Changes in family
By: Chandler Noe
Changes in Family over the Past Fifty Years
The American family is not the same as it used to be. it's much more, suggest findings of one of the most extensive surveys ever done on attitudes about families.
The definition of "family" has grown to include more than just the stereotypical married Mom, Dad and kids. The survey, by Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., was based on responses from about 2,500 adults surveyed last month.
-86% say a single parent and child are a family
-80% say an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family
-63% say a that a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family (which would have never happened in the past)
-88% say a childless married couple is a family
-but 54% say a couple living together with no children is not a family.
MARRIAGE: almost 40% of people say its pointless
What the Professors say
"Families are more diverse and the structure of them is more in flux," says sociologist Kelly Musick of Cornell University. "One of the things that's happened is people have lot more leeway to design the families that work for them."
Stephanie Cootz, a professor of family studies at Evergreen State College in Washington says people think today of "family as a relationship rather than an institution."
"If you have a close relationship and act committed, then you count as family, If you're making obligations to partners and kids, you get counted as family, as opposed to older ways of thinking when it was purely the legal definition."
Brian Powell, a professor of sociology at Indiana University has emerssed himself in this feild
"Americans are focusing less on the structure of family per se and instead they're focusing on the functions or purpose of family," he says. "Think about what families do. Families take care of each other. Families help each other out. They love each other. As long as Americans have a signal out there that a living arrangement is doing those types of tasks, then they're willing to accept the idea that these are families."
Powell's research has found that gay couples with children were included in 54% of Americans' definition of family in 2003, increasing to 62% in 2006 and 68% in 2010.
He says gay families portrayed in media "really reinforces the idea that there is a broader array of families than we used to think."