[Recommended]Cultural Considerations icon Family diversity

Cultural Considerations icon Family diversity Diversity Trends in Families [CLOs: 1, 2, 3, 4] While children spend a great deal of time in your care,…

Cultural Considerations icon Family diversity
Diversity Trends in Families [CLOs: 1, 2, 3, 4]
While children spend a great deal of time in your care, their family and family life continues to be the most influential factor. Educators must be prepared to recognize, respect, and positively support each and every child in their care. Families come in all shapes and sizes. The traditional nuclear family (mom, dad, kids) is no longer the norm. The families of the children in your care may have very different structures, values, customs, beliefs, cultural behaviors, and lifestyles you may not be familiar with.
For example, some children may live with a single parent, a relative, a blended family, or a traditional family who have different values, customs, beliefs, cultural behaviors and lifestyles from your own. It is important to be a culturally competent early childhood professional and create an environment that is supportive of each and every child and family. As our classrooms and society continues to diversify, you must consider the actual situations of the children and families. This week’s discussion will increase your awareness of several different family structures that could be present in your classroom. You will use your knowledge and experience to describe how to best support these families. To prepare for this week’s discussion, please read the Knoph & Swick (2008) article, as well as Chapter 2 in the Gestwicki course text, focusing specifically on the families described beginning on Page 23. Additionally, please use at least two sources to support your response.
For this discussion, you are to write a response from the perspective of either a teacher, early childhood administrator, or other early childhood professional of your choosing. Please write on one role that best aligns with your career interests and goals. After you have read through the descriptions of families in your textbook, choose one family to be the focus of your discussion. Be sure to explicitly state which family you are focusing on by writing the child’s name in the subject line of your discussion post. Taking respect for diversity and cultural competence in early childhood education into consideration, address the following discussion prompts:
Provide a summary of the family structure and identify the types of diversity within their family.
Analyze what makes their situation challenging and discuss how this impacts their family.
Develop five strategies to best support the child in your care, including how you will support the family. Also, please incorporate specific action steps within these strategies. Action steps are what you will actually do in your role to support the child and their family. For example, one suggestion might be, “As the caregiver of Joshua Stein (Gestwicki, 2013, p. 24), I could suggest, or encourage the family to….”
chapter 2
2-1. What Defines a Family?
The family is the most adaptable of human institutions and is able to modify its characteristics to meet those of the society in which it lives.Certainly, the family has adapted to much in recent decades: urbanization, a consumer-oriented economy, economic uncertainty, wars and terrorist attacks, changes in traditional religious and moral codes, increasing cultural diversity, and changes in all relationships basic to family life—including but not limited to those between male and female and young and old. Such changes have been occurring in every corner of the world, although our primary concern here is the American family.
Consider the families you might meet within any classroom or community: single-father families and single-mother families, with parents who may be widowed, divorced, or have never married; blended families from second marriages that bring together children from unrelated backgrounds; unmarried couples with children; gay and lesbian parents; adoptive families; grandparents functioning as parents in the absence of the intermediate generation; foster families; and families of mixed racial heritage—either biological or adoptive.
Such a wide range of families and relationships may make us feel uncomfortable in the distance from our values or ideals or comforted by the realization that our families are not the only ones that do not fit the perfect image of 1970s families in The Cosby Show seen on late-night cable reruns.
The word family has always meant many things to many people. What comes to mind when you think of the traditional family? Social historian Stephanie Coontz reminds us that this answer has changed depending on the era and its particular myths (2000). Despite the obvious fact that the phrase the American family does not describe one reality, it is used sweepingly. Many creators of television commercials seem to think it usually means a white, middle-class, monogamous father and mother at work, children busy with school and enrichment activities family—one that lives in a suburban one-family house, nicely filled with an array of appliances, a minivan or SUV in the driveway, and probably a dog in the yard. Such a description excludes the vast majority of American families, according to the last census(which does not enumerate dogs or minivans but found less than 7 percent of households conforming to the classic family headed by a working husband with a wife and two children at home). A recently made comment was that whereas most families used to have 2.6 children, many children now have 2.6 parents.
The entire Western world has experienced similar changes in family life during the past several decades.
Rather than suggest that the family is under siege, it is more accurate to suggest that our image of family may need to be broadened to accept diversity. It may be more important to concentrate on what families do rather than what they look like. Family may be more about content than about form (see Figure 2-1).
