Family and Change

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The concept of family is defined differently in different parts of the world and across different cultures. In some, a family consists of a father and mother and children, commonly referred to as the nuclear family. In others, family includes other individuals related by blood and operating as a unit, such as those which have grandparents, siblings of either husband or wife, even including their spouses and children. Still in others, a family may include non-relatives such as house helpers or servants. Over the past fifty years, these different concepts of family have also undergone changes not only in structures, but also in family member roles. These changes were brought about by changes in the societies in which these families function in.

This paper takes a look at how families have and are changing in different parts of the world, and how the change in families has affected children. It also takes a look at different responses of society to these changes. How Families are Changing

The American Heritage Dictionary presents a number of definitions of the term “family”. One is that a family is a fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children; or two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place; or all the members of a household under one roof (AHD, 2000a). Related to the term “family”, “household” is defined as a domestic unit consisting of the members of a family who live together along with non-relatives such as servants (AHD, 2000b). According to Jiang & O’Neill (2006), the average U.S. household size decreased by more than half since 1790, when there were 5.8 persons per household compared to only 2.67 in 2000. This decline was caused by several factors. Two-parent family households declined from 44% to 24% for the period 1960 to 2000. Single parent households increased from 1.5 million in 1950 to 9.5 million in 2000. Several reasons cited for this statistic are that couples having fewer children, the rise in the divorce rate, and the increase of births to women out of wedlock. Couples decide to have less children because of the rising cost of living and their time-consuming careers which would make rearing many children difficult. The rise in divorce rates have also split families into two contributing to the decrease in family or household size, similar to the case of single-mother families.

Korean culture, like the Chinese culture, is rooted in Confucian tradition. In the rearing of children, Korean mothers used to be concerned with achieving social order and interpersonal harmony by emphasizing the restraint of personal desires or behavior control, stressing the rigid hierarchical order of human relationships based on age, gender, and inherited social status. Recently, however, general beliefs have changed because of higher educational attainment of Korean women, increased contact with Western culture, democratic ideology, and the materialistic and competitive nature of Korean industrial society. Young Koreans today freely express their opinions against the aged and Korean mothers now adopt Western individualistic values and put emphasis on academic achievement and social assertiveness rather than on traditional social behaviors such as sharing, helping, and self-restraint. Moreover, South Korea has transformed from an agrarian to an industrialized urban society within a single generation since the 1960s, with more people living in cities than in towns and villages. The country has adopted Western science, technology, Protestantism, and the ideology of democracy. All these have affected Korean children’s social development (Park & Cheah, 2005).

In a study of early childhood care and education and family support policies and programs in seven Southeast Asian countries, a number of changes in families have been observed. The countries are aging with the...
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