What constitutes a “normal” American family? Two parents? Two to three kids? A dog, a garage, and a white picket fence?
As our clients face tough challenges and changes in their family situation — whether in the realm of parentage, custody, etc. — many lament that they only want what’s “normal” for their family, their children, or their marriage. But what does that mean, exactly?
In a recent New York Times article entitled “The Changing American Family,” [Visit the Link] Natalie Angier contends that we live in an unprecedented time of change in the “typical” American family unit:
Families, they say, are becoming more socially egalitarian over all, even as economic disparities widen. Families are more ethnically, racially, religiously and stylistically diverse than half a generation ago — than even half a year ago.
In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans and start talk shows. Good friends join forces as part of the “voluntary kin” movement, sharing medical directives, wills, even adopting one another legally.
Single people live alone and proudly consider themselves families of one — more generous and civic-minded than so-called “greedy marrieds.”
While it doesn’t take a degree in Sociology to see that the American marital tradition is looking less Norman Rockwell and more “Modern Family,” Angier’s article shows that we are in no way at the end of this domestic revolution, but smack dab in the middle of it.
The experts consulted back up this assertion with a staggering amount of data. Fewer women become mothers, and those who do have fewer children. Couples wait until later in life to marry, while many choose a life of domestic cohabitation over matrimony. And not only is the divorce rate falling, but it’s absolutely miniscule in same-sex couples when compared to heterosexual couples. What’s more, earlier studies claiming children raised in same-sex households are prone to poor academic performance, crime, and substance abuse, are being debunked.
So who’s to say what’s a normal American family? Or, perhaps the question should be, can we call anything “normal,” when the definition of familyis constantly expanding?