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The American Family Essay

1694 words - 7 pages

The children are leaving for school just as father grabs his briefcase and is off to work. Meanwhile, mother finishes clearing the breakfast dishes and continues on with her day filled with PTA, housework, and the preparation of a well-balanced meal to be enjoyed by all when father gets home promptly at 6:00 p.m. This would have to be a scene from "Father Knows Best", Leave It to Beaver" or that of a family during or before the sixties. Only a small minority of contemporary families fit the mold of being a "nuclear" family today. Until about the 1960's most Americans shared a common set of beliefs about family life, a family should consist of a husband and a wife living together with their ...view middle of the document...

Larry moves in with and marries Krista who already has two boys. Nora meets James, who is divorced and has a daughter. When Nora and James get married, Jarred and Cassie now have a mother, a father, a stepmother, a stepfather, two stepbrothers, a stepsister and four sets of grandparents, both biological and step. A recent long-term study conducted by Princeton University found that elementary school children from divorced families, especially boys, on average scored lower on reading and math tests, were absent more often, were more anxious, hostile, withdrawn and were less popular with their peers than their classmates from healthy "nuclear" family environments. In later life, adults who grew up in divorced homes are more likely than others to tell investigators that they are unhappy, in poor health and dissatisfied with their lives. Men from divorced families are 35% more likely and women 60% more likely than their "intact-family" counterparts to get divorced or separated. "The complexity of families has reached astounding proportions," says Frank Furstenberg, University of Pennsylvania sociologist. A child who lives in such circumstances finds it very difficult to reckon who are his "kin-folk" and whether or not the people that he counts as kin can be counted upon in times of need. Divorces can also mean that men and women with executive or professional careers putting in 40 plus hours a week, plus travel and home worries don't have enough time for family. And so children are not left with "quality time" which means little time from parents and with what sociologist Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University calls "quality phone calls such as "Honey, I won't be home. I love you." Though the intent is not to neglect the child, this can turn out to be neglect in effect. The worry is what does this do to the children? It of course means that children can feel unvalued and insecure. It's easy to neglect things that mean a lot to the children and it shows when they ask, "Why didn't you come to my school play? Oh, you had to work? Do we really need that much money?" It means that the parents are not around to participate in the thousands of daily interactions that make up a child's intellectual, moral and emotional education. So unless the child is a latchkey kid, babysitters or daycare is left to fill in 4 the voids as well as they are able and willing. Socializing children, restraining their impulses, awakening their faculties, encouraging their talents and forming their values all takes time. Parents who don't do so run the risk that their kids will not achieve all they can and are twice as likely to drop out of high school as kids that get to spend quality time with their parents. What's more, Harvard law professor, Mary Ann Glendon argues that, "Middle-and upper-income people who don't spend a lot of time with their kids are not teaching them how members of a community live together and respect each other's rights. When parents put personal...

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