Twenty-first Century Families




Twenty-first Century Families:

  • Families, the bedrock of any society, are significantly changing. Many new patterns are in the making. Families are the nexus of activities that include parenting, employment, and leisure.

  • As society changes, families must adapt to the new structures and processes resulting from this change. One of the most striking features of modern societies has been the rapid growth of divorce.

  • The average age at which people get married is also increasing along with an increasing trend of individuals not getting married.

  • The changing roles of women through increased education and employment have put additional pressure on the family to adapt to dual-earner households and the changing needs of child care.

  • All these changes are affecting the family as an institution. These changes may be seen more in western countries and in countries like India, they may still not be emerging as a pattern. But the newer family relations they are giving rise to are certainly worth discussing.

  • Single parent family: The majority of single-parent families are headed by single mothers. This may result from divorce, separation, death, or by choice. The plurality in terms of material conditions or social disadvantages makes it difficult to define single-parent families as a uniform category. Some research however suggests that growing up in a single-parent family can be disadvantageous for children.

  • Cohabitation: Cohabitation is the sharing of a household by an unmarried couple. Live-in relations or cohabitation may or may not lead to marriage. Younger generations, especially in many parts of Europe and in some urban areas in India are preferring cohabitation as family relations. This is especially true among some same-sex couples.

  • Step-parenting: The reconstituted or step-families result from the break-up of one family, due to death or divorce. A new family unit is constituted through marriage or cohabitation. Stepfamilies may include children from both old and new families. As rates of divorce and remarriage steadily increase, it gives rise to a new family form and relation of step-parenting. The extent of children staying in stepfamilies is increasing.

  • As we discuss these diverse forms of family relations we must understand that the direction of change in family and kinship need not always be similar for all countries and regions. Moreover, change does not mean the complete erosion of previous norms and structures.

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