The families in America are steadily changing. While they remain our most valued and consistent source of strength and comfort, some families are becoming increasingly unstructured. In the past, the typical family consists of a working father, a stay at home mother and, of course, well-rounded children. Today, less than 20 percent of American families fit nicely into this cookie cutter image. American households have never been more diverse. Natalie Angier takes stock of the changing definition of family in an article for the New York Times. A family is seen as a group of people who are biologically or psychologically related. They connect on historical, emotional or economic bonds, and perceive themselves as part of a household. Whilst there are several different types of family by definition, Natalie focuses on the uprising of the atypical form. Natalie portrays five extremely different types of families in order to demonstrate the ongoing changes to average American family.
She then continues to express the key role each family type plays and it affects the daily dynamic of each one. Ranging from a dual career family, to a same sex marriage family with children, all the way to fictive kin, Natalie explains the family dynamic and how it comes to be. The dual career family, in which both parents are working in the labor force, is now the typical family type. When both parents belong to the working labor force, one thinks that the responsibility of upbringing the children becomes more evenly distributed. However Natalie states that, “American men spend 35 to 55 minutes longer on the job each day than women do, while working mothers devote eight more hours a week to child care and housekeeping compared with working fathers.” Even though women have evolved from the stay at home mom, the cultural norm of the maternal instinct still seems to overbear that of the working mom.
On another note, because both parents spend a majority of their day at work and adolescent kids at school, a divide between the family members is created. Natalie states, “researchers determined that even when all of the family members were at home and awake together, they were in the same room only 14 percent of the time.” She continues to say this is due to, “American families are outliers in their fixation on children’s needs and children’s success.” When both parents are concerned with work they become withdrawn from what is going on in their children’s lives. All family members become independent from one another. Therefore the dual career family consists of both parents working, which creates an independent dynamic for the children.
Moving to a different type of family, Natalie introduces what is known as same sex families. In particular, she focuses on a male same sex marriage. If the genders are taken out of the equation, then this family fits perfectly into the nuclear family type, which is a married couple with children. On top of that they are cookie cutter typical because one parent stays with the children while the other goes to work. The only difference is that the children have two dads. In society today gay marriage is not widely accepted, nor is the idea of a same sex family. This is due to the lag in cultural change. The same sex marriage community is a minority that challenges social norms. Because the change is so different, not all Americans have time to adjust to the idea and integrate. Creating challenges for the same sex community, like the accusation that children have problems adapting to their lifestyle, is a common stereotypical behavior. It has been said that kids of same sex families have a higher risk of drug and alcohol problems, troubles with grades, and behavior problems.
Natalie interpolates that the accusations are false. “The Age of Independence: Interracial Unions, Same-sex Unions, and the Changing American Family, the children of same-sex parents are academically and emotionally indistinguishable from those of heterosexual parents.” This support can make the biggest change for American families. Support can create a future where same sex families are able to start a life without discrimination and prejudice every step of the way. Therefore the family dynamic of a same sex couple is often the same as a nuclear family’s dynamic. Additionally, the family of choice consists of people one feels as obligated to as if one was of blood relation. These self-constructed families are no less real or less meaningful than conventional families. In fact, they are known as one’s fictive kin. The bond of this type of family can be formed through several ways. Natalie writes, “for some people, voluntary kinship filled a void left by death or estrangement from biological family, while for others the relationships were supplemental or temporary.”
It can be a friendship that turns into a family or a group that one relates to as a family. Either way, the fictive kin family is a blossoming family type. Increasingly, people refer to this as their second family. Some choose it to be their first family when they feel their biological one has let them down. Therefore, a family dynamic of close bonds built through friendship leads to strong interconnection, and this is referred to as fictive kin. In conclusion the image of the American family takes many different forms. The progression of types of family starts with the nuclear family, and has slowly adapted to the changing culture, creating several different types. Varying from a dual career family, to a same sex marriage family, all the way to fictive kin the family dynamic of each type correlate with the individual family itself.