The American family: Past and Present

American marriage pattern, its types, statistics and trends among different social groups and ages. The reasons of marriage and divorce and analyzing the statistics of divorce and it’s impact on people. The position of children in American family.

Рубрика Социология и обществознание
Вид курсовая работа
Язык английский
Дата добавления 23.08.2013
Размер файла 48,3 K

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Joan Kelly, former president of the Academy of Family Mediators and prominent divorce researcher from California reports that, depending on the strength of the parent-child bond at the time of divorce, the parent-child relationship diminishes over time for children who see their fathers less than 35% of the time. Court-ordered «standard visitation» patterns typically provide less [2, p. 45].

Divorce also has some positive effects for children. Single parents are often closer to their children than married parents were. It can also be negative as when a child takes on too much responsibility because one or both parents are not functioning well as a parent, or when a parent talks to a child about how hurt they are by the other parent, or how horrible that other parent is. Often a separated parent will make an effort to spend quality time with the children and pay attention to their desires (Disneyland, small gifts, phone calls, etc). And we can imagine that some children might find some benefit in celebrating two Christmases and birthdays each year. If both parents remarry, they may have twice as many supportive adults/nurturers. At the very least, when parents can control their conflict, the children can experience freedom from daily household tension between parents [21, p. 143].

To sum it up, divorce is rather controversial phenomenon in American society. The decision to end a relationship can be traumatic, chaotic, and filled with contradictory emotions for all the family. There are also specific feelings, attitudes, and dynamics associated with whether one is in the role of the initiator or the receiver of the decision to breakup. For example, it is not unusual for the initiator to experience fear, relief, distance, impatience, resentment, doubt, and guilt. Likewise, when a party has not initiated the divorce, they may feel shock, betrayal, loss of control, victimization, decreased self esteem, insecurity, anger, a desire to «get even,» and wishes to reconcile.

3. Children and bringing up

America is a country of immigrants. And the views of the citizens of the United States (including the views on the family and children) were formed on the basis of the colorful and diverse culture of different nationalities and under the influence of the environment and history of the USA.

The territory of the United States, was originally a British colony. For a long time the basic mass of the white pioneer were puritans, representatives of religious communities, which were persecuted by the state and the Church of the UK [11, p. 54].

These people moved from England to America with purpose of realizing their views of social, religious and political institutes. Puritans were characterized by individualism, relying on their own strength, faith in their special mission, as well as high moral standards in everyday life, diligence, honesty, self-restraint. These qualities helped the pioneers in the development of America. They also influenced on the formation of the American nation and American character. Children of migrants received an upbringing that was built mainly on the fundamental biblical and family values. Most of the schools were faith-based and belonged to one or another religious community. In addition, there was a network of Sunday schools. In remote areas, where representatives of confessions could not get due to the great distances, people were reading and discussing the Bible and other spiritual literature.

A considerable part of the American population lived in rural areas, on the farms, which were at a great distance from the cities and from each other. And in difficult situations families couldn't wait for help from anyone. So American children were raised so that they could face any difficulty, protect themselves and help their parents. Parents cultivated courage, strength, the ability to make rational decisions, ability to stand up for their families, love, freedom and self-confidence. Almost the same characteristics were important for girls because while woman was without a husband, she had to perform all of its obligations. So, the ability to handle weapons, ride and other typical male skills were in favor among young ladies.

Of course, ethnic and racial portrait of the U.S. since the time has significantly changed. However, the Puritan morality and values of the first settlers continue to influence on the American models of family and education [12, p. 45].

Today, raising a child is the hardest, most responsible and satisfying task any American citizen can face. It's also the job for which people receive the least formal training.

Each person's knowledge of how to bring up a child usually comes from their surroundings and their own upbringing. This may result in patterns from the parent's own social experiences being repeated and passed on to their children.

In American in the upbringing of a child, parents play a very vital role. But anomalies arise, when the role of the parents are not set out right. It has been the long held view that in the bringing up of a child, the mother reserves the prime responsibility and the father has to take care of the family as a whole, with respect to other aspects, which do not directly pertain to the upbringing of the child.

Parents influence the lives of their children in every aspect and leave an impression which remains throughout their lives. For one very common instance, it is but natural that a boy aspires to imitate his father in driving or a daughter desires to acquire the culinary expertise from her mother. The seeds of thought which parents sow in the minds of their wards will go a long way in defining their courses of lives.

