Census: Nuclear Family Fading Three-Quarters of US Families No Longer Fit `Ozzie & Harriet' Model

By David Holmstrom, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Census: Nuclear Family Fading Three-Quarters of US Families No Longer Fit `Ozzie & Harriet' Model


David Holmstrom, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


AS the 21st century edges closer, single parent Linda Johnson is already described as the probable parent of the future.

Instead of being part of the traditional American family with two married parents and children, Ms. Johnson is raising her two daughters alone in the Boston area after her divorce.

A recent United States Census Bureau report identifying the continuation of a major cultural shift in America, says millions of single parents like Johnson are raising children by themselves. In fact, almost 27 percent of American children live with a single parent, and half of US children, or 32.3 million, now live in a situation other than the nuclear family.

The American centerpiece of a family headed by married parents with biological children has substantially decreased in the last 23 years. Stacy Furukawa, the author of the report, says, "We find that 3 out of 4 kids now live with two adults or parents but not their biological parents, and this is a new figure."

A number of factors have triggered the changes in families, none more pivotal than the shift in cultural attitudes about births occurring out of wedlock. Another 1993 Census Bureau report indicates that even though the number of out-of-wedlock births slowed a little in the 80's it has soared to 6.3 million in 1993 from 243,000 in 1960.

"It is clear that people would still like to have children inside of marriage," says Kristin Moore, director of Child Trends, an organization in Washington, which studies adolescents. She says what's changed is the societal view "that it is morally wrong if you don't marry, and your neighbors will not spurn you if a child is born outside of wedlock."

For instance, 2 out of every 3 teenagers in the US who had babies between July of 1991 and June of 1992 were not married, according to the Census Bureau. Most live on welfare.

Statistics reflect one side of this moral shift, but not the emotional and economic impact on women struggling as single parents, or the quality of their lives.

"It was quite a challenge being a single parent from the standpoint of logistics and exhaustion," says Johnson, who lived on welfare, but has been employed now for several years, "and the disadvantages of being a single parent definitely outweigh the advantages, but my daughters are now teenagers, and I have a very close relationship with them."

The Census Bureau also reports great differences in family structure according to race.

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