Family is the central concept in social sciences, the first agent of socialization in a child’s life, and the most precious thing in life for most people regardless of their age, gender, race, or nationality. There are numerous types of families: nuclear, extended, blended, and joint, to name but a few. In other words, one might say that every family is unique to some extent. However, in modern society exist numerous myths about the family. The present paper discusses myths related to an image of a perfect family, the influence of the number of parents on children, the role of divorce in a child’s life, and the involvement of cohabiting parents in a child’s upbringing.
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Myth 1: Perfect Family
It has become popular to believe that a perfect family consists of two employed parents of different genders and two or three children. The problem with this image is that it focuses on the structure of the family, not the internal atmosphere and the quality of relations between the family members. From the perspective of this myth, childless couples should get a child to fit the image of a perfect family even if the absence of children is their deliberate choice. Besides, if a married couple has one child, they should think about having siblings.
It is a great mistake to focus on the number of children or parents instead of their interpersonal relations. According to the family systems theory developed by Dr. Murray Bowen, a family is foremost an emotional unit. Hence, such factors as openness and trust of spouses, absence of marital conflicts, and close emotional contact between the parents and children should be used to describe what a perfect family looks like. Finally, the concept of perfection per se is subjective and, therefore, should not be used to characterize families because each one has its distinctive features and peculiarities.
Myth 2: Influence of Number of Parents and on a Child
The second myth about family stems from the one discussed above. In modern society, there is a widespread misconception that children of single parents are more likely to have lower academic performance and, overall, less successful than children with two parents. One might argue that this myth makes sense because a single parent has to combine the functions of a breadwinner and a homemaker. Therefore, a single parent cannot dedicate enough time to a child’s upbringing and leave a child to himself.
Still, the reality does not correspond with the simplified view mentioned above. The study conducted by Usevitch and Dufur (2021) reveals that the academic performance of children raised in stable single-parent families is lower than children whose single parents married. At this point, it is essential to notice that even though Usevitch and Dufur (2021) discover this correlation, they also claim that “this effect disappears when controls for financial and human capital, race, and stress are included” (p. 1206). From this, it could be inferred that there is no reason to believe that single parents are deemed to fail in raising intelligent, diligent, and successful children.
Myth 3: Good Divorce
The essence of the third myth is that divorce makes children better off. The irretrievable breakdown of marriage theory asserts that a divorce is the only solution when there is no hope to resume relations between the spouses. This situation occurs when at least one of the marital partners is adamantly unwilling to live together. It seems reasonable to assume that it is better for a child to live with one parent than witness parents’ daily quarrels. According to Eyo (2018), divorce might lead to social problems, issues with adjustment, hatred of one of the parents, and numerous psychological problems. What is more, in the long-term perspective, children from divorced families are more likely to have a higher body mass index than children from intact families (Goisis, Ozcan, and Van Kerm, 2019). Still, without a doubt, divorce is a good solution for families where one of the spouses mistreats another one and children.
Myth 4: Cohabitating Partners
The last myth to be discussed is based on the fact that nowadays, an increasing number of couples prefer living together and having children without officially registering their relationships through marriage. The essence of this myth is that, for example, a man who cohabits with a single mother will perform equally to a man who married such a woman. This myth seems senseless because marriage is about responsibility and willingness to create a full-fledged family. This way, it is logical to assume that a married spouse will be more involved in the process of a child’s upbringing than a person who lives with a single parent and his or her child.
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Effects of Myths and the Role of Television
The previously discussed myths harm the family as a social institution because they do not consider exceptions and unique circumstances. What is more, these myths impose a standard image of a family and mark every family that differs from this image as flawed. These myths do not pay enough attention to such functions of the family as socialization, procreation of children, and recreational, economic, and protective ones. Television is the primary source of myth about the family. For instance, in soap operas, happy families consist of a mother who is a housekeeper, a father who is a bread-winner, and several siblings. Television promotes the image of the traditional nuclear family and ignores alternative configurations.
Discussion of a Myth on Divorce
I believe that divorce is good for children and does not affect them strongly. I have learned this myth because my mother always tells me that it is easier to get divorced than to repair relations with the spouse, and, thus, divorce makes everyone better off. The belief in the myth that divorce is always for the best made me cynical and persuaded that family and marriage are not something valuable that should be retained by all means.
In my family’s case, I still believe that divorce was a rational decision that helped my parents become happier because they do not fight anymore when they see one another. Nonetheless, I have never thought that divorce might severely affect some children’s psychological health and well-being. The decision of parents to cease living together is the source of immense stress for their children that provokes aggression, depression, and anxiety (Hashemi and Homayuni, 2017). Additionally, divorce increases the probability of a child’s behavioral problems (Hashemi and Homayuni, 2017). Adult children of divorced children are more likely to divorce themselves and prefer cohabitation to marriage (Gager, Yabiku, and Linver, 2016). Undoubtedly, there are ways to help children overcome the divorce of their parents with minimal adverse consequences. Nonetheless, the conducted analysis of the academic literature debunks the myth and proves it is wrong to assume that divorce is the ultimate good for all families.
To conclude, this paper discussed four myths about family. These myths target the issue of divorce, family structure, and the responsibilities of parents. The critical finding is that these myths oversimplify the family phenomenon and do not devote enough attention to the functions of the family as a social institution. Another significant conclusion of the paper is that divorce generally does more harm even if spouses suppose it will benefit every family member. Divorces make parents lives easier but severely affect the psychological state of children.
Eyo, U. E. (2018). Divorce: Causes and effects on children. Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, 6(5), 172-177.
Gager, C. T., Yabiku, S. T., & Linver, M. R. (2016). Conflict or Divorce? Does parental conflict and/or divorce increase the likelihood of adult children’s cohabiting and marital dissolution?. Marriage & Family Review, 52(3), 243-261. Web.
Goisis, A., Ozcan, B., & Van Kerm, P. (2019). Do children carry the weight of divorce? Demography, 56(3), 785-811. Web.
Hashemi, L., & Homayuni, H. (2017). Emotional divorce: Child’s well-being. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(8), 631-644. Web.
Usevitch, M. T., & Dufur, M. J. (2021). When single parents marry: Do children benefit academically? Family Relations, 70, 1206–1221. Web.