Advances and New Directions

By Silvano Arieti; H. Keith H. Brodie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10

ALTERNATIVE LIFE-STYLES
AND THE MENTAL HEALTH
OF CHILDREN

Carol Nadelson

IN RECENT YEARS, social changes have brought about major differences in family life and expectations. There have been increased numbers of women in the work force, especially women with young children; an increased divorce rate has meant that women have frequently become heads of families; changes in custody practice have led to fathers more often being awarded custody of children; a general decline in birth rate has resulted in smaller families; there have been changes in sexual behavior; there has been an alteration of traditional role behaviors; and progressive urbanization has affected family ties.

The ability to control reproduction has had a major impact. Birth control methods have made it possible to limit birth rates with consequent diminution of the impact of pregnancy and childbirth on the lives of women.

An important related change has been in the area of work and careers of women. For some families this change has been enriching, for others it has generated conflicts about achievement, family responsibilities, and role redefinition. Social changes have spurred challenges to the traditional views of male and female development. They have also affected the conditions of growing up and effected the sex role stereotyping of childrearing. Family life-styles and models have begun to include many alternatives to the "traditional" family.

Reference to the work alternative immediately brings up the question, alternative to what? It implies a norm, and thus an alternative to that norm. The obvious response to this question is that the norm is a two-parent family with two children, in which the parents are married to each other, the father is away at work during the day, and the mother is a "housewife."

When we face the reality of the American family, we discover to our surprise that only 6 percent of American families currently fit the model. 63,80 Thus, these "traditional" families have become the deviant ones. Our pluralistic society offers a variety of alterna

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