There are many ways to raise a child. Traditional parenting methods that were the standard decades ago have come under attack, due to a change in perception of what makes up a family unit in today’s culture. The foundation of the American family has always been the two parent family unit with the father as the patriarchal figure head and the mother as the care giver and homemaker. This concept has changed in the last decade due to the increasing divorce rate, same-sex marriages that are raising children and new cultural ideas of what constitutes a family.
However these new methods are not as effective as the traditional style. The American family unit has traditionally been viewed and immortalized in American culture as a male dominated unit. The father was the patriarchal figure who made the money and provided a living for his family. The mother was viewed as the primary caregiver for the family, providing care and nurturing for the family. Televisions shows such as “Leave it to Beaver” were based on this family model and value system it created. It’s important to know and understand that after the Industrial Revolution in America, it was time to create the “American Dream”. That job involved the building of the traditional family units to reinforce the need for the goods and services that would build the might of our country. Central to this idea was the fact that with this growth, the traditional American family would prosper and develop a strong moral compass as to what was right and wrong with our culture. The family unit as perceived by this growing and expanding country was central to creating this moral compass. The traditional family unit was critical to keeping this dream alive and creating the values of our new country.
Time has a great way of debunking many time worn traditions, often as a disadvantage. First and foremost would be the act of marriage. American as a country established its new “Baby Boomer” culture of the 1950’s, that marriage was a vital component to a morally sound country. The marriage along with the family unit that would be created from this marriage was central to the cultural values established in America during this time period. The 1970’s were the start of the debunking of this theory when it was established that the Americans were getting divorced at an all time rate. This was striking at the very core of American family values and destroying the American family unit as we knew it at the same time. The term “single parent family” was a polar opposite of the patriarchal family unit that was once the norm in America. The divorce split families and created new family dynamics. These dynamics involved the parents taking on new roles. The mother was now forced to take on the role of breadwinner and the nurturing parent. The father, who now lived outside of the family unit in most cases, was on a time- share situation with his children and was forced to adapt to a whole new set of standards that were much different than the old patriarchal family unit. Where he once was the sole leader and provider, now expectations were that this man would have to co-parent the children’s mother and take a greater role in their lives. Convoluting this new role was the introduction of step-parents. This created a new dynamic in that parents other than the biological parents would have say and influence in the raising of the children. Secondly, these new parents would create a new family dynamic that was different than the traditional family unit. Where were the children getting their sources of love and nurturing? It’s not to say that a biological family unit provided these basic needs consistently, but it was questionable if these new family could provide the basic needs of the families children on a consistent basis.
The traditional American family unit has seen further changes in its make up due to the cultural outing of the Gay movement. As the gay movement has been culturally mainstreamed and homosexuality has become more socially acceptable, there is the natural desire for gays to parent. It’s interesting that even though gays have won hard earned support within the fabric of American culture, it’s still somewhat of a cultural faux pas for them to want to raise children. The questions from the hetero community seem to stem from the idea that gay parents will make gay children. Sort of a gay” boot camp” to raise gay children. In essence, brainwashing children to determine their sexual orientation and create normalcy in the gay world. As silly as it seems, there are those that believe this and spout these beliefs. The critics fail to see that a child’s familial needs can be met with love and a nurturing environment. To say that a straight couple in a traditional family situation can only provide this care is baseless at best. Gay parenting can have the same pitfalls as a traditional family environment, divorce, lack of nurturing and inconsistent parenting. I don’t see it as a gay issue, more of a family issue that exists on either side of the issue, straight or gay.
In conclusion, the traditional idea of what constitutes an American family is up for debate. Various familial models have come in and out of vogue. American society has stood by the traditional model even though it has shown its faults over time. Rising divorce rates and single parent families are some of the failures of the traditional family unit. Cultural changes have introduced the same sex marriage familial unit. This type of new family unit has been met with a severe cultural backlash and is not fully accepted in many quarters. It has pushed the envelope of traditional parenting and cultural acceptability. Various forms of parenting have been introduced into our society. Communal living, single parent families, polygamy and same sex marriage families are all in opposition to the traditional familial unit. Society is slow to change even in the face of mounting data that demonstrates it needs to change. Time will tell as to the future of the familial unit. Society as a whole will change, and with it the idea of the traditional family unit.