It is not to be overlooked that when a child enters this world as a new tenant, its mind remains a tabula rasa. It is the parents who imbue the morals (or otherwise) into their minds. As such, the attitudes of the parents will certainly be reflected in the activities of their children. Therefore, when a child sees the world around it through the eyes of its parents, it is but natural that its world takes up the shape of the perspectives of its parents [14, p. 45].

This could be the sole reason, why parents are required to be role models for their wards and it is indeed their responsibility to see that they set fine standards for their children to grow up, emulate and groom into dignified individuals.

Opposite to the popular stereotype, the number of working mothers in the United States isn't great and has a tendency to decrease. More and more women prefer family work instead of career. However it's difficult to say who stays with children before school-age, because the statistics varies greatly depending on the social, welfare and racial groups. But it's obvious that high number of children is under the care of mothers, Housewives, nurses (babysitters). Otherwise children can visit various kindergartens.

A noted American sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, is one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood investigated the role of mother and father in child's upbringing. «Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home,» he says. «Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.» Fathers have a direct impact on the well-being of their children. It is important for professionals working with fathers especially in the difficult, emotionally charged arena in which child protective services (CPS) caseworkers operate to have a working understanding of the literature that addresses this impact. Such knowledge will help make the case for why the most effective CPS case plans will involve fathers [14, p. 46].

One of the most important influences a father can have on his child in a pre-school period is indirect - fathers influence their children in large part through the quality of their relationship with the mother of their children. A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children's father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents. They are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support.

Discipline is important for Americans when bringing up a child. Through discipline a child learns that some kinds of behaviour are acceptable and others are not.

Some parents in the USA think it is good for children to be allowed to run wild without control or supervision. They say that this enables children's personalities to develop naturally and that they will learn to be responsible by the mistakes they make. However, this might lead to juvenile delinquency, with the children ending up in the courts, or it might simply make children self-centered, without any consideration for others.

Other parents believe in being strict, but taken to extremes this can produce a too authoritarian atmosphere in the home, with the children being dominated and ruled by their parents. Parents can also be very possessive and try to keep their children dependent on them. These last two attitudes can encourage rebelliousness against parents, school, or, conversely, suppress a child's natural sense of adventure and curiosity. But no matter how American parents treat their children, they always love them and wish only good. For example the average family spends about 8 thousand dollars a year for their teenage child. Children are free to visit different places and organizations, they enjoy traveling and doing sports with their parents. And of course they receive moral and financial aid even if they leave their homes [24, p. 149].

The most painful part of childhood is adolescence. There is a complete lack of self-confidence during this time. Adolescents are over conscious of their appearance and the impression they make on others. They feel shy and awkward. Feelings are intense, easily from tremendous rapture to black despair. And besides friends are becoming more and more important these yeas. At American schools there are cliques who decide what is «cool».

Experts say that the rush to grow up is due to the mass media. Children desire to be independent and it creates behavior problems. Adolescents may rebel violently against parental authority. But even teenagers with supportive parents can fall in with bad company. Among American adolescents various subcultures such as punks, goths or emo are widespread. Many American children become addicted to drugs and alcohol because their life is hollow and they don't think of life-long goals. More than one-quarter (27.6 percent) of American youth aged 12 to 20 said that they drank alcohol in the past month, according to a study released in 2008 by the federal government [12, pp. 51-52].

Parents spend with the children all their childhood and adolescence. Then children begin to build their careers and family, become a parent. This time is quite hard for parents who feel very lonely without their children. The average age of children leaving their family is 19 years. This is the time when they have to shift from using parental authority with their kids to being friends of these new adults. Even adult children need love and guidance from their parents from time to time. As children pass into adulthood, the time for independence for both parents and children is very important for a healthy parent-child relationship. The majority of parents and adult children experience some tension and aggravation with one another. But parents generally are more bothered by the tensions - and the older the child, the greater the bother.

3.1 Relations between American parents and their children

The great majority of parents have positive and nurturing relationships with their children. In fact, findings from research show that parents and their adolescent children generally have close emotional ties. These findings run counter to anecdotal portrayals of parents as clueless and unconnected, especially when it comes to relating to their adolescent children.

