 1910.


The Great Depression

The great depression saw a reduction in rates of young couple marriages and bearing of children for the married people. This was as a result of wage reduction. The rate of divorce also went down as it was a costly process that only a few could afford. It is noteworthy that by 1940, 2 million coupled had separated. Some families adapted to working as unified units. Women helped husbands to pay bills while children took part-time jobs.


The family in the Pre-and Post World War II

Immediately after the Great Depression ended, the 2nd World War started. New challenges erupted. Some men participated in the war hence long separations. Schools were not available. Women ran their family affairs alone. They even provided for the children singlehandedly. Truancy, juvenile delinquency and pregnancies out-of-wedlock increased.

In reaction to challenges at home for women and abroad for men in 1940s, there was a paradigm shift in the decade that followed. Women on average got married at the age of 20. The levels of divorce stabilized as well. However,  the rest 40% of children in the US lived in both shared responsibility and separated families. The remaining 60% lived in a provider-father and care-giving mother family setting.

There was liberalization of the ideals of the family setting. There was unification of the family and the economy. The economy and the society as a whole were also integrated. The merger of the family and the economy brought an economic boom . Manufacturing and consumer goods’ production went up. The income went up but the prices of goods went down. Saving was possible. In 1950s, there was construction of about 13.1 Million new homes.

The threat and suffering of the war period made the families come closer. Couples and families could afford living in suburbs. Young people wanted close-knit family ties to avoid divorces like their parents. The World War II Soldiers were ready to start families.


The Modern American Family

In the last 50-80 years, marriages have become more liberalized. There are more divorces and single parenthood than any other time in history.  Gay, lesbians and transgender unions have gained recognition and support. A big percentage of the population has started accepting interracial marriages. There is a percentage of adults who have decided not to get married.

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