The Changing American Family?

June 18, 2009

What does a family look like today?

What does a family look like today?

As society has changed, so has the structure or organization of the family. In sociology, a family can be defined as a social group who provide basic functions such as socialization, economic support, emotional support, and sexual regulation. Traditionally in America, the family consisted of a small group of people living in one dwelling and related by either marriage or common ancestry. Today there are many different personal relationships that some sociologists identify as constituting families—the label “family” is based upon the findings that members of these groups not only think of themselves as families but perform the basic functions of more traditionally structured families. However, some of these new family structures are controversial.

In June 2008, the Disney theme park and Sea World in Orlando, Florida had a Gay Family Weekend. The itinerary for this event included character breakfasts and a “dream come true” parade. This annual holiday started, in part, to allow gay people to celebrate with their families along with similarly structured families in an environment of social support and understanding. Gay families have traditionally worn red t-shirts to identify each other and have set meeting points at the parks.

What do you think about non-traditional families? Would you like to express your scholarly insights as a sociologist would? If so, one of the topics below:

1. What structure do you think signifies a family in America today? Do you think family structure should stay static in society? Why or why not?

2. