The concept of family is one of the most required things for humanity; everybody loves his or her family and helps their family in the best possible way and this propensity towards family is found in almost all the societies of world including American society. Family is strongest bonding agent that helps an individual in growing and fulfilling all the necessities of life. People have trust in their family members, give affection and love and help one another in every situation. People of America are not exception, they also have loyalty, affection and love for their family members in the best possible moral and emotional ways.
The characterization of family in America has been transforming time to time. The aboriginal idea of the American family was idea of extended family where members of few generations used to live together in one house. The characterization was changed in the decade of fifties when family meant parents and their kids residing under one roof in urban areas of America, popularly known as nuclear family. The contemporary characterization of family is a difficult task due to multiple changes and complexities in the family system and society of America. These complexities include single parent family, gay- lesbian marriage, mixed family etc. due to such changes the concept of old extended American family has been widely hampered.
This paper will focus on old family system of American society, Different aspects of old family System would be covered in the paper. The concept of American family system was developed in different phases and this paper explores all the related aspects of old family, how relevant was the old system of family and how it was changed afterwards?
Sociologists give their opinion after analyzing the society from different perspectives. There are usually three methods used to interpret society and social behavior. In this paper the functionalist perspective of social study will be used to analyze the contemporary social behavior and society as whole. Functionalist theory believes that society is mutually dependent and people living in a society need one another to fulfill their all kind of needs. Any individual alone or even a family can not fulfill their requirements themselves unless they are co-operated by other members of the society.
Here we will discuss the family in America and its development in different phases, the focus will be on old family system of America.
Family system during colonial American society
Sociologists suggest that there were three type of family in America during colonial rule- family of Native Americans, white European family and usually in a nuclear form and blacks who were affected by the slavery. In that period there were no rules and much religious rituals related to marriages and people used to live and cohabitate together after a normal gathering and ceremony, acceptance by the society was enough for such couples. In contemporary family system marriages were contractual and not something related to consecrated ritual.
In such families the simple system was that if you can not adjust; break it. Condition of woman was very bad; she had neither voice, nor any other rights. No need to say that the male member of the family used to dominate the family and whenever he felt it was over, the marriage was over ended. This was against the functionalist perceptive of the society but was a hard fact in contemporary society
In some sections of the society the condition of children was unpleasant; usually they were considered as family property and used as free labor by their family, they were put at work by their family. They used to work as house servant, were encouraged to learn some work so that after learning they could be employed somewhere and some money for their parents. The idea of education was very distant dream for the children of that period. This way they used to contribute in the economy of their family. This tradition or style was very common in puritan families and not necessarily in all the families of society. There were some influential families that used to provide all kind of amenities to their children.
After analyzing the contemporary situation of society it may be concluded that the system of family was patriarchal, woman and children were literally depended upon the head of the family for everything but there are instances where woman used to enjoy every right of a family head but such instances were either exceptional or circumstantial in the contemporary society.
Family system during nineteenth century in American society
The concept of family system in America during the nineteenth century was affected in remarkable ways and this change was occurred mainly by two situations. The first was Urbanization and second one was rapid and enormous migration of people from several parts of country to the developed and industrialized cities of North America. Due to this migration many towns were overcrowded and this made several notable changes in the society and contemporary family. People from different areas started coming and interestingly they were ready to work and adjust irrespective of any terms and conditions of their own. Since it was a male dominated society and the migrants were also mostly young males they started marrying girls at the migrated places. This new type of relation that later turned out in marriage of such young couples, was based on a new equation of equality, love and mutuality. Sociologists say this change was not possible in absence of this migration because in male dominated society it was not easy for men to compromise their rights but at new place and in new circumstances they were compromising with their rights because in lieu of this they were getting money. They were even co-operating their wives and gradually society moved towards the concept of equality. A change was occurred in the family as well as in the society, the situation needed to be handling very carefully and some changes in rules and regulations were also required to tackle such situations. Marriage rituals were required to be changed, regulations were modified in this regard and all this was the need of the time.
In changed circumstances and open environment romanticism, love affairs also got the place and a number of problems also arose. People started new concepts, enjoyed their liberty, new place and involved in love and sexual affairs. Due to love affairs and extra marital affairs the need of divorce was also felt. Regulation related to marriage and divorce was modified due to changed circumstances.
Family system during twenty century in American society
One major change that occurred in early twentieth century was emergence of new cities. These cities were hub of business, commercial and cultural activities. Since migration was started during in the last century itself it was not a new problem. Child labor and sharp increase in cases of divorce were new problems that society and state had to take care of. Sociologists analyzed these issues from a analytical perspective.
Immigrants who came to these cities pushed their children in workplaces and this was done to earn some more money because sustenance was very tough in these cities. It was not easy to afford even bread and butter for them. Lodging was also very costly in these cities for the people who came in new cities form remote areas in the search of good living. But it was a matter of concern for the authorities and sociologists. Neither was it harmful for the venture owners nor to the immigrants because this way they were making some extra money. Every body was not sitting silent though, sociologists and other intellectuals raised their voices and this formed a movement against child labor. Awareness was at large level and it compelled the government to take steps.
A major change was observed in the behavior of women. Contrary to the last century they were not ready to compromise with their lives anymore, they were willing to enjoy their life, their sex life and not merely for birth of children but to enjoy and satisfaction. They sought freedom, they got freedom. It was a major change in the society and a step towards women liberty. This was not a sudden change, they were working, and new relations developed at work places and women also did not let the chance go of enjoying the body of men. Not only in their personal life but in social they lodged their presence remarkably. They were financially free because they were working and earning, they had not to look towards their husbands for the money. Their ego started clashing with the men and they started demanding their rights explicitly. They raised their voice in respect to equal work equal pay. Sociologists see their behavior behind the increasing cases of divorce and this was a real serious issue because it could have harmed the newly formed families and society.
Family system during fiftieth century in American society
The concept of family strengthened and the major reason behind it was that almost no illusions were rest among people. Everybody was aware about his or her rights as well as the rights of others. American people were economically strengthened and when this aspect was not a matter of concern they started looking towards the various other aspects and they felt the need and importance of family. Almost ninety percent Americans started agreeing that the life of a married man is better than being a single. At this juncture family became an important factor for the people of the society. They made every effort to take care of their children and nurture them in the best possible way. Their effort was to make a child grow not only physically but mentally also so that he could adjust with the society in future. Here the role of women became more important, apart fro working they had also responsible for their children and other responsibilities related to the family, on the other hand the male started considering that his role is confined to earn wages only.
Situation of children was drastically improved, now they were not working for their bread and butter but to fulfill their comfy needs like coffee, comics, motorbikes and other such needs. They were making good money every week and now they were not forced to work somewhere but it was their own decision and after their study hours they started working part time. This new pattern leads them towards various forms of entertainment and since they themselves were able to earn and expend they were not required to take permission from anybody fro their activities. This tendency and new behavior of children was not very healthy step. They were now independent but this independence also caused various complicacies in future for them and their parents.
After analyzing all the abovementioned, it is not difficult to find out that American family has seen various ups and downs, many due changes towards betterment have been fulfilled and this is a pleasant stage where women and children enjoys equal rights and they are self dependent in all the ways. Earlier there were many things that required to be changed but now sociologists are satisfied seeing the major changes in the society.
The old issues have been resolved but new kind of issue has been reported in the society, these are a bit complex in nature and needs attention. These may aggravated if the attention is not paid on time. Today the American family system is mature enough to look into said issue and solve them according to the priority basis. Increase in the number of divorce cases and several changes in family that affects the society at large serious concerns that are required to be addressed immediately.
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Wilder, B. L. (2009). The Evolution of the American Family. Retrieved October 22, 2011, from www.americanbar.org: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/irr_hr_hr_summer2009_wilder_summer09.html