2-1a. “Ideal” Family Images
What image comes to mind when you see the word family? People’s mental images vary greatly, based in large part on their individual life experiences.
Try an experiment while you think about family. On a piece of paper, draw stick figures to represent the members of the family you first knew as a young child. Who represented family to you? Then, do the same to represent your family when you were a teenager. Had your family changed? Was anyone added or removed? What were the reasons for any changes?
Now draw the family in which you presently live. Who are your family members? What does this say about any changes in your life? If, as an adult, you have lived in numerous family structures, represent them, too.
Now, for one last picture. Imagine that you could design the ideal family for yourself. Draw what it would look like.
Sorting through your pictures may generate some thinking about family. One prediction is that most of the ideal pictures include a father,mother, and two children (probably a boy first and then a girl). If you are like most students who have done this, the ideal family usually includes these members—regardless of the actual composition of the families in which individuals have participated or presently live. Real experiences are often passed over in favor of the ideal two-parent, two-child home.
For many, the image of an ideal family is influenced less by real experiences than by subtle cultural messages that have bombarded us since childhood. The Vanier Institute reports that 86 percent of high school students surveyed, including 78 percent of the teens whose own parents had not stayed together, expect a lifelong marriage. From magazine advertisements to children’s books—and, even more pervasively, from television shows—the attractive vision of husband, wife, and children beams at us. These inescapable messages influence our thinking about desirable family characteristics, and may produce guilt and negative feelings when the reality does not match the ideal.
Interestingly, students surveyed are aware that their ideal image is just that and are also aware of the societal influences that helped produce it.
Family Images
Draw the family you lived in as a child.
Draw the family you lived in as a teenager.
Draw the family in which you presently live.
Draw the ideal family you would design for yourself.
Share your pictures with two classmates.
Considering all the pictures, what statements can you make about family and the influences that have created your sense of an ideal family?
But they may be less aware of how insidiously this subliminal image can influence their encounters with real families. If an ideal lurking unknowingly in a teacher’s value system is considered “right,” then a negative evaluation can be made of any family that does not measure up to this standard. The problem with assessing this one nuclear family A social unit composed of parents and children. model as “good” is that it may prevent us from considering alternative family structures as equally valid.
It is too easy for a teacher to feel more affinity and comfort with a family that approaches his or her ideal than with one that is clearly outside the teacher’s individual frame of reference.
2-1b. Samples of Diverse Family Structures
If personal images of family cannot convey a complex enough picture, perhaps brief descriptions of families you might meet and work with will help. In Chapter 1, you followed two fictitious families through a day. Here, we will meet them and others—as a sample of families any teacher may encounter—to consider the diversity in structure that corresponds to the differing values, customs,cultural influences, and lifestyles that appear in our world. Watch for these same families later in this book when we consider different relationships and techniques in teacher-parent communication.
If personal images of family cannot convey a complex enough picture, perhaps brief descriptions of families you might meet and work with will help. In Chapter 1, you followed two fictitious families through a day. Here, we will meet them and others—as a sample of families any teacher may encounter—to consider the diversity in structure that corresponds to the differing values, customs,cultural influences, and lifestyles that appear in our world. Watch for these same families later in this book when we consider different relationships and techniques in teacher-parent communication.artment store. Since then, her income has come from TANF Temporary Aid to Needy Families—the welfare reform legislation passed in 1996. (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) funds and food stamp payments as well as the subsidized housing. She is now beginning a job-training program, hoping to follow through with her plan to become a nurse’s assistant. Ricky has been home with Sylvia, but he will enter a child care program when his mother begins the job-training program.
You have also met Otis and Fannie Lawrence, each married before. Otis has two sons from his first marriage—14 and 10—who visit one weekend each month and for about six weeks each summer. Fannie’s seven-year-old daughter Kim and four-year-old son Pete see their father, who has moved out of state, only once or twice a year and have called Otis “Daddy” since their mother married him three years ago. Fannie is six months pregnant, and they have recently moved into an attractive new four-bedroom house, knowing even that will be too small when the boys visit. Fannie teaches third grade and will take a three-month maternity leave after the baby is born; she is on the waiting list at four centers for infant care. Otis sells new cars and is finishing up a business degree at night. Kim goes to an after school child care program that costs $115 a week. Pete is in a private child care center, operated by a national chain, that costs $175 a week. The Lawrence family income is $98,000 annually. The Lawrence family is African American.