In this point we will look at trends among child-parent relations through through three markers of these relationships for parents living with children between the ages of 6 and 17: parent-child closeness, the degree to which parents share ideas and talk about things that really matter with their children, and parents' acquaintance with their children's friends.

The great majority of parents (87 percent) reported being very close to their children. Not surprisingly, a greater percentage of parents of 6-year-olds (96 percent) reported being very close to their children than parents of 17-year-olds (76 percent). However, for the most part, parents and children maintained close bonds, with three-quarters of these relationships described as very close, even when the child was 17. Among parents who lived with their children (ages 6-17), most reported feeling very close to their children, even as they grew into adolescence (87 percent). Only about 13 percent of parents reported that they were just somewhat close to their children. Less than 1 percent of parents reported that their relationship was not very close.

Good communication is an important parenting skill. Parents who discuss important matters such as academic performance, puberty, and drug use provide their children with knowledge that can help them lead more productive and safer lives. In addition, conversations about serious topics convey to children that parents are concerned with and interested in their lives [2, p. 38].

The National Survey of Children's Health asked parents to what degree they can share ideas and talk about things that really matter with their children. About 75 percent of parents reported that they were able to share and talk about things that really mattered with their children very well. The percentage declined with the age of the child, with 82 percent of parents of 6 - to 11-year-olds and 70 percent of parents of 12 - to 17-year-olds reporting that they could share ideas and talk with their children very well about things that really mattered. These findings indicate that communication between parents and children is relatively high, even for parents of children at the adolescent stage, when communication can be a greater challenge [8, p. 21].

Researchers find that parental awareness of American children's friends is an important part of parenting. For parents, knowing their children's friends can have a two-fold effect: it can help preempt their children's involvement in negative social activities, and it can keep parents aware of their children's social behaviors. In addition, research finds that parents who monitor their children's friendships tend to raise more socially adept children. Indeed, of the 10 rules that the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides parents, part of rule number one - making sure to know where children are located at all times - is parental awareness of children's friends. Overall, about 43 percent of parents of children ages 6-11 reported meeting all their children's friends, compared with 30 percent of parents of adolescents ages 12-17. Another 42 percent of parents of 6 - to 11-year-olds reported meeting most of their children's friends, whereas 54 percent of parents of 12 - to 17-year-olds reported meeting most of their children's friends. The data suggest that parents of adolescents are more likely to know most rather than all of their children's friends [2, pp. 77-78].

Overall, we find that most parents reported close bonds with their children, communicated with their children about important topics, and were acquainted with most of their children's friends. These findings were apparent even among parents of adolescent children (ages 12-17), who are often presumed to feel distant from their children. Our analyses show that although some declines are seen in these areas as children get older, high parental involvement and positive parent-child interactions endure throughout childhood into the teenage years for most adolescents.

3.2 Problems of upbringing American children

Parenting is not like any other 9 to 5 job. It is never ending and there is never enough time to do everything. No matter how old the child is, a newborn or a toddler, it is never too late to put child first and enjoy being a mum or dad. Many American parents think that they alone know what is best for the children and therefore expect too much from them. They force their children into tuition classes, punish or deprive of some things. These actions lead to some problems which arose at the beginning of the 20th century in the USA.

It was already mentioned that there is a problem with drugs and alcohol among American youth. There is currently little solid information regarding how many children have experience with alcohol, either from retrospective recall by adolescents or from surveys of children themselves. Retrospective reports of the age at first drink are not very reliable for this life stage. Reported age of onset generally increases the older the adolescents questioned. For example, in the most recent national data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the percentage saying they drank alcohol before age 13 decreased from 33.9% for 9th grade students to 19.3% for 12th grade students. That these are not in fact cohort effects, but rather evidence of «forward telescoping,» is shown by the fact that although the percentages decline over time, a similar pattern can be seen in each of the surveys [7, pp. 14-15].

