Everything is changing in our contemporary world. One of the most important things that have changed a lot during past decades is family. Nowadays we observe a great gap between what we used to call traditional family and modern family. In this research I will focus on the main concepts of traditional and modern family by using different sources and finally I will try to verify which type of family is better than other. Traditional family used to be considered as ideal for a long time in the history. As long as our society undergoes various changes it would be sufficient to verify which type is better today, or at least to maintain advantages and disadvantages of both types. The history of the family has a great variety of family types, no one of which could ever meet everyone's needs. Marriage remains extremely important, but it has lost its former monopoly over the organization of people's major life transitions (Coontz, 1997).
Basically, traditional family model is the one where women were given roles of wives and mothers only. Indeed there is great emphasis on gender segregation in the traditional family. In this kind of family man is a head and for sure the main supplier. Children in this kind of families are raised in the atmosphere where man is considered to be strong, dominant and even aggressive, while women are supposed to be passive, obedient and tender. In traditional family father is the main decision maker, and women’s role is to be dependent on man. It is obvious, that gender segregation is the main feature of traditional families. However, when thinking about traditional family, we usually bring to mind warm picture of fireplace and round table where whole family is gathered eating and talking. But should we really idealize this kind of family? Views on traditional family started to change in 60s, when social movements were raised against social injustice and racial as well as sexual discrimination. This is a turning point in American history when white supremacy finally came to an end.
This was also period, when feminism movement started action for the second time and it sure had great influence on private and social life in USA. Structure of the family had been changed forever due to the equal rights for everyone regardless of race and gender. Changes in gender roles had immense impact on human relationships and opportunities for individual in his/her self-realization. The decade of 1950s when life was balanced is gone. It was time, when even high school education promised a good living and family values were held above anything else. Despite several minuses, this era is still considered as the best time to raise kids, it is period when the divorce rates where low and living standards where pretty high (Coontz, 1997). But still, this time has dark side and one of the reasons is that people of different races and nations were treated in extremely hostile way. There was no way to reveal your real sexual orientation and women were absolutely disempowered as well. In the book “The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families”, Stephanie Coontz argues idealization of 1950s’. She stresses on the fact, that even those who really miss those times, would not rather bring them back. The model of the ideal traditional family presented in various TV shows from 50s has not much in common with the real families of that time. As a proof of previous statement let us take into account the fact that most of the women ended up their education mainly in high school, they were getting married being in very young age and devoted their life to kids and husband. Women could hardly apply for a credit card or a loan, while men had all the privileges possible. (Coontz, 1997). During the course of USA history, concept of family as well as roles of family members had been changing a lot. Of course, it is hard to say, what is better, our modern families or traditional families model. Each generation has different views on things like family, relationships, marriage, and therefore what was good in 50s cannot be applied nowadays. Sixty years ago, women were dedicated to their families only, and now people’s public roles prevent them from paying more attention to their families.
Nowadays, most mothers are employed even if they have kids of pre-school age, but they should not be blamed for this as far as by working hard, women want to help their husbands in supplying their families. Of course, this might seem to be disadvantage of modern family, because women cannot spend as much time with their kids as needed, but on the other hand it is great that women are active and have a chance to contribute into their family’s well being. Marriage nowadays does not have as great importance as it used to have 50 years ago. It still remains an important social institution, but it is no longer economically essential, therefore more people live on their own, divorce, or prefer to be single parents. (Jo Mettam 31 March 2008 http://www.sa.org.au/mag-archive-from-old-website/174-edition-127/1645-the-qtraditional-familyq-and-modern-society). Marriage has become an option in society, where women can develop careers and make money to live on their own and bring up their kids. In case if one of successful women is not happy in her marriage she is free to divorce and cope economically even deprived of her husband’s help (Coontz, 1997). The negative side of this is that divorce rate increased dramatically. People have to remember, that even if divorce does not change their economical status it for sure has a negative impact on their children. Divorce usually causes emotional problems as well as drug and alcohol abuse, lawbreaking etc. The quality of the post-divorce family environment makes a big difference to children, especially the quality of parenting by the custodial parent and the amount of continuing conflict between ex-spouses. It should also be mentioned, that changes that modern family undergoes are closely related to industrialization, science, and technology( Coontz, 1997).
Instead of talking about disadvantages or advantages of any specific family type we should better focus on the family functions. There is no doubt, that each type has its pros and cons.
In families, where both parents are obsessed with their careers and money making, children are usually deprived of normal family relationships, but on the other hand in this case children have an opportunity to get better education not talking about food and clothing. In gay or lesbian families children are more likely to be exposed to social rumors and jokes, but this does not mean that gays cannot be the most loving and caring parents. It is very important for parents not to exclude their child from decision making, there has to be mutual understanding between each member of the family.
When we talk about family it is very important to take a closer look into the book by Evan Wolfson “Why marriage matters”. The author is one of the greatest attorneys in USA, who has dedicated his life to protection of individual’s rights and in his book he points out the significance of the right to marry in America. In his book he touches various problems like marriage of same-sex couples and how these kind of marriages influence on children. He claims that right to marriage is important for all couples regardless of faith, race and sexual orientation. In his book Wolfson talks about the distinction between civil and religious marriage. There’s a big difference between the religious rites of marriage, which are up to every faith tradition to decide for themselves without government interference, and the legal right to marry, which is regulated by the government. It is obvious that for gay and lesbian couples, their orientation is not something that they choose, it is their inner state. But if same-sex couples live in peace and care about people around them, why they should be denied the right to marry? People who oppose marriage rights for gay people also oppose any rights for gay people. (Wolfson, 2005).
By denying them the basic human right and dignity to choose a life partner, government is reinforcing some of the worst stereotypes and prejudices of gay Americans (Wolfson, 2005). One of the main forces, that had changed family life was for sure sexual revolution, basically it was revolution in morals and manners. Contemporary Americans are more likely to postpone marriage, to be single, to engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage etc. These changes were rooted in 1960s when birth control pill was invented and sexual openness overwhelmed mass media. Feminism was another factor that transformed American family life. Changes that have taken place in family life have become subjects for numerous debates and arguments in government (Wolfson, 2005).
As a conclusion it would be sufficient to add, that the concept of family values has greatly changed from the 1950s. It is still hard to decide which type of the family is better, because each has its vulnerabilities as well as strong sides. I would probably support modern family model, as it has more freedom. I don’t think it is right to idealize traditional family from 50s, because it is past, and we should look into future. Everything has changed since 1950s, that is why I want to support Stephanie Coontz views on family model. She argues that while it's not crazy to miss the more hopeful economic trends of the 1950s and 1960s, few would want to go back to the gender roles and race relations of those years. There is no need to bring back past, right now we better try to maintain new rules and rights in order to make our lives better. I also agree, that every human being has right to get married regardless of sexual orientation, because it is not acceptable for modern society to deprive people of right to be happy (Wolfson, 2005). Of course, there were some pluses in traditional family, but disempowerment of women, racial and sexual discrimination are those factors which cannot be excepted in our post modern world.