Bob and Jane Weaver have been married five years. They married the day after Jane graduated from high school. Sandra, blonde and blue-eyed just like her parents, was born before their first anniversary. Bob and Jane live in an apartment down the street from Jane’s parents and around the block from her married sister. Jane has not worked outside the home much during their marriage. They are hoping to have another child next year. A second pregnancy ended in stillbirth last year. Bob earns $49,750 on the production line at a furniture factory. Jane started working part-time this year to help save for a down payment for a first home purchase. Her mother cares for Sandra while Jane works. Her income of $950 a month after taxes would not go far if she had to pay for child care. They are concerned that Bob’s hours could be decreased in the economic downturn.
Salvatore and Teresa Rodriguez have lived in this country for six years. Occasionally, one of their relatives comes to stay with them, but the rest of the family has stayed in Mexico. Right now, Sal’s 20-year-old brother Joseph is here taking an auto mechanics course; he plans to be married later this year and will probably stay in the same town. Teresa misses her mother, who has not seen their two children since they were babies. Sylvia is seven and has cerebral palsy; she attends a developmental kindergarten that has an excellent staff for the physiotherapy and speech therapy that she needs. Tony is four. Teresa works part-time in a bakery. Her husband works the second shift on the maintenance crew at the bus depot so he can be home with the children while she is at work. This is necessary because Sylvia needs so much extra care. They rent a six-room house, which they chose for the safe neighborhood and large garden.
Mary Howard is 16 and has always lived with her parents in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood of African American families. Her grandmother had a stroke and now lives with them, too. When Mary’s daughter, Cynthia, was born last year, her mother cared for the baby so Mary could finish the tenth grade. Cynthia is now in a church-operated child care center because Mary’s mother needed to return to work to cover increased family expenses. Mary still hopes she might someday marry Cynthia’s father, who is starting college this year. He comes to see her and the baby every week or so. Mary also wonders if she will go onto train in computer programming after she finishes high school, as she had planned, or if she should just get a job so she can help her mother more with Cynthia and with their expenses.
Susan Henderson celebrated her thirty-ninth birthday in the hospital the day after giving birth to Lucy. Her husband Ed is 40.After 13 years of marriage, they have found adding a child joyful and shocking. Lucy was very much a planned child. Susan felt established enough in her career as an architect to be able to work from her home for a year or so. Ed’s career as an investment counselor has also demanded a lot of his attention. Some of their friends are still wavering over the decision to begin a family. Ed and Susan are quite definite that this one child will be all they will have time for. Money is not the issue in their decision; their combined income last year was well over $350,000. Susan’s major complaint since being at home with the baby is that the condominium where they live has few families with children, and none of them are preschoolers. She has signed up for a Mother’s Morning Out program for infants one day a week and has a nanny who comes to their home each day so she can work.
Sam (age two) and Lisa (age four) Butler see their parents a lot—they just never see them together. Bill and Joan separated almost two years ago, and their divorce is about to become final. One of the provisions calls for joint physical custody of their two preschoolers. What this means right now is spending three nights one week with one parent and four with the other. The schedule gets complicated sometimes because Bill travels on business, but so far, the adults have been able to work it out. The children seem to enjoy going from Dad’s apartment to Mom and the house in which they have always lived, but on the days they carry their suitcases to the child care center for the midweek switch over, they need lots of reassurance about who is picking them up. Joan worries about how this arrangement will work as the children get older. Sam and Lisa attend a child development center run by the local community college. Joan is already concerned about finding good after school care for Lisa when she starts school in the fall, and she knows that it will further complicate her schedule when she has to make two pickup stops after work.She works as a secretary for the phone company and needs to take some computer courses this fall, but she does not know how she can fit them in and the kids, too—let alone find time to date a new man she has met.
James Parker and Sam Leeper adopted a one-year-old Korean boy, Stephen, four years ago. They have been together in a committed relationship for 10 years, although they do not live in a state that recognizes gay marriage or legal civil unions. They live a fairly quiet life and visit with Sam’s family, who lives in the same town, as well as a few friends, including another family they met at an adoptive parents’ support group. Many of their gay friends have also expressed the desire to adopt but are concerned about the prejudices sometimes directed toward gay fathers. Stephen attends prekindergarten in an early childhood program at a church in their neighborhood. Sam is an emergency room doctor at the local hospital. James sells insurance with a national company. When asked if they are worried about their son growing up without a relationship with a mother figure, James responds that Stephen has a grandmother and aunt with whom he is close and that they are more concerned about helping him come to know something of his native culture, as well as for him to be free of some of society’s myths regarding sexuality.
