Thanksgiving marks the beginning of yet another holiday season. Known as one of the more traditional of American holidays, Thanksgiving calls special attention to the importance of family.
In recent years, however, the idea of family has become less and less traditional. This is apparent even when asking people whom they plan to spend Thanksgiving with. Some people return to their parents’ home, embark upon cooking dinner with roommates, visit with friends, or even attend dinner with the family of an ex-spouse…the list goes on and on.
In Monday’s Health section of The New York Times, Natalie Angier’s piece, “The Changing American Family,” reflects on what the “typical” American family encompasses in today’s society. In the article, Angier captures several families that are shaped by the results of marriages, divorces, same-sex relationships, adoption and cultural backgrounds.
Census research along with other statistical data proves that the layers that make up the nuclear family are becoming more complex as time progresses. Angier explains
Families… 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.
Changes in the American family can be attributed to many different factors and circumstances. As Angier elaborates on in her article, Americans marry, divorce, and re-marry at rates that are not seen anywhere else. The marriage rate has fallen among young women, changing the notion of what age and kind of relationship is appropriate for childbearing in America. Aside from the prospect of children, men and women are cohabitating out of wedlock at a rate that has never been seen before. These couples often consider themselves a family and even single people who live alone are able to identify themselves as a family due to their networks of friends, siblings, and other family members who may not necessarily live with them.
Regardless of what kind of institutional value marriage still has in American society, the idea of family is a concept that has become very individualized depending upon the person. Living arrangements and changing dynamics in relationships over time have a direct impact on the way a person defines what family means and looks like in their own life.
Danielle Adam, Blog Editor
Dinner with family often brings joy, excitement, and sometimes conflict over different views. These changing families may be experienced with complete comfort or may contain conflict within them. What about Dick Chaney’s family this Thanksgiving? The two sisters have been having conflict about the legality of same sex marriage. Mary is married to her lesbian partner and they have children. She felt insulted and angered by Liz’s stance against same sex marriage. When people in families disagree this profoundly, being together at dinner can sometimes be difficult for them and for the rest of the family. Does your family have conflicts and disagreements like this? How have you solved them? We are interested in hearing from you.
Barbara Feld, LCSW, Founding Partner