Family units have witnessed significant changes in the American society. These changes have been characterized by never ending court battles in relation to whom between the father and mother should give his or her name as the child’s surname.
Teenagers who have felt that their parents are so imposing in relation to use of drugs and dating have taken their parents to courts. All these changes have revolutionized American family unit. In the 1950’s, the television show Leave it to Beaver’ epitomized the drastic changes that American family units were going through.
The show was a true representation of the happenings in American families where there was a breadwinner father, a homemaker mother, and their children. The traditional family unit that was made up of father, mother, and children has today degenerated into smaller families that comprise single mothers and their children, and unmarried couples who have chosen to cohabitate (Peterson, 1998).
The rates at which divorces are witnessed have doubled with the number of divorcees currently being twice as much as it was in 1966 and thrice as high as it was in the 50’s. Divorce is the sole cause of upsurge of single parent family. Families run by single mothers have tripled from 1960’s. This is also thought to be the reason behind the rise in numbers of couples cohabiting outside marriages. There has been a sharp increase in the number of unmarried couples since 1970.
Sexual revolution is one of the major contributing factors to changes that have been witnessed in families across America. It has been occasioned by revolution in manners and morals. In the contemporary American society, many take to postponing marriages, choosing to live alone.
A similar number has also undertaken to engage in sex before marriage hence the large number of women who confess that they got married when they were not actually married. There is also a sharp increase in the number of people who engage in extramarital sex contrasted to 1940’s when the number of married women below 25 years who engaged in extramarital sex was just 8 per cent. Today, the number has risen to 24 per cent.
The percentage of children born to unmarried mothers is presently standing at over 20 per cent compared to 1960’s five per cent. The rise of advertising, revolution in movie industries, and the rise of fashion have also contributed to change in family unit. With the introduction of birth pills in 1960’s, many took it to be a highly effective contraceptive. Simulated sexual acts started featuring in the screens hence ushering in of public sexuality. Sex life could now be attained outside marriage.
A decision by courts and legislatures to liberalize laws that govern sex and contraception has also contributed to change in family units. This is anchored on decision by Supreme Court in 1957 to narrow legal definition of obscenity.
A decision by mothers to join workforce has reshaped family life. The reason behind this was the rise in cost of living. Because of their desire not to interrupt their jobs these women took to contraception to have control over their fertility.
Clearly, the family unit in America is increasingly becoming weaker. The issue of single parenting and multiple families at childhood is now a reality that Americans have to contend with. Issues touching on teen sex and pregnancy, drug and substance abuse, and improper education of parents are all attributed to changes in family life (Azulic, 1999).
Public policies that are pro-family can be formulated to help strengthen the family unit. Current tax laws like marriage tax can be refined to reduce tax burden on families as this tends to discourage the existence of families, especially low income families. Policies formulated should give credence to the role of marriage and family as financial stress on families lead to family disunity (Ku et al, 1998). Finally, tax policies that penalize married couples should be discouraged as they contribute to family breakups.
Azulic, T. (1999). The fastest growing minority in America. Parade Magazine, January 3, 3-7
Ku, L., Sonenstein, F.L., Lindberg, L.D., Bradner, C. H., Boggess, S., & Pleck, J.H. (1998). Understanding changes in young metropolitan men’s sexual activity: 1979-1995. Family Planning Perspectives, 30 (6), 256-262.
Peterson, K. (1998). Family behavior: Two trends to watch. USA Today, December, 29, 6D.