The Impact of Non-Traditional Families in the Twenty-First Century The image of the American family looks and functions very differently than families of the past few decades. Men and women raised in the 1950's and 1960's when programs such as "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Father Knows Best" epitomized the average family, are likely to find themselves in situations that have changed dramatically. Research claims that many family structures are common: single-parent families, remarried couples, unmarried couples, step families, foster families, multi-generational families, extended families, and the doubling up of two families within the same home. Marriage, divorce, and patterns of childbirth are some of the factors that have contributed to these significant changes in families. With these changes comes the possibility of remarriage and the creation of new families which bring together parents and children without blood ties. These are called "blended families" and are more prevalent today than thirty years ago because divorce rates are rising and remarriages are much more common (Mahoney 40).
These issues are the major factors that have had an impact on the structure of the American family. Significant changes are occurring in marriage patterns in the United States. Individuals are postponing marriage until later in life and more people are choosing not to get married. Current statistics indicate that the marriage rate between 1970 and 1990 fell almost thirty percent (Ahlburg and DeVita 24). Compared with the 1960's marriages have a shorter average duration. A smaller portion of a person's life is actually spent in marriage, despite gains in life expectancy. In their research, Dennis Ahlburg and Carol DeVita describe an explanation for these facts: While these facts often lead to speculation that the institution of marriage is crumbling, the number of marriages that occurred throughout the 1980's was at an all time high.