July 8th 2013
The traditional family has typically been represented as a father, mother, and one or more children.
In this traditional structure, the father was usually the breadwinner, meaning he would
be the family’s primary source of income.
The mother, on the other hand, was usually the caretaker of the household, in that she would mind the children, the cooking, cleaning, and so on.
The traditional family model is often seen in older TV shows, particularly shows from the50s. In one such show, “Leave it to Beaver”, Ward Cleaver goes to work every day so he can“bring home the bacon”, as it were. In this show, the wife June Cleaver stays home and takes care of the house and children.
Many people consider “Leave it to Beaver” a strong model of the
family from that time period, and they may wish for a return to that family scenario.
Should this be considered the traditional family?Before the First and Second Revolutions, communities in the USA tended towards agriculture, and farming tasks had to be done manually rather than with machines (Carlson,2001).
Many families ran their own artisan shops during this period. The wealthier families would own plantations. As an example of the agricultural families, during the 1800s many families in the south would own family farms (Carlson, 2001).
These farms would be passed down over generations and the children were the key in keeping these farms producing additional goods. Thus, in these families, procreation took a special meaning in that the offspring could be trusted as new community members who would become responsible farmers also. These children would be trained well by their parents and would require little instruction from the surrounding community regarding farming methods.
These agricultural families had a family structure which could solve the problems which are facing many modern families. Our society is constantly looking for methods of better care for the young, the old, the weak, and the infirm.
Before the industrial revolution, families could take care of their own members who had these issues, because they worked together as a unit and were not as individualistic.
The traditional family did not always consist only of the mother,father, and children. It would also sometimes include grandparents, uncles, and aunts. These families would stay together and share their problems and responsibilities together.
However, in time the families would drift apart, because of technological intervention within their dependence on one another.As time progressed, technology made work easier, including farming work. For this reason, Artisans became hobbyists.
Traditional methods of agriculture were shunned in favor of mechanical solutions. A tractor was able to do the work of several farmers by itself in just a few hours. Fathers, instead of helping with farming, would work in factories away from the home.Mothers would stay at home and continue their domestic duties.
Children, instead of helping with farming or business after they grew up, would leave the home and create their own families.Technology was interfering with the family structure.
Up until that point, children would grow into adults and would assume responsibility for the older adults who had taken care of these offspring when they were younger. This was considered a duty of the offspring, because the older adults had cared enough to work hard to love and take care of them.
The older adults were no longer able to take care of themselves once they aged, it was assumed that their next of kin would love and care for them in the same way.In modern families, these older adults are instead turned over to nursing homes, where their offspring are able to shun their debt to their parents, believing that the nursing homes will be
sufficient care. This trend towards nursing home use is a growing one nowadays; and public policy is not helping to slow this trend.During the Great Depression, the elderly had no choice but to keep working until death.
The government claimed to have a solution in the form of Social Security. The Social Security Act was passed with the promise of providing retirement funds for the elderly (Social Security).It was a good idea in the beginning, but the idea had problems.
Social Security is funded via a tax that one pays when they are younger and working, the tax accumulates within the Social Security fund, and when one reaches a certain age those funds are expected to be available for a comfortable and easy retirement (Social Security).
This is the theory regarding Social Security,however the system has evolved such that now an employee pays a Social Security tax which goes into a big pot that the government is in control of. The government now decides how much
of one’s own funds that are paid into Social Security that they will get back.
The government tends to also access these Social Security funds for its own benefit. The government use of these funds creates a problem, in that the younger generation of workers is expected to replenish them so that the funds will be still available for the elder workers when needed.
The problems of this system will be discussed later. With the government providing for the elderly, families would begin to consist only of a father, mother, and children. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles would live separately from their younger kin, and the traditional family was now damaged somewhat.
By the 1950’s, technology was providing great innovations that would assist a mother
with her household chores. The mother would use these innovations such that she would have more time for her own desires. The feminist movement, which began before the 50s, began toencourage women away from the home and towards careers or jobs (Carlson, 2012). Women began greatly following this trend, leaving one to wonder whom was responsible for childcare.