More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. Obesity increases the risk of a number of health conditions including hypertension, adverse lipid concentrations, and type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of obesity in the United States increased during the last decades of the 20th century. More recently there appears to have been a slowing of the rate of increase or even a leveling off. Given the health risks of obesity and its high prevalence, it is important to continue to track the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults and children. By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 21.0% in Colorado to 34.0% in Mississippi in 2010. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more. The South has the highest prevalence of obesity (29.4%) followed by the Midwest (28.7%), Northeast (24.9%) and the West (24.1%) [6, p. 132]. Obesity among Americans does not just happen overnight, it develops gradually from poor diet and lifestyle choices and, to some extent, from genes. Lifestyle choice is an important factor in influencing on weight on American children. Eating more calories than they need leads to obesity. Lack of physical activity is another important factor that is related to obesity. Many children have activities that involve sitting at a desk for most of the day, and rely heavily on the transport to get around. When it is time to relax, many American children tend to watch TV, or play computer games, and rarely take any regular exercise. Of course some children tend to stay the same weight for years without much effort, whereas others find they put on weight quickly if they are not careful about what they eat. This could be due, in part to their genes.

There is a harmful tendency among American children - juvenile delinquency. There are teens with rich parents, that give them money and expensive things. Envy and the desire to possess the same things can push teenagers to committing a crime and it leads to juvenile delinquency. Juvenile Delinquency refers to criminal acts committed by children or teenagers, specifically anyone below the age of eighteen. Common sentiment on this issue is that the crimes they commit hurt society and hurt the children themselves. Much research and debate revolves around the problem of juvenile delinquency in the US. There are roughly 75 million juveniles in The United States today. That is, one in four Americans have the potential of being labeled as juvenile delinquents (because they are considered juveniles). More specifically, in 2009 there were 74.5 million juveniles in the US, which was 2 million more than in the year 2000. The population of juveniles in the US is projected to increase until 2015, at least. In fact, the Federal Interagency on Child and Family Statistics reported that the number of juveniles might reach 101.6 million by 2050. If the juveniles delinquency rates were to increase with the population, or even plateau, this would translate into thousands of more juvenile delinquents [8, p. 84].

According to the latest poll, thirty-two percent of parents fear for their child's physical safety when the child is at school. Thirty-nine percent of parents with a child in grade six or higher are more likely to say they fear for their child's safety. Twenty-two percent of parents whose children are in grade five or lower fear for their child's safety. It seems that American children bully for a variety of reasons and when dealing with child bullying we can see that there's usually one person who's the gang leader and his friends who help him. The reasons for bullying in the USA can include: frustration, lack of behaviour skills, abuse at home (the child is being abused and is expressing their anger through bullying), neglect at home, conduct disorder, undue influence or neglect at home (similar to abuse as the child's emotional and behavioural development is being retarded) [7, p. 239]. Statistics show bullying is becoming a huge problem. It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school. 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school. 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school. 1 out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school. According to bullying statistics, 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying [13, p. 201].

3.3 Child care system

Child care system in the USA can be investigated from two points. 1st is the criminal responsibility of children for their crimes.

There are at least 2,225 child offenders serving life without parole sentences in U.S prisons for crimes committed before they were age 18. While many of the child offenders are now adults, 16 percent were between 13 and 15 years old at the time they committed their crimes. An estimated 59 percent were sentenced to life without parole for their first-ever criminal conviction. Forty-two states currently have laws allowing children to receive life without parole sentences [8, p. 131].

The ages of criminal responsibility and consent, the age at which attendance at school ceases to be obligatory, the age at which legally binding contracts can be entered into, and so on, may all be different.

In many countries, including Australia, India, Philippines, Brazil, Croatia and Colombia, a minor is defined as a person under the age of 18. In the United States, where the age of majority is set by the individual states, minor usually refers to someone under the age of 18, but can in some states be used in certain areas (such as gambling, gun ownership and the consuming of alcohol) to define someone under the age of 21 [17, p. 111].

Another point of child care system are legal rights of young American citizens. Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving 6 million children; that's because reports can include multiple children. The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation - losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths.

In order to prevent child abuse the US government developed a list of laws. The primary responsibility for the child care system rests with the States, and each State has its own legal and administrative structures and programs that address the needs of children and families. However, States must comply with specific Federal requirements and guidelines in order to be eligible for Federal funding under certain programs.

Beginning with the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974, the U.S. Congress has implemented a number of laws that have had a significant impact on State child protection and child welfare services. Such legislation frequently requires Federal departments and agencies, such as the Children's Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to issue or amend Federal policy and regulation. New legislation also prompts responses at the State level, including enactment of State legislation, development or revision of State agency policy and regulations, and implementation of new programs [8, p. 51].