James Parker and Sam Leeper adopted a one-year-old Korean boy, Stephen, four years ago. They have been together in acommitted relationship for 10 years, although they do not live in a state that recognizes gay marriage or legal civil unions. Theylive a fairly quiet life and visit with Sam’s family, who lives in the same town, as well as a few friends, including another family theymet at an adoptive parents’ support group. Many of their gay friends have also expressed the desire to adopt but are concernedabout the prejudices sometimes directed toward gay fathers. Stephen attends prekindergarten in an early childhood program at achurch in their neighborhood. Sam is an emergency room doctor at the local hospital. James sells insurance with a nationalcompany. When asked if they are worried about their son growing up without a relationship with a mother figure, James responds that Stephen has a grandmother and aunt with whom he is close and that they are more concerned about helping him come to know something of his native culture, as well as for him to be free of some of society’s myths regarding sexuality.
xuality.
Nguyen Van Son has worked very hard since he came to this country with his uncle 12 years ago. After graduating from high school near the top of his class, he completed a mechanical drafting course at a technical college. He has a good job working for a manufacturing company. His wife Dang Van Binh, a longtime family friend, came from Vietnam only six years ago, and they were married soon after. Her English is still not good, so she takes evening classes. Their three-year-old son Nguyen Thi Hoang goes to a half-day preschool program because his father is eager for him to become comfortable speaking English with other children.Their baby daughter Le Thi Tuyet is at home with her mother. On weekends, the family spends time with other Vietnamese families, eager for companionship and preserving their memories of Vietnam. None of their neighbors talk much with this family,assuming they cannot speak English.
Richard Stein and Roberta Howell have lived together for 18 months. Richard’s six-year-old son Joshua lives with them. Roberta has decided she wants no children; she and Richard have no plans for marriage at this time. Roberta works long hours as a department store buyer. Richard writes for the local newspaper. On the one or two evenings a week that neither of them can getaway from work, Joshua is picked up from a neighborhood family child care home by a college student Richard met at the paper.Several times, this arrangement has fallen through and Joshua has had to stay late with his caregiver, who does not like this because she cares for Joshua and five other preschoolers from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day.
Richard Stein and Roberta Howell have lived together for 18 months. Richard’s six-year-old son Joshua lives with them. Roberta has decided she wants no children; she and Richard have no plans for marriage at this time. Roberta works long hours as a department store buyer. Richard writes for the local newspaper. On the one or two evenings a week that neither of them can getaway from work, Joshua is picked up from a neighborhood family child care home by a college student Richard met at the paper.Several times, this arrangement has fallen through and Joshua has had to stay late with his caregiver, who does not like this because she cares for Joshua and five other preschoolers from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day.
ay.
he and his wife believe that one parent should be available as much as possible during children’s early years. He sometimes wonders if some of the digs he receives are because his wife, who is the main family breadwinner, is white and he is black, or whether it is just because others do not seem to understand th e reasoning they used to make their choices about roles inside and outside the home. Jana is happy and very successful in her work, providing for a comfortable lifestyle, although she misses being home with the family. When out of town, she tries to talk with the children on Skype every night.
In this sample, as in any other you might draw from a cross section in any school, the family some might call “traditional”—with a father who works to earn the living and a mother whose work is mostly rearing the children and caring for the home—is a distinct minority in the variety of structures; in fact, well over 60 percent of American children under age eighteen live in what used to be considered as unconventional families (Downer & Myers, 2010).
The last census indicated the diversity and continuing change in patterns of living situations. The proportion of children living with two married parents continues to steadily decrease, falling from 77 percent in 1980 to less than 25 percent in 2011 (Coontz, 2011). Among children younger than age 18 today, about one-quarter live only with their mothers, 5 percent live only with their fathers, and another 4 percent live with neither parent—often in the care of grandparents, other relatives, or foster care (Coontz, 2011).
