Free «Family Changes Over Time in U.S.» Essay
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Numerous studies reveal an ever-dynamic trend in family as an institution in the society. Early researches like Coontz (2006) indicate that the constituent of family had a well-defined reason and purpose that were inclined towards gender orientation. During the early times of my grandparents, a family was strictly considered to constitute a man, woman, and children. They have often narrated to me that the arrival of a child to a newly marriage couple was considered as the final nail to bind the two couples forever. According to my grandparents, the concept of divorce was unheard of and people entered in marriage with the intent of staying there until death separates them. However, with increased civilization, our family has changed alongside others with time. It is clear that what is acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow (Gerson, 2010). This paper discusses family patterns in specific periods starting with the time of my grandparents up to my own generation.
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Discussion of Grandparents Family Patterns, Link to Specific Times
My paternal grandparents married in early 1950s during a period when many people around the world were just coming out of the devastating effects of the Second World War. The number of people around the world had drastically reduced for a number of reasons. Coontz (2006) argues the major reason was the unavailability of men to sire children with their wives because they were always in the battlefield. This period was therefore characterized by baby boom where husbands and wives did not care about the number of children they were going to get. After all, many families were competing to give birth. My grandparents were not left out either, since they gave birth to 6 children.
The second trend that characterized this generation was gender stereotyping. Even though my grandfather was belonging to the elite group in the society and was a war veteran, he heavily subscribed this practice. My grandmother did not hold a formal job and, therefore, was expected to perform most of the housework including cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. Just like other men, my grandfather was supposed to work in the garden after his formal job which helped him provide for the family. Characteristically, my grandmother spent most of her time inside the house and this meant that she was the one to take care of the children and oversee all the duties related with them. As expected of her, she was the one supposed to feed and care for the children even as they were increasing in number.
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These mothering activities were monotonous and irritating as evidenced by the agitation of women rights in 1970s (Gerson, 2010). This was a sign to indicate that women were bothered with the duties that they were doing in their homes and wanted their husbands to participate more. However, even with these disparities in parenting, my grandparents were child-centered and placed a higher premium on the welfare of their children. Just like was expected of the few fortunate men of the time, my grandfather ensured that his children go to good schools, while my grandmother, on the other hand, ensured that her children have all the moral and social support expected of them.
Mainstream Trends in Family Life and Formation in U.S. Contemporaneous With Grandparents
One of the mainstream trends in the U.S. family was the issue of sexual relationships where two people who intended to marry were not expected to participate in sexual encounters with each other before marriage (Gerson, 2010). Marriage was a highly sacred institution, thus, cohabitation or sexual encounter before marriage was seen as a taboo to many families in the U.S. Just like other parents, my grandparents jealously protected their children from engaging in any sexual encounters before solemnizing their marriage officially. During their time, children were taught how to respect the opposite sex. They were invariably condemned if they did overlook these instructions.
Additionally, the man was always supposed to be the leader of the house for he was supposed to engage in productive activities outside the house. The woman on the other hand, was deemed strong if her house was always impeccably arranged and there was order in the house right from the arrangement of furniture to the cooking and child caring (Gerson, 2010).
During the period of my grandparents, couples were willing to share responsibilities of parenthood, including house chores. Coontz (2006) notes that there is a revelation that couples did not spend time arguing who does what in the house. Child bearing was a responsibility that each parent identified with and, hence, my grandparents were willing and readily available to help each other with the activities of looking after the welfare of their children. However, gender stereotyping was rampant among U.S. families and some chores were particularly considered as belonging to a certain member of the family. For instance, it was uncommon for my grandfather to do laundry while my grandmother rested in the living room. More taunting was seeing my grandmother fixing a broken window or door in the presence of the grandfather. This kind of role specification formed the mainstream trend in many of the families in the U.S. during that period.
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Child bearing formed the basis for many families in the U.S. during that time. Most parents were concerned with the welfare of their children and this formed the basis of their discussions during their time together. Politics was not an important issue to them even as the structure of a family was undergoing tremendous changes in terms of gender roles and the contribution of women to national development. Even though in public women seemed to be disgruntled by their positions in public management, at the family level, these women felt a greater duty to their family than they expressed in the public (Coontz, 2006).
The experience of my grandparents fit in the mainstream trend in the U.S. during their time, because the grandmother was the one who performed most of the chores in the house. The grandfather was the sole breadwinner as the governmental employee. Childbearing was a priority to them and this led them to having six children. This number was the average size of a family during that time. However, with the 1970s sexual revolution, my grandmother was able to get a job in one of the companies in the neighborhood. This reduced the time she was available to do housework at home and in essence prompted my grandfather to increase his weekly time of participation in doing housework. Just like other lucky grandmothers of the time, my grandmother became a breadwinner too and contributed in buying household commodities that were previously exclusively bought by my grandfather.
