20th Century American Family Trends

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The 20th century observed extraordinary changes in the structure and dynamics of American families. The remarkable shift began with the Progressive Era, which spearheaded the emerging concept of marital happiness, an idea that marriage should be composed of emotional ties between the husband and wife. The Industrial Revolution further reinforced these rising ideals with economic and technological transformations that encouraged people to choose partners based on emotional attraction than financial stability. In the 1960s, compassionate marriages gave way to individualized marriages – the formerly rigid familial roles that entrenched the father as the breadwinner and the mother as the caregiver evolved to more flexible and negotiable roles within a marriage. Throughout the majority of the 20th century, my own family’s changing dynamics and structures reflect the trends of U.S. families across the decades. Taiwan’s industrial revolution in the early 20th century and my parent’s immigration to America contributed to my family’s evolution from husband-headed households of many children and established domestic roles to my current family now. However, while my family’s transitions mirrored many mainstream patterns of American families, there are also very distinct traits within each generation that contrast greatly with the American model. Beginning in the late 1930s in Taiwan, both my grandparents’ families were similar to American families in their structure and size – they were large, husband-headed households with responsibilities divided among family members. Taiwanese families reflected the historical Chinese family structure – a patriarchal structure where families were hierarchically organized, with the prime authority being vested in the senior-most male. My grandmother describes her father as someone whose decisions and opinions were indisputable, and insubordination not tolerated. As the head of the family, my great-grandfather managed most of...
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