The Role of the Father in the Family

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HIST 3203
Research Paper: The Role of The Father in The Family Tuesday, December 7, 2010

People probably have different views and definitions of what constitutes a family. What an individual might consider part of his family might be different to someone else. A family can consist of individuals who have some connectivity whether by science in which genetics are at play, or by giving an individual, animal, or object attributes that will make them part of your family. It is difficult to have a concrete definition of what actually makes a family but it is clear that throughout time many aspects of the family have remained the same. As society becomes more advanced and open the vision of the family has changed and will continue to do so in the future. The function and structure of the family has changed throughout centuries from conservative and interdependent into a more liberal and independent one. Throughout history the father was the main figure in the family responsible for the education of the children, wellness of the family and economic support. A family can be seen as an organization in which the father is the most important figure responsible for the wellness of the family. Throughout time the role of the father has diminished rapidly in the family. Today it is not only the father that runs and makes decisions for the family; the role of the mother has expanded as she takes control over some of the responsibilities that the father used to have. There are many factors that explain why the role of he father has diminished in recent decades; why he is not as much involved in the functioning of the family as one before. According to Lynne M. Casper, the reason why the role of the father in the family has deceased over time is due to the “economic outgrowth and opportunities available to family members to be more independent”. Throughout Unites States history we can see how the family evolved from a patriarchal system into a more communal system where the father and the mother of the house both share the responsibilities of how to maintain and support the family. The American history of the family begins with the arrival of the Puritans to the new world. The Puritan family was run under the leadership of the father, which was an essential part of the life of Puritans. Family life was very crucial as it was necessary to form and have a family nucleus in order to survive in the new world, where Puritans had nothing else but their families. According to Christopher Dawson “patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the father is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children and property”. The father during this time was responsible for any decision-making in the household and delegated responsibilities to the other family members in the house. Puritans placed great emphasis and value of patriarchy that laws were actually created to punish sons and daughters that cursed, hit or disobeyed their father. These punishments were so harsh that in some parts of New England death was a punishment alternative.

The father had strong authority over his children’s lives. They got to decide what their child’s occupation was to be and whom they would marry. In other words, the father took decisions for the benefit of their children’s future. Fathers during this time looked at marriage as a business opportunity in which the father would pick the candidate with the most wealth and prosperity. Marriage based in love was not an alternative, as love was not seen as necessary to start a relationship with someone.

Things started to change, as children no longer needed their father’s inheritance to be independent. The family and values that Puritans wanted to maintain was vanishing, as there was not enough land to be divided to their children. Young adults started to move to other parts of the colony looking for land and opportunities...
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