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However, the death of grandfather in 1980s made my grandmother cohabit with a man who later married her officially. According to Gerson (2010) this was a common trend in US families during this period especially with many men having died in war fronts in Viet Nam and elsewhere. Women were also influenced by the demands caused by women movements in the country and they increasingly felt that cohabiting after death of a spouse was not something wrong.
Discussion of Parents Family Patterns, Link to Specific periods
My parents grew up and married in 1980s. Just like other highly educated men and women, my parents were sensitive to factors that defined marriage. My parents, thus, considered family roles and duties as something to be shared equally. Consequently, the number of children that the couple wanted to have was discussed, because my mother was a working class woman. She could not afford to stay home always because of children. Just like other elite women, my parents agreed to plan their family in a way that every two children were y three years older than the previous. This was to give my mother time to concentrate on her work and even the studies that she was undertaking at the university.
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My father increasingly participated in doing housework during his spare time, as he did not expect my mother to do the entire job. The responsibilities were however not defined and became less gender related (Gerson, 2010). Like in other families, it became common to see my father doing the cleaning of utensils, cooking, taking us to school, and even washing us. My mother on the other hand, also helped my father to fix things in the house. In essence, there was a shared sense of responsibility among the parents to ensure that the house was in order before stepping out.
Mainstream Trends in Family Life and Formation in U.S. Contemporaneous With Parents
Both my parents were employees who were highly educated and regarded family as a unit to protect. This was only in line with the trend in the families across the country where women were expected to get employment and equally contribute to the welfare of their families. The man was no longer regarded as the sole breadwinner to the family and this meant that women had become more aware of the career orientation during this time (Gerson, 2010).
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House roles were not defined along gender lines as my father was expected to do any house chore in the house. Nevertheless, mothers always, though with the assistance from the father, did most of the work in the house. Another important trend in family was the issue of marital affairs, which infidelity became a big problem to families in the country. A larger number of men and women were caught in extra marital affairs because of associating with women in the work place. This led to an increase in divorce rates (Gerson, 2010). My parents did not divorce because all of them were working and maybe did not engage in extra marital activities. However, reports of my father participating in this affair emerged later, even though mother agreed to forgive him and move on with life. Apparently, she did not want to separate her young children from their father even though this was the trend in most of the families in the country that were confronted with such a situation.
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Nevertheless, my parents lived a life that conformed to many things that were happening in their time. For instance, my mother believed that she had a role in paying our schools fees and most of the time insisted on doing this even when father did not feel it was ok. My mother also insisted on finding a new job after her job ended with the dissolution of the company she was working for earlier. She was later absorbed into the government.
Discussion of siblings and me in family patterns, linking to contemporary period
Unlike in the earlier periods, in this period, most young people prefer staying away from their parent’s maybe in colleges or doing other things in big cities. The youth feel that parents should have their own humble time with their young siblings. Equally, a family has ceased to be looked at in terms of father, mother, and the child (Gerson, 2010). It is rather either a single mother with her child, two parents with their television set or a young person with her or his technological tools such as a Smartphone. The relationship young people can establish through social networks such as Facebook Twitter and Linkedin is more important to them nowadays than; things that were not there during the period when both my parents and grandparents were growing up.
Today, it is the youth who form and determine the mainstream trend in families as their influence is enough to cause a change in family behavior. For instance, the kinds of music that they listen to, the sexual orientation that they espouse among are enough to change the formation of a family. One illustration is the push for same sex marriage, which according to our parents is a taboo and not acceptable. Nevertheless, more young people are supporting this form of institution as evidenced at the parades of young people agitating for gay rights.
Dating in colleges and engaging in sexual encounters among the unmarried people is becoming increasingly acceptable to us (Gerson, 2010). The term dating which was initially common among the earlier two generations, before marriage, no longer makes more meaning to most of the young people. In “hook up” culture, which is today very common among the college and high school youth, there is no dating but sex. In this culture, the young people can only tell their liking of the intended partner after a series of sexual encounters with them.
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In conclusion, it is evident that the today’s generation; the youth, my siblings, and I are forming the mainstream trend in defining what constitutes a family. The power of the technology and the internet is so strong to be resisted by any family of youth. Thus, instead of conforming to the trends in a family, it is actually family trends conforming to the practice of the youth. With this trend, the coming generations are likely to witness a break up in kinship where people will start marrying their siblings. A family will definitely lose its meaning, as people are likely to get sexual satisfaction from wherever they are.