Today the definition of family and the American family has changed considerably. In short, we are witnessing family evolution before our very eyes. While families may be changing, there is no doubt that the value of marriage is still recognized by most Americans. The key difference, however, is that marriage itself has likely changed forever.
Changes in the Definitions of Marriage
Not only is the idea of marriage being strictly between a man and a woman being challenged, but so is the notion of what is a family. Divorce has created more complicated family structures, and this is particularly true when people have been married and divorced several times.
Another level of complexity for today’s families is that the lines between people are less entrenched than they were generations ago. Fifty years ago, interracial marriage and interracial children were fairly uncommon but today interracial marriage comprises a large percentage of all marriage. Likewise, fifty years ago marriage between people of different faiths was far less common than it is today.
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People are also living together before marriage, which would have been almost unheard of half a century ago. However, today the social stigma attached to cohabitation before marriage is largely a thing of the past, especially in many parts of the country.
When it comes to raising children, the factors of gay marriage, single parents and divorce has produced tremendous change in the landscape of marriage. Millions of children are now raised by non-biological parents or step-parents. Again, this would have been more unusual in previous decades.
The blended family is a real thing. Our notion of what is and what does not constitute a “family” is evolving, and it is no overstatement to point out that family evolution is a real thing and is happening before our very eyes.
Gay marriage, people waiting longer to get married, divorce and other factors are dramatically altering the definition of what it means to be married. That stated, the value of marriage is still fixed in the American psyche and remains a multi-billion-dollar business. People are still getting married and they are still spending a great deal of money when they do so!
In the end, the American family is alive and well, albeit quite different than in previous generations. The modern family is more inclusive, more unique and more interesting than at any time in history.