Chapter 11

Families and Intimate Relationships
Chapter 11
By Shelly Aufrecht
In the last century the look and structure of a family has changed dramatically. Divorce, economic changes, child care changes as well as other social issues has changed the look of a family. (Sociology in Our Times) The “Leave it to Beaver” family with June as the stay at home mom taking care of her boys Wally and “The Beaver” and Ward as the primary bread-winner is a thing of the past. Today we have many different family options from the traditional two-parent family, single-parent family, blended families, extended families, and non-traditional families.
The nuclear family can best describe our “Leave it to Beaver” family. The nuclear family is a mother, a father and their biological or adopted children. The nuclear family is often referred to as a traditional family or two-parent family. Nuclear families are divided into three kinds. The first type is the man works outside the home while the woman works in the home caring for the children. The second type is the woman works outside the home and the man cares for the children. This trend has becoming more popular in the last few years. We have even coined the term “stay at home dad.” The third type is when both the wife and the husband work outside the home and provide income for the family. Due to the economics of today this has become a necessity for some families to make ends meet. It has been proven beneficial when both parents take active roles in raising the children for all involved.
Single-parent families are on the rise in recent years. In this family only one parent is in the house raising the children. High divorce rates and people choosing not to marry are causing single-parent households to be the fastest growing family type in North America. Most of the single-parent households are headed by single divorced woman, separated, widowed, or never married. Teen pregnancies also contribute to single-parent families. Children living in single-parent homes sometimes struggle with academic issues, early marriages and parenthood, and then higher divorce rates, and alcohol and drug abuse. Financial difficulties often plague single-parent families with child care being the primary cost.
Blended families consist of a husband, wife and children from previous marriages, and children (if any) from the new marriage. (Sociology in Our Times) Another term for blended families is a step family. Images of blended families can be anywhere from “The Brady Bunch” to Disney’s “Cinderella”. The word “step” usually brings negative images such as the evil step mother or step monster. When parents remarry they have hopes for the success with their new family. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed when merging two families but it can be done and everyone can live happily ever after.
Non-Traditional families can take on a very broad definition. A non-traditional family can be anything from foster parents, multiracial parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, and same-sex parents.
In the perfect world we all would live in a happy nuclear family with a two parent family and children co-existing under one roof. Unfortunately society today has undergone many changes since the “Leave it to Beaver” era. No matter what kind of family you have we can be rest assured the families still offer companionship, security, and a measure of protection in an often uncaring world. The family is still a very important element in all of our lives. Although no family is perfect, and there is the old adage, “you can’t pick your relatives” the majority of us would still pick the family we were given.
Sociology in Our Times, Diana Kendall, 7th Edition

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