The 21st Century Modern Family
Let us review a global institution. The family is an institution found in every culture of society on earth. Families around the world live, love and work in uniquely different ways depending upon their cultural norms. Vissing says that over the life course every person has a family – even if it is a family of one (Vissing, 2011). The 21st century American family has been reshaped by the changes in moral family values, rising infertility rates and changing marital patterns attained in the previous century.
The institution of the American family has been typified as the nuclear family comprised of a father, mother and one or more children. That traditional family makeup of biological families and adoptive families has changed in the 21st Century to reflect families with gay or lesbian parents, blended or step-families, and an increasing number of children raised by grandparents and women becoming single parents (Hertz, et al., 1997). Vissing describes the diversity in families as the ‘new norm’ (Vissing, 2011).
Family is defined as almost any grouping of two or more people living with one another (Family, 2010). Today we find increasingly that child bearing and intimate relationships taking place outside of the context of the institution of marriage (Barlow, et al., 2004). Despite the changes which have taken place, the family is not a dying institution. Sociologists have utilized theories on the many different aspects of family looking at the structural-functionalist theory, conflict theory and symbolic interaction theory to analyze the state of the family.
Functionalists consider the institution of the family as preparation for our children to the path of adulthood (Vissing, 2011). Children receive love and care, nurture and develop socialization skills under the care of loving parents (Vissing, 2011). Families guide our foundational cultural and moral values, influence our religious practices or lack thereof and facilitate our growth towards being a contributing member of society (Vissing, 2011).
Families by nature may experience areas of conflict within the family structure such as separation and divorce, adolescent truancy or drug use, domestic violence, sexual orientation issues to name a few (Stadelmann, et al., 2010). Families may find support through social charitable and governmental institutions in the areas of education, health care, welfare, housing, and mental health services (Vissing, 2011.)
Symbolic interaction between a parent and child is traditionally held with the parents in the role of nurturers and leaders of the family, gently guiding their child into adulthood (Vissing, 2011). Baby boomers and Generation X parents are increasingly becoming a part of the sandwich generation caring for their aging parents and their developing children at the same time (Dilworth & Kingsbury, 2005). Caregivers of elderly parents are more likely to suffer with work-family and family-work stress including psychological distress, hostility and physical health issues (Dilworth, et al., 2005). Stress in the family may lead to the rise of communication difficulties between parents and other family members bringing conflict into the family (Dilworth, et al., 2005). Researchers found that in youth, conflict declines after middle adolescence when youth begin to incorporate parental views into their own belief system (Mullis, 2009). Researchers found that every class level has the same adolescent development issues to contend with in the family (Mullis, 2009).
There are similarities in the symbolic interaction theory and conflict theory of families. As the family experiences conflict and becomes affected by divorce, adolescent truancy or drug use, domestic violence, sexual orientation issues the role of family members may change (Stademann, et al., 2010). As family roles, relationships and circumstances change children...