The Changing Family: Its Function and Future

The Changing Family: Its Function and Future

The Changing Family: Its Function and Future

The Changing Family: Its Function and Future

Excerpt

With experimentation in a wide variety of family forms in communes, religious communities, and on the college campus, and with dramatic departures from traditional norms among sedate swingers of suburbia, many people come to know one or more alternatives to the typical middle-class family's style of life personally. They may even prefer these to the traditional style of life. The change in sexual norms and behavior commonly referred to as the "sexual revolution" has not only separated coitus from reproduction, it has encouraged a free expression of all forms of sexual behavior, much of which only recently was considered "perverted." Public policy issues such as the population explosion, environmental pollution, women's liberation, and welfare rights draw attention to family life styles and suggest, among other things, that the average American family should have fewer children; consume less; real- locate power, privilege and prestige in a redefinition of sex roles; and come to accept the single-parent family as a viable family form. The quest for intimacy and community, particularly among upper-middle-class youth, is a positive side of their political and cultural alienation, but the "generation gap" points to another dimension of conflict within the family. In such times, it becomes increasingly difficult to specify who holds what norm, much less who puts it into practice.

The author of a text on the family cannot ordinarily expect to completely cover all of the scholarly research. Today it is difficult to cover all of the issues connected with family life. The study of the family has become controversial and the author cannot assume much about what his "typical reader" thinks about the family. When talking about changing the family, especially, what is humdrum to one reader is revolutionary to another. Nevertheless, I believe that the sociologist of the family should address himself to these matters of how the family should be changed, even though the bulk of his effort may be directed to an examination of how the family has changed.

This text draws upon diverse disciplines and perspectives in order to create a synthesis -- a new perspective on the family -- that will encourage rather than retard further discussion and debate. It would be quite misleading to imply that it offers a plan for changing the normal American family or that it provides a coherent theory of family change. Both are beyond the scope of . . .

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