Cultural Considerations icon Family diversity
As you read the descriptions of the various families, you may be focusing only on the most obvious cultural differences, as in families who have come from other countries or speak different languages. But when we define culture broadly to include the values, beliefs,and usual behaviors passed on to individuals by the segment of society around them, we realize that each of these families will have its unique culture, related to the specific environment that surrounds each one. Cultural beliefs are influenced by educational and socioeconomic experiences, ethnic and racial backgrounds, and individual community and family interpretations of societal norms.
To reflect on the reality of this awareness, think about answers to the following three questions and then discuss your answers with two classmates to discover how your unique family culture influences your own thinking:
What one food would you be astonished not to see on the table during a family celebration?
What is one thing you would expect only a mother to do? Only a father?
What is the correct way to fold a bath towel?
Each of us comes from a unique cultural background, no matter what our ethnic or language background.
The Vanier Institute defines family as any combination of two or more persons who are bound together over time by ties of mutual consent, birth, and/or adoption of placement and who, together, assume responsibilities for variant combinations of some of the following:
Physical maintenance and care of group members
Addition of new members through procreation or adoption
Socialization of children
Social control of members
Production, consumption, and distribution of goods and services
Affective nurturance—love
How do we define family? The Census Bureau definition of “two or more people related through blood, marriage, or adoption who share a common residence” seems too narrow to include all the dynamics of these sample families. Webster’s Eleventh New Collegiate Dictionary suggests a broader interpretation and no fewer than 22 definitions that seem more applicable when considering these sample families: “a group of people united by certain convictions or common characteristics” or “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.” Perhaps the most inclusive definition of a family is “a small group of intimate, transacting, and interdependent persons who share values, goals, resources, and other responsibilities for decisions; have a commitment to one another over time; and accept the responsibility of bringing up children.” Or simply, from the definition in a survey by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, “a group of people who love and care for each other.” The organization Family Support America says that “family is a group of people who take responsibility for each other’s well-being, and defining the family is up to the family itself.” What about the idea that family is “not only persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption, but also sets of interdependent but independent persons who share some common goals,resources, and a commitment to each other over time” (Hildebrand et al., 2007)? Mary Pipher (1996) adds these thoughts:
Family is a collection of people who pool resources and help each other over the long haul. Families love one another even when that requires sacrifice. Family means that if you disagree, you still stay together…. All members can belong regardless of merit. Everyone is included regardless of health, likability, or prestige…. Families come through when they must…. From my point of view, the issue isn’t biology. Rather the issues are commitment and inclusiveness.
Consider the Truth of This Statement
A family is like no other family, like some other families, and like all other families.
No matter how we define it, family is important to us (see Figure 2-2). Families may include more than just parents and children. Mary Howard’s family includes her parents, grandmother, and child, and the Rodriguezes have Uncle Joseph. The development of the nuclear family is more for affection and support than for the self-sufficient economic unit that the traditional extended family created. Families may include people not related by blood and hereditary bonds. The Parker-Leeper and Stein-Howell households include parents and children and others whose relationship is based on choice, not law. New relatives, like those acquired in a step family, such as the Lawrences, may beadded. Families may omit a generation, such as Justin Martin and his grandparents. In Justin’s case, as with increasing numbers of children—now about 4 percent (Child stats, 2013), he is being raised by grandparents in the absence of his own parents. Aunts, grandparents, and other family members as well as thousands of foster parents who are not related to children by blood are some of the adults who head modern families.
What Does Brain Research Tell Us about Poverty and Brain Development in Early Childhood? Brain Icon
With millions of American children spending their first years living in families with incomes below the poverty line, the concern arises for their greater risk of impaired brain development. This is due to the number of risk factors associated with poverty that can influence the brain through multiple pathways. During the sensitive early years, children’s brains are most vulnerable to deficits and negatives in their environments. These include the following: inadequate nutrition, both prenatally and in the early years; effects of nicotine, alcohol,and drugs; exposure to environmental toxins; trauma and abuse; maternal depression; and the quality of daily care. Any or all of these risk factors may have a direct impact on the neurological development within the brain, becoming evident later in delayed motor skill sand in much lower test scores related to vocabulary, reading comprehension, math, and general knowledge. America’s poor children are disproportionately exposed to these risk factors.
Consider how quality child-care experiences for America’s poor children can help mitigate some of these specific risk factors.
What is being done in your community to alleviate the effects of poverty on children’s development?
Learn more about the work of the Children’s Defense Fund by visiting their website.
