Changing Families

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Changing Families and the Impact on Surrounding Systems The family has been referred to as the most vital of the social institutions (Alexander, 2010). The definition of what it means to be a family has evolved over the past several generations. In technical terms, the U.S. Census Bureau defines a family as a group of two or more people residing together related by birth, marriage, or adoption. (U.S. Census, 2010). Categories of families that fit this definition include married couples with and without children, blended families, single parent, and extended family households. Same-sex and unmarried couples with and without children and individuals living alone are not included in this group, though they are a rising segment of the population. The make-up of family and household types at any given time has major consequences for society (Katz & Stern, 2007). Major systems such as economic political, legal, and other social institutions are all impacted by changes in family dynamics. This paper will explore the evolution of the family unit and examine the reciprocal link between this shift and surrounding systems. The relationship between these changes and contemporary systems theory will also be discussed. Population information gathered by the U.S. Census bureau provides statistical data illustrating the changing nature of the American family. Though many contemporary families fall into the traditional two parent and child household, census data shows that other categories of families are increasing. Single and unmarried parents, blended, extended, childless couples, same-sex, and individual family units are all increasing. For example, 1960 census data shows that about 9% of children lived in a single parent home.... ... middle of paper ... ... the past several years is the same-sex family. Since the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, changing attitudes have brought more tolerance to the gay and lesbian community. This has somewhat loosened the stigma previously associated with this segment of the population. Along with evolving public attitudes, economic and legal changes in the United States have also reduced barriers previously facing same-sex couples making it more likely for them to form families (Butler, 2004). On the other hand, continued strong institutional ties to marriage between one man and one woman continue to pose problem for this group and shape social agendas (Glenn, 2004; Lind, 2004). While several states and many employers have given recognition and benefits to homosexual partners, there is still no uniform policy in place which addresses their familial rights in the United States.

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