It is well known that the life of a person does not only revolve around his work. Family life has significant bearing on life and during one’s lifetime a person experiences the creation of a number of family structures which are transformed over time and eventually each one changes to a new structure. This paper will examine how family structures have become more diverse as also the factors that support such trends.
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The family has over the ages continuously progressed, formed and become accustomed to changes happening socially and although families still do have a lot that is universal, typical families are no longer the same as they used to be. The changes that have occurred in the structure of families in recent decades have very important implications not only for the society at large but also deeply influence the lives of adults and children alike. There are certain key drivers that have led to changes in norms of society, outlook, family priorities, contraception and the importance being given to education and employment of women.
There has been considerable diversity in the structure of the household and the family in regard to issues of living together, civil partnership, single parenting and adoption of gay rights which are increasingly being accepted as different types of family units. The numbers of single person households have been increasing swiftly in view of the large number of divorces, higher life expectancy of females and the large number of young professionals who prefer to live alone. Lifestyle changes have brought about more personal and social mobility which implies that different generations in a family have to live in different geographical areas although some ethnic minorities continue to live in communities. Such a pattern has led people to rely more on friends in order to sustain themselves without family members (Natalie, 2009).
The reasons for the changing trends can be found mainly in the changing social structure. Most people have started to delay parenthood and women that are educated opt for lesser children. Additionally, abortion rates are increasing amongst young women. Factors such as expansion of women’s employment and education opportunities have significantly affected the power balance between genders. Observance of religion is gradually declining and the practice of having sex before marriage is no longer considered taboo in most societies. Family processes have changed whereby there is significant change in the way families allocate resources for relationships and time in order to achieve the desired results. The reduced time that couples share with each other has resulted in more conflicts and challenges on the family front. The numbers of full time working hours have relatively increased for both men and women. A noteworthy trend pertains to the fact that parents with dependent children now spend lesser time together as couples and despite the negativity in this pattern, relationships continue to remain stable. There is evidence to suggest that in the US there has been a gradual decline in marital happiness while in the UK the satisfaction level of couples has remained constant since 1996. The numbers of family contacts have also been declining gradually while grandparents have started to play an important role in informal childcare (Cabinet Office, 2008).
It is observed that single parent families are the biggest sufferers in terms of problems arising from breaking of relationships and from financial pressures. Single parenthood is related to outcomes that are less successful and single parents face difficulties in fulfilling the dual role of parents. Consequently single parents have to face the challenge of maximising outcomes for the family in view of the reduced potential of a single parent. Moreover, when children are forced to stay in stepfamilies where one parent is not the actual father or mother, outcomes are mostly not successful. If the stability in the family is healthy with good relationships between partners, family outcomes are excellent. However in families that are in constant conflict, separation is the best solution (Cabinet Office, 2008).
- Cabinet Office, Families in Britain: an evidence paper, 2008.
- Natalie, Drivers for family life in the 21st Century.