The largest federally funded programs that support State and Tribal efforts for child welfare, foster care, and adoption activities are authorized under titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act (the Act). These programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and include the title IV-B Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families (formerly known as Family Preservation) programs, the title IV-E Foster Care Program, the title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program, and the title IV-E Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is authorized under title XX of the Act and funds a wide range of programs that support various social policy goals.

To provide a framework for understanding the Federal legislation that has shaped the delivery of child welfare services, this point of the coursework presents a summary of Federal legislation since 1974 that has had a significant impact on the field. It provides an overview of each act and its major provisions.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was the first major legislation dealing specifically with child welfare, passed in 1974. The law establishes the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services. This office researches child abuse and neglect, making recommendations about how to best deal with child abuse and neglect. The law enables the Secretary of Health and Human Services to aid state, municipal and nonprofit agencies dealing with child abuse and neglect with planning and developing programs to treat and prevent child abuse and neglect [17, p. 44].

The Fair Labor Standards Act provides federal legal guidelines for the employment of minors. The law prohibits children under the age of 16 from engaging in hazardous work outside the agricultural industry and children under the age of 18 from engaging in hazardous work in other fields. The law prohibits children from working during school hours. Children 14 or 15 years of age may not work between the hours of 7 p.m. (from June 1 to Labor Day this shifts to 9 p.m.) and 7 a.m., nor more than three hours on a school day or 18 hours during a school week. When school is not in session, children 14 or 15 years of age may not work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours during a workweek [19, p. 32].

The Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 offers a number of grants for organizations concerned with preventing child abuse and neglect. To qualify for federal grants under this bill, an organization must provide certain services such as including treatment for fetal alcohol syndrome, child protective services legal training and referrals to community and volunteer organizations for children who are not in immediate danger. Organizations may use grants to improve case tracking technology, recruit and train caseworkers, improve case management and monitoring, train required reporters of abuse in their responsibilities and develop assessment protocols [23, p. 247].

The Child and Family Services Improvement Act was passed in 2006 to assist existing child protective services agencies. The law sets aside funds for state child protective services agencies to provide monthly visits to children in foster care. The law also assists in locating children of prisoners requiring mentoring, provides vouchers for these children to receive mentoring and monitors the mentoring.


Belonging to a family is one bond almost everyone in the world shares, but family patterns vary from country to country and the USA is not exception. During this work, which topic was the «The American family: Past and Present», we considered the such questions as: American marriage pattern; Marriage contract and divorce; Children and bringing up; Child case system.

On the basis of the given information we can say that for all the changes in fertility and mortality that Americans have experienced from the colonial period until today, there has been surprisingly little change in the structure of the family until the past quarter century. Until that point, the age of marriage changed from time to time, but only a minority of women never married and births outside marriage were traditionally less than 10 percent of all births.

But this fundamental social institution has changed profoundly since 1980. In fact, if one were to define the most original demographic feature in the post-1980 period in the United States, it would be the changes that were occurring in both families and households for all sections of the national population. The traditional American family has been undergoing profound transformations for all ages, all races, and all ethnic groups. Every aspect of the American family was experiencing change. These include the number of adults who marry, the number of households that are formed by married people, the number of children that are conceived, the economic role of mothers, the number of non-family households, appearing of same-sex, interracial couples, and even the importance of marriage in accounting for total births.

These transformations of family continue nowadays in the changing economic role of women even in dual-parent households with children, increasing number of single-parent families and high rates of children delinquency and other crimes.

The US government tries to solve the problems which American families face by making new laws and acts and improving child case system. In our opinion sometimes these measure can't be very effective and it's better to thing about popularization of family-life and having children. There are many ways to do so: mass media, printed media, personal example of famous people etc. This way of popularization of family culture can be more productive than legal acts and family security systems.

Clearly the American family, like all families in the Western industrial countries, is now profoundly different from what it had been in the recorded past. It typically is a household with few children, with both parents working, and with mothers producing their children at ever older ages. At the same time, more adults than ever before are living alone or with unmarried companions and more women than ever before are giving birth out of wedlock. These trends have profoundly changed the American family and are unlikely to be reversed any time soon.


american family marriage divorce

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