A new structure was starting to develop within the family, in that both the father and mother were working, and care of the offspring was shunned. The childcare issue was then assumed by schools and then daycare centers (Carlson, 2001).
The children would be watched over by these institutions until their parents were home. At this point, the home was a resting place for the adults rather than a rich center of daily activity for the family. In the words of Christopher Lasch, the home was becoming “a home in a heartless world”
(Lasch, 1977). The home at this point where a family would consume food together, share a few hours together watching TV or listening to radio, and would sleep under the same roof.
This situation potentially led to problems forthcoming.Materialism has also created problems for the family. For the sake of gaining wealth,families have been willing to work longer hours and odd schedules.
In the past, with the exception of a few jobs, most jobs had folks working weekdays from 9 to 5, and parents would have only a few hours together in the evening. In more recent times, however, businesses are staying open later, with some even being open 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.
This can cause parents to have little or no time together, and divorce can be a result. Even if a married couple has greatly loved each other in the past when they were seeing each other daily, if they are separated for several weeks by their jobs they can grow apart (Swan, 2009).
This separation can also lead to affairs, since these married adults are looking for others to fill the gap which is left by the absence of their spouse. Affairs also lead to divorce. When divorce happens, single parent families result, since the children tend to be granted to either their father or mother via the government.
Before 1963, the government offered Federal Tax incentives that encouraged marriages and childbirth (Carlson, 2001). The Tax Reform act was passed in 1963, it dismantled these
incentives (Carlson, 2001). Because of this, the birth rate has been in decline, and less people are paying into Social Security. As mentioned earlier, the young people have provided the tax funds for Social Security when they work, since the government has been taking money from Social Security beforehand.
With the birth rate in decline, there were and are less people in the work force following the Baby Boomers, which means funds are not being replenished to Social Security. With this trend, Social Security will go bankrupt.
The elderly will no longer be able to rely on Social Security for their welfare.Another trend that is occurring in very recent times is homosexual couples. Homosexuals are usually criticized for being different, as they are different; but they are capable of providing a two-parent home.
Children are better off in life with two parents, and a homosexual couple can provide more financial and emotional support for children than a single parent household.
However, homosexual couples are seen as taboo by society, and some states do not recognize these couples (Fagan, 2010). How can we judge these couples, however, if we are not creating the conditions where a “traditional” family would thrive
In the past, families collectively took care of themselves. In more recent times and nowadays, individualism has become the norm.
This will continue unless we all go back to the multi generational family unit from beforehand (Bengtson, 2010).
If we did this, so many of our problems would be solved.
How can we criticize single-parent families when the conditions that created these families were brought on by us?
Bengtson, V. L. (2001). Beyond The Nuclear Family: The Increasing Importance of Multi generational Bonds. THE BURGESS AWARD LECTURE*. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(1), 1-16.
Carlson, A. (2012). The Fifties Illusion: The Cultural Dry Rot that Doomed the Postwar Era.
The Family in America, 26 (2), 127-137.
Carlson, A. C. (2001.). The Howard Center: The Family in America.
The Radical Change in American Culture-How Did We Get to This Point?
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Christensen, B. (n.d.). The Howard Center: The Family in America.
Why Homosexuals Want What Marriage Has Now Become.
Retrieved July 5, 2013, fromhttp://www.profam.org/pub/fia/fia_1804.htm
Fagan, P. (2010). The Family GDP: How Marriage and Fertility Drive the Economy.
The Family in America,24b(2), 135-149.
Social Security History. (n.d.). The United States Social Security Administration. Retrieved July8, 2013, from http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssn/ssb36.html
Swan, G. (2009). 15 The Deconstruction of Marriage, Part 1: The Law and Economics of Unilateral No-Fault Divorce. The Family in America,23 (3), 16-34.
Lasch, C. (1977).
Haven in a heartless world: the family besieged . New York: Basic Books.
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