Today, divorce is rampant and has doubled since 1950, with over fifty percent of all first marriages ending in divorce (Wilson 113). Single parent households have doubled in the last three decades, and increasingly hectic work schedules mean that even two-parent families rarely spend time together (Benokraitis 78). Furthermore, same-sex parenting is becoming more commonplace as society grows more liberal and accepting of others’ beliefs. All of these changes have caused countless leaders and experts to begin speaking out, declaring that such transformations are threatening the moral and cultural fibers of the traditional American family. They allege that these changes paint a dreary picture for the future of this country and even go as far as to claim that these changes are directly resulting in the moral decay of society, unhappy families, corrupted marriages, and children that are frequently left neglected.
While many individuals in society cling to the values of the fifties and sixties, it must be noted that a changing family dynamic is nothing new. In fact, a look at the history of families in this country shows a long-standing pattern of changing family dynamics and practices. It is this fact that forces a single and very controversial question. Are traditional American family values actually under attack, or are they simply the most recent phase in an eternal and ongoing transformation? In reality the answer is fairly obvious if one objectively looks at the facts. The traditional American family is not under attack, but rather is undergoing the most recent series of changes in a long history of family progression. This knowledge makes it is easy to understand why the more reserved members of society perceive the evolution of the family as a war being waged on conservative beliefs. Yet people must remember that changes such as divorce, dual-parent working households, and same-sex parenting do not have the negative affects that so many people claim they do.
The majority of people forget that the stable two-parent household, in which one parent was always at home rearing the children, did not even exist throughout most of history. For example, in colonial America, both parents worked and young children were routinely sent to live in other households as servants or apprentices. During this time period, these actions were not viewed as attacks on the family system, but were viewed instead as a way to give children a better chance of success in life. No one criticized these proceedings, because family values and expectations were different at that time. Parents did what they and society thought to be best, and eventually these social stigmas faded out and inevitably changed.
After World War Two, the traditional households, where the male worked and provided for the family and the female remained home and cared for the children, became popular solely because they were now a possibility. The high value of the dollar and a growing economy meant that most families could live comfortably on a single income (Croteau and Hoynes 321). Yet as the price of goods and services went up and the value of the dollar went down, this eventually and inevitably changed as well. Currently, most working class families find it extremely difficult and stressful to support and provide for their loved ones on a single salary.
It must also be noted that society in the mid-twentieth century offered