While the classic idea of the traditional American family might bring up images of a married mom and dad with two kids and a white picket fence, statistics show that this might be an outdated concept. The way Americans form their families today is changing and moving away from the standard married couple with children.
Unmarried Couples On The Rise
Not all parents these days are living together as a married couple. In fact, currently 5.5 million U.S. couples live together unmarried. Many of these couples are citing financial instability as a primary reason for not getting married, and it’s easy to understand why. After all, weddings are shockingly expensive, with costs rising every year. Marriage rates among Millennials are lower than previous generations, with older generations seeing an ever-increasing divorce rate. The result? Fewer marriages, but not fewer families.
Parent Structures Shifting
As more children are living in households with unmarried couples, parenting dynamics are also shifting. Many children are living in households with a single parent, or a parent who is actively dating, rather than in a household with two married parents. In 2009, two in five children did not live with both biological parents in a nuclear or traditional family household. The reasons for this tend to vary widely across the board; some parents never marry in the first place, some children live with a single biological parent following divorce, some children live with a biological and step-parent, and so on.
Different Does Not Mean Bad
While many might see this shift away from traditional family structures as threatening or potentially harmful to children, this isn’t necessarily the case. Evidence shows that a nuclear family structure isn’t always the healthiest option for everyone, and the ideal family will vary. Families have the ability to be happy, even if they don’t necessarily meet the standard mold of a nuclear family. Single-parent families, families with same-sex parents, or other family structures can still do all the things that make families happy. 37% of families say that vacations make them happy, making it the activity that makes families most happy. Marital status has little impact on this statistic.
So long as all parents and children are happier with whatever agreement is reached, there’s little to indicate that these new family arrangements are in any way worse than traditional family structures. Today’s modern family statistically looks quite different than families have historically, and this change might even be for the better in some cases.