The American family

Essay by courtney rauschenberUniversity, Bachelor's December 2004

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The children are leaving for school just as father grabs his briefcase and is off to work. Meanwhile, mother finishes clearing the breakfast dishes and continues on with her day filled with PTA, housework, and the preparation of a well-balanced meal to be enjoyed by all when father gets home promptly at 6:00 p.m. This would have to be a scene from "Father Knows Best", Leave It to Beaver" or that of a family during or before the sixties. Only a small minority of contemporary families fit the mold of being a "nuclear" family today. Until about the 1960's most Americans shared a common set of beliefs about family life, a family should consist of a husband and a wife living together with their children. The father being the head of the family, earns the family's income, and gives his name to his wife and children. Today, we exhibit a pattern of disruptions in marriages and family structure, including single parent families and high rates of divorce.

Certainly divorce has to be stressful for our nation's children and adolescents, leading the American family and the nation's future to a state of crisis. It is startling that whether through their parents' divorce or never having been married, nearly every other American child spends part of his or her childhood in a single-parent family. The increase in the proportion of children living with just one parent has strongly affected large numbers of children. By the time they reach age sixteen, close to half the children of married parents will have seen their parents divorce. For nearly half of these, it will be five years or more before their mothers remarry. Close to half of all white children whose parents remarry will see the second marriage dissolve during their adolescence. With all of...