A recent report from a research study conducted by Cornell University indicated the marriage rate in the United States has reached a 150-year low. Among the reasons the study account for the steep decline in marriage is that single women are increasingly finding there is a “lack of economically-attractive men”.
The outcome of this study is a revelation that the modern world is rapidly changing. Situations and norms of the mid 20th century and those of 2019 are radically different. Some of these changes reflect on the traditional or nuclear family, interpreted as a family consisting of a married father and mother, at least two children, raised with love and cared by these parents until they, in turn, marry and form their own nuclear family.
While the nuclear family is still regarded as the ideal family, in today’s world this family is on the decline. As the world progresses in the 21st century the nuclear family is challenged by several factors including divorce, more independent women, and live-in relationships. Today, there are alternatives to the traditional family, but it’s important these alternatives retain the core family ingredients of love, care, support and guidance, especially for the children involved.
DIVORCE A CHALLENGE TO TRADITIONAL FAMILY
One of the strongest challenges to the traditional family has been divorce. A relative rarity in the mid 20th century, divorce in America has quadrupled since. Research also indicates infidelity and financial challenges are the main reasons for divorce. With divorces easier to obtain, and more socially acceptable than 65 years ago, the dissolution of first-time marriages has grown dramatically, leading to new forms of family partnerships. The most popular of these partnerships is the single-parent family, where one parent, usually the mother, raises the children.
Professionals who focus on family relationships claim divorce not only ruin families but has a negative impact on societies. An alternative argument claims where children are raised in a contentious marriage this also impacts negatively on families, and ultimately societies. If both parents, although separated by divorce, continue to love, care, and support their children, with mutual understanding and respect for each other, a semblance of family still exists it’s argued.
The traditional family is also challenged by the growing independence of women. It’s a waning principle that women need to marry for financial security. In the modern world with more access to women’s development, more women seek careers that secure their financial independence without needing a husband’s support.
Even love is no longer a prime reason for marriage. More young men and women believe in co-habiting, living together, rather than marrying. Some of these relationships lead to marriage, especially after a child or children results, but some fall apart, despite the birth of a child or children. This, like divorce, creates single-parent families, mostly headed by single women. Similar to the family split by divorce, the core ingredient of love, care, support, and guidance for child or children need not be missing if fathers maintain responsibility for their children despite not having a romantic relationship with the mothers. It’s equally important to retain the core family ingredients by the children mothers not showing vindictiveness against the fathers for the failed relationship, so as to not rob the children of a relationship with the fathers.
IMPORTANCE OF PARENTS
Despite the challenges to the nuclear family, there’s one constant – parents. Children need their parents whether or not their parents are married, divorced or separated. While it’s seen where more often children are raised by their mothers, one of the more serious threats to the modern family is the absence, or negligence of the father, whether he’s economically attractive or unattractive.
Unfortunately, father absenteeism and neglect occur too frequently among some black families. Often, black youth incarcerated for various crimes or failing in school, attribute their plight to the absence of a father, or father figure, in their lives. Fathers aren’t needed just to finance a child’s need, but to provide those crucial core family values – love, care, support, and guidance.
With an increase in divorce, women’s independence buoyed by economically-unattractive men, the nuclear family will likely continue to decline. However, the sense of family need not decline. The real sense of family rests on the children arising from the union of man and woman, or children being raised by that union. The role of parents, including the pivotal role of fathers, is vital for nurturing children and retaining family values, and keeping societies intact.
The family still and will always have a key role in modern society despite the evidentiary decline in marriages and increase in divorces. But it’s becoming more apparent that it’s no longer the marital union that will keep the sense of family together but rather the nurturing afforded to children by parents, preferably both parents.