Opportunity for Self-Reflection icon
Think about our case study families just described. Are there any families with whom you would be uncomfortable? What is causing this discomfort? How would you work with this family, given the discomfort? Which families seem closest to you in values? How do you define family?
Good Books to Read with Children to Celebrate Family Diversity
Ackerman, K. By the Dawn’s Early Light. (Mom works the night shift)
Adoff, A. Black Is Brown Is Tan. (interracial family)
Aldrich, A. How My Family Came to Be—Daddy, Papa and Me. (adoption, biracial family, two dads)
Aylette, J. Families: A Celebration of Diversity, Commitment, and Love. (photos and descriptions of all kinds of families)
Bauer, C. My Mom Travels a Lot. [self-explanatory]
Baum, L. One More Time. (child going between Mom’s house and Dad’s house)
Blain, M. The Terrible Thing That Happened at Our House. (Mom takes a job)
Blomquist, G., & Blomquist, F. Zachary’s New Home: A Story for Foster and Adopted Children. [self-explanatory]
Bosch, S. Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. (two fathers)
Boyd, L. Sam Is My Half-Brother. [self-explanatory]
Brisson, P. Mama Loves Me From Away. (mother in prison)
Brownstone, C. All Kinds of Mothers. (mothers who work in and out of the home)
Bunting, E. Can You Do This, Old Badger? (living with grandparent)
Bunting, E. Fly Away Home. (homeless child and father)
Cowen-Fletcher, J. Mama Zooms. (mother in a wheelchair)
Crews, D. Bigmama’s. (extended family)
Davol, M. Black, White, Just Right. (biracial family)
Downey, R. Love Is a Family. [self-explanatory]
Drescher, J. Your Family, My Family. (different shapes and sizes)
Eichler, M. Martin’s Father. (nurturing single father)
Eisenberg, P. You’re My Nikki. (new working mother)
Falwell, C. Feast for 10. (large family)
Galloway, P. Good Times, Bad Times—Mummy and Me. (working single mother)
Galloway, P. Jennifer Has Two Daddies. (child alternates weeks with her mom and stepdad and her father)
Garden, N. Molly’s Family. (two moms)
Gonzalez, R. Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio. (two moms; bilingual book)
Hayes, M., & Witherell, J. My Daddy Is in Prison. [self-explanatory]
Hickman, M. Robert Lives with His Grandparents. [self-explanatory]
Hines, A. Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti. (father cooking)
Jenness, A. Families. (family diversity)
Juster, N. The Hello, Goodbye Window. (grandparents)
Kroll, V. Wood-Hoopoe Willie. (African American family)
Kuklin, S. How My Family Lives in America. (real stories of different ethnic backgrounds)
Lasker, J. Mothers Can Do Anything. (many jobs mothers do)
Loewen, I. My Mom Is So Unusual. (contemporary American Indian)
Maslac, H. Finding a Job for Daddy. (unemployed father)
McPhail, D. The Teddy Bear. (homelessness)
Merriam, E. Mommies at Work. (mothers who work in and out of the home)
Moore, E. Grandma’s House. (spending the summer with an active, nontraditional grandmother)
Newman, L. Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. (child in gay family)
Parr, T. The Family Book. (different types of families, including two moms and two dads)
Pelligrini, N. Families Are Different. (family diversity)
Quinlan, P. My Dad Takes Care of Me. (unemployed father at home)
Richardson, J., & Parnell, P. And Tango Makes Three. (two dads)
Rotner, S., & Kelly, S. Lots of Moms. (the many appearances of American mothers, and what they do)
Schlein, M. The Way Mothers Are. (unconditional love)
Schwartz, A. Oma and Bobo. (mother, grandmother, and child)
Simon, N. All Families Are Special. (different types of families)
Simon, N. All Kinds of Families. (diverse family structures)
Skutch, R. Who’s in a Family? (multicultural contemporary families)
Soto, G. Too Many Tamales. (Mexican American family)
Spelman, C. After Charlotte’s Mom Died. (single father)
Stinson, K. Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Any More. (divorce)
Tax, M. Families. (variety of families)
Valentine, J. One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads. (all kinds of dads)
Vigna, J. My Two Uncles. (child with uncle and his partner)
Wickens, E. Anna Day and the O-Ring. (two mothers)
Wild, M. Space Travelers. (homeless)
Willhoite, M. Daddy’s Roommate. (divorced parent, gay father)
Williams, V. A Chair for My Mother. (families; generations of urban working-class family)
Woodson, J. Visiting Day. (father in prison)
Families may consist of more people than those present in a household at any one time. The Butler joint custody arrangements and the“blended” Lawrence family are examples of separated family structures.
Families change. Their composition is dynamic, not static. It is assumed that Uncle Joseph will form his own household when he and his fiancée marry; Mary Howard hopes to marry and establish her own household. The Butler family may have additions when the parents remarry, as both say they would like to. The Weavers hope to have another baby. Change occurs as family members grow and develop.Family members are continually adjusting to shifts within the family dynamics that challenge earlier positions. It is important that teacher sand classrooms always convey an understanding that each family is unique. For ideas, refer to the “Good Books to Read with Children to Celebrate Family Diversity” box. Families are complex systems, and such outside systems as schools, businesses and employers,neighborhoods, communities, religious organizations, subcultures, and society all influence the functioning of families. In recent years, all these systems have been undergoing turbulence and change. It is time to look at some of those changes (see Figure 2-3).
chapter 2 cont’d
2-2. Demographics of Modern Families
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2-2. Demographics of Modern Families
Is it harder or easier to be a parent today than it was a generation or two ago? There is no question that today’s families are functioningunder conditions different from those of their grandparents or even parents. Changes in family forms and functions are not necessarily bador worrisome—unless one insists on clinging to the past, maintaining the exclusive rightness of bygone ways. Almost all the changesdiscussed in this chapter have had both positive and negative impacts on today’s families.
Some recent trends in contemporary life influencing the nature of families include the following:
Marital instability and rising numbers of single parents
Changes in gender role behavior
Mobility, urbanization, and economic conditions
Decreasing family size
Increased rate of social change
Development of a child-centered society
Stress in modern living
Each of these will be discussed in this chapter.
2-2a. Marital Instability and Single Parents
Statistics tell us part of the story. The proportion of children living with two married parents fell from 77 percent in 1980 to 64 percent in2012, the last year for which we have government statistics (Childstats, 2013). Currently, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of marriagesbegun today will end in divorce. Between 60 and 70 percent of second marriages will collapse. According to Census Bureau predictions, it islikely that at least half of all children born in this decade will spend a significant part of their childhood in single-parent homes. In theWestern world, fewer than two-thirds of parents who are legally married when their first child is born are still together when theiryoungest child graduates from high school.
Top 10 Trends in Modern Families
The Vanier Institute reports these trends:
Fewer couples are getting legally married.
More couples are breaking up.
Families are getting smaller.
Children experience more transitions as parents change their marital status.
Adults are generally satisfied with life.
Family violence is under reported.
Multiple-earner families are now the norm.
Women still do most of the juggling involved in balancing work and home.
Inequality is worsening.
The future will have more aging families (Sauve, 2004).
Between 1970 and 2012, the proportion of children growing up in single-parent families more than doubled to about 35 percent. The majority of these single-parent families are created by divorce. But divorced parents—70 to 80 percent—often remarry. One child in five lives in a step family or blended family. In many areas, children living with two biological parents are a distinct minority.
In addition, some of the single-parent families are the result of a rising birthrate among unmarried women (see Figure 2-4). Births to unmarried women continue to increase—now over 40 percent of all births each year (NCHS, 2013) compared with just over 3 percent of births in 1940. What is interesting is that the birthrate to teen aged mothers continues to drop, with the majority of unmarried mothers being in their 20s. Even so, in some hospitals in poor urban areas, well over half of the women giving birth are single teenagers (see Figure2-5).
Although there is no question that many single parents do a remarkable job of parenting, a single-parent family can face additional difficulties. A growing body of social and scientific data indicates that children in families disrupted by divorce and birth outside marriage often do worse than children in intact families in several respects. They are two to three times as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems and more likely to drop out of high school, get pregnant as teenagers, abuse drugs, and get in trouble with the law. They are also at much higher risk for physical or sexual abuse. But single-parent families are as diverse as any other.When all things are equal—when a single mother has a job that pays a decent wage, is basically contented with her life, and is not overly stressed—there are no major behavioral differences between children raised by single parents and those raised by two. But for purposes of considering demographics The statistical data of a human population. and families, here we note that family structure may be linked to children’s well-being. In the absence of one parent, families often have less social and human capital to draw upon.
Poverty

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