Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
The American family is more diverse than ever–even compared to the changing landscape of the past few years with a rise in same-sex marriages, adoptions, and trans-racial families–according to researchers who follow census data on family structure. More from The New York Times:
“This churning, this turnover in our intimate partnerships is creating complex families on a scale we’ve not seen before,” said Andrew J. Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s a mistake to think this is the endpoint of enormous change. We are still very much in the midst of it.”
Yet for all the restless shape-shifting of the American family, researchers who comb through census, survey and historical data and conduct field studies of ordinary home life have identified a number of key emerging themes.
Families, they say, are becoming more socially egalitarian over all, even as economic disparities widen. Families are more ethnically, racially, religiously and stylistically diverse than half a generation ago — than even half a year ago.
In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans and start talk shows. Good friends join forces as part of the “voluntary kin” movement, sharing medical directives, wills, even adopting one another legally.
Single people live alone and proudly consider themselves families of one — more generous and civic-minded than so-called “greedy marrieds.”
“There are really good studies showing that single people are more likely than married couples to be in touch with friends, neighbors, siblings and parents,” said Bella DePaulo, author of “Singled Out” and a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll be single forever. “There are not just more types of families and living arrangements than there used to be,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of the coming book “Intimate Revolutions,” and a social historian at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “Most people will move through several different types over the course of their lives.”
At the same time, the old-fashioned family plan of stably married parents residing with their children remains a source of considerable power in America — but one that is increasingly seen as out of reach to all but the educated elite.
“We’re seeing a class divide not only between the haves and the have-nots, but between the I do’s and the I do nots,” Dr. Coontz said. Those who are enjoying the perks of a good marriage “wouldn’t stand for any other kind,” she said, while those who would benefit most from marital stability “are the ones least likely to have the resources to sustain it.”
Image: Multi-colored picket fence, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 13th, 2013
Physical and sexual abuse of children has declined over the past two decades, but the number of children who experience emotional abuse and neglect–mostly by their parents–is increasing. These are the findings of a report by the Institute of Medicine, where researchers called the data a mixed blessing. More from NBC News:
Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director of child advocacy and protection at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, says she believes awareness explains a lot. “I think we are much more aware now that there is physical and sexual abuse and I think we do a much better job of making families and children understand that,” McDavid told NBC News.
“We are empowering children.”
But the experts say it’s vital to look into the reasons that physical abuse may be going down, yet neglect and emotional abuse are staying at the same levels. They call for sustained federal research into what’s going on and a new database to track child abuse statistics.
Even if numbers are going down, overall, many children are abused and neglected in the United States, the panel of experts reports.
“Each year more than 3 million referrals for child abuse and neglect are received that involve around 6 million children, although most of these reports are not substantiated,” the report reads.
Image: Neglected girl, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 31st, 2013
More than 40 percent of American women consulted in a Associated Press/WE tv poll say they would consider having a baby even though they are not married or in a romantic relationship. More from The Associated Press:
An Associated Press-WE tv poll of people under 50 found that more than 2 in 5 unmarried women without children—or 42 percent—would consider having a child on their own without a partner, including more than a third, or 37 percent, who would consider adopting solo.
The poll, which addressed a broad range of issues on America’s changing family structures, dovetails with a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau that single motherhood is on the rise: It found that of 4.1 million women who’d given birth in 2011, 36 percent were unmarried at the time of the survey, an increase from 31 percent in 2005. And among mothers 20-24, the percentage was 62 percent, or six in 10 mothers.
The AP-WE tv poll also found that few Americans think the growing variety of family arrangements is bad for society. However, many have some qualms about single mothers, with some two-thirds—or 64 percent—saying single women having children without a partner is a bad thing for society. More men—68 percent—felt that way, compared to 59 percent of women.
The survey found broad gender gaps in opinion on many issues related to how and when to have children. One example: At a time when the can-you-have-it-all debate rages for working mothers, women were more apt than men to say having children has negatively impacted their career.
And this was true especially among mothers who waited until age 30 or older to have children. Fully 47 percent of those mothers said having a child had a negative impact on their careers. Of women overall, 32 percent of mothers reported a negative effect, compared with 10 percent of men.
Image: Mother and child, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 21st, 2012
New research is finding that oxytocin, the hormone that brings about feelings of love, connection, and belonging in relationships, may help fathers bond better with their children. More from Time.com:
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“In a study published in Biological Psychiatry, 35 fathers played with their five month old daughters, once after being given a nasal spray containing either oxytocin and again after being given a placebo. Each time, they were instructed to engage in a task called the “still face” paradigm, which produces a small, heart-tugging drama. Researchers measured oxytocin levels in both the dads and their babies before and after the exercise.
First, the father smiles and plays with the baby, who sits in an infant seat facing him. Then he keeps his face blank and expressionless, refusing to respond as the infant makes increasingly worried attempts to re-engage him. After a few minutes of watching but ignoring the child’s distress, the dad resumes a more loving expression and reassures baby that all is well.
After receiving oxytocin, the fathers were generally more responsive to their little girls— almost certainly having a harder time keeping their faces blank during the “still face” and consequently responding far more quickly when instructed to re-engage. Under the influence of the hormone, the dads made more eye contact, provided more touch, had more mirroring and reciprocal interactions and indulged in more baby talk than after receiving placebo.
Their babies also tended to respond more to their dads who had received the oxytocin sprays—with increased smiles, laughter, mirroring and play behavior—compared to their behavior when their dads were receiving the placebo. Their own oxytocin rose in near perfect sync with the elevation of the hormone occurring in their fathers.”
Thursday, October 4th, 2012
Dan Cathy, who is president of the Chick-fil-A fast food chain, said this week that his company supports “Biblical families.” The comments are among the first since Cathy made controversial comments this summer criticizing gay marriage. The earlier comments had sparked protests and boycott threats. From The Associated Press:
Cathy told Atlanta TV station WXIA in an interview released Wednesday (http://on.11alive.com/PONhtv) that families are important to ‘‘those of us who are concerned about being able to hang on to our heritage.’’
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He added ‘‘we support Biblical families, and they’ve always been a part of that.’’