The Modern Nuclear Family

3 March 2017

The Modern Nuclear Family: Headed for a Meltdown? Janet Donlin Upper Iowa University February 17, 2012 The Modern Nuclear Family What is a nuclear family? A nuclear family generally consists of a father, mother and their children, either adopted or biological. The nuclear family historically has been the basic unit of the larger family structure and is where the basic family values such as love, tolerance and coexistence are learned. The major characteristic of nuclear families is the monogamous relationship between the mother and the father.

The mother and father are married and live together in the same household. The effects of industrialization on the monogamous relationship are quite tangible. Whereas couples used to get married, live together, and have children, now many couples do not get married but cohabitate or live together rather than getting married. Another change is that many times people now have children out of wedlock and these children grow up in single parent homes.

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Another change is that some have refrained from even having children as “childlessness among married couples has been increasing in recent years” (Tischler, 2011, pg. 78). In a nuclear family, the mother and father are solely responsible for running and supporting the household. Historically, the most common are the patriarchal families where the man works outside the home and controls and supports the household. However, some households are matriarchal where the mother does.

With industrialism there is a dramatic change of more and more women in the workforce. “Nearly 72 million women had paying jobs in 2006, representing more than a 200% increase in 50 years. (Tischler, 2011, pg. 79). In addition, not only are more women in the workforce, but there has also been a rise in the number of men that stay home and tend to the children. Whereas people used to have large families, American households have noticeably decreased in size. According to Tischler, the average American household used to be about 5. 8 and that average dropped to 2. 6 in 2007. (pg. 278) Most modern nuclear families are small in size and the children develop their emotional and cognitive senses solely from their mother and father.

This differs a great deal from earlier times when extended family played a large role in the lives of the children, which leads to the final characteristic discussed in this paper. The nuclear family is impermanent, meaning at some point in their life the children will move out and no longer live with their parents. When this happens, the children will form their own relationships, get married, and have their own children, creating their own nuclear family and weakening the ties with their parents. Some believe that industrialization has led to an increase in the nuclear family and a general decrease in family values.

According to Wilmott and Young, two functionalists, the number of nuclear families only increased and became increasingly popular during and after the industrial revolution. Whether industrialization has helped or hurt society is really a matter of opinion. Some may feel that it has hurt it because of the way it has changed the family structure and some may not see it that way.

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