The Changing American Family

Fewer than 25 percent of American households are made up of a married man and woman with their children. So what do families look like now?

Shifting Demographics

If all you did was watch television commercials for minivans, you might think that the traditional All-American family was still intact -- Mom, Dad, dog, and the 2.5 kids buckle up and drive off every day on TV. But ads (depending on your perspective) are either selling aspirations or guilt: This is the family you're supposed to have, supposed to want.

In real life, in big cities and in smaller towns, families are single moms, they're stepfamilies, they're boyfriends and girlfriends not getting married at the moment, they're foster parents, they're two dads or two moms, they're a village. In real life, in 2005, families are richly diverse.

And are only getting more so.

In fact, the very definition of "family" is changing dramatically. The year 2000 marked the first time that less than a quarter (23.5 percent) of American households were made up of a married man and woman and one or more of their children -- a drop from 45 percent in 1960. This number is expected to fall to 20 percent by 2010.

Why the Changes?

The change in the makeup of the American family is the result of two primary factors, says Martin O'Connell, chief of fertility and family statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau, which collects such figures every 10 years. First, more babies (about a third) are now born out of wedlock, and second, divorce rates continue to climb so that nearly half of all marriage contracts are broken.

Parents Are Talking

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