American families are better off than they were 100 years ago because of the positive changes that have taken place in society for this period. Reportedly, more children experienced child labor in the 1900 than they do today, by working full time in mines, mills and sweatshops. In addition, people who worked had little time for their families than today because of the length of time they were supposed to work. Low wages made women to turn to prostitution because they were not enough. Women were also not allowed to vote. Currently, the rates of death is low as compared to then with black being more disadvantaged than the whites at that time. There was also high rate of child abuse than today, and the concern for this issue was lower. There was low number of high school graduates as compared to current figures (6% to 88%).
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In the 1950s, the United States experienced a time of increasing marriage and fertility rates and nuclear-family living was boosted. There was also a fall in the divorce rate as was the case with foreign-born individuals. Debates on social and cultural issues that divided the Americans came to a halt in the 1950s by the reaching of a consensus on family issues and norms. Women could afford to support families and have a house on their own. The aforementioned conditions availed for the building of a stable family. The women were beginning to get benefits that could be only granted to men.
The family life of the 1950s had good things in itself as aforementioned in the above paragraph, and these goodies could make people admire the family life then. For example, lives are no longer the same with the modern women experiencing rights to work in many places and to get educated. People can now fairly, freely participate in activities whether they are Mexican Americans, African Americans or the Indians, with improved democratization and freedom.
However, the society has achieved advances in many aspects, namely, education, family life and society which are far better than the life in the 1950s. Returning to this kind of life can only be justified on leaving the present troubles and difficulties and retaining the present goodies. While we talk of returning to this life, we need considering the fact that there were difficulties such as; discrimination, coercion and censorship. People were discriminated on racial-basis and faced ostracizing if they did not follow rigid gender and sexual rules.
There is almost consensus that family life has been improving with the modernization of society. Freedom for women and more rights for example related to spousal rapes, wife beating among others; better living conditions; higher prospects of marriage and parenting; and more concern over inattentive parenting, child abuse, teen violence, antisocial behaviors among others, which are present in the current settings may make it difficult for us to return to the families of the 1950s.
More over, better families where parents can spend more time with their children than it was in the 1950s have come up. The return to the families of the 1950s is impossibility. People can easily agree that the solution to our family problems cannot be solved by returning to the 1950s lifestyles with its own difficulties, but by designing solution for the specific problems that we face. For example, increase in drug abuse and violence in the modern society than it was then, can be dealt with by eliminating or solving the root causes such as unemployment.
Stephanie Coontz: The American Family. Life, 00243019, Vol. 22, Issue 12.
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