How do modern Americans view family? Today, the population of the United States of America includes people of European, African, Asian, Native American, and Latino descent. Because of the cultural diversity that exists in America, it is difficult to define how Americans as a whole view family. Despite this diversity, we believe that there are two values that tend to influence most Americans’ ideas of family today.
Because of the cultural diversity that exists in America, it is difficult to define how Americans as a whole view family. Despite this diversity, we believe that there are two values that tend to influence most Americans’ ideas of family today.
First, Americans as a whole are typically very individualistic. This means that Americans tend to prioritize their personal happiness over their duties to their community and family. This value is especially evident in the way that many modern Americans view dating and marriage. Most Americans will date many people before they choose someone to marry. Furthermore, most Americans will choose the partner that makes them the happiest or the partner that they feel most emotionally and physically connected to. Their choice to marry has little to do with family alliances or even their parents’ impression of their chosen partner.
Individualism also affects where families choose to live. Many families will choose the location that provides the best career opportunities, even if this means they must live far away from their extended family.
Additionally, American parents are expected to save money for their own retirement so as not to be a financial burden to their children when their health begins to decline in old age. Many adult children do not have the time to meet all of their elderly parents’ needs and will sometimes place them in elderly care facilities commonly called “nursing homes” or “retirement homes.”
The second attribute common to most American families is the concept of the “nuclear family.” The nuclear family includes a married couple and their children. Most Americans live with their nuclear family and only see their “extended family” a few times a year. The extended family includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Most extended families will gather together on important holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
While this is true of most White American families, many African American and Latino families live with or near their extended families. In these cultures, extended family and community ties tend to be stronger.
Though the concept of the nuclear family sounds simple, it can actually be very complicated. Sadly, divorce is very common in America. When a married couple divorces, each partner will often enter into a second marriage. This means that some siblings (brothers and sisters) who live together will be “half-siblings” or “step-siblings.” Half-siblings are siblings who share only one parent. Step-siblings are siblings who have completely different biological parents but live together in the same household.
For example, if Susie’s mom, Karen, divorces Susie’s father and marries Bill, Jacob’s father, Susie and Jacob will be step-siblings, and Bill will be Susie’s step-father. If Karen and Bill have a child together, that child will be Susie’s half-sibling, because they share the same mother but have different biological fathers.
This type of family structure is called a blended family. Blended families are quite common in America. In 2015, 16% of American children were living in blended families, and only 46% of American children were living in a two-parent home with parents on their first marriage (Parenting in America).
Though there is certainly much more that could be said about American families, we hope this article has given you a brief introduction into the American concept of family. Below we have put together a list of TV shows and movies that may further your understanding of American family values. Please be warned that some of the programs recommended will contain inappropriate content and are not a reflection of the beliefs and values of Bridges International. Please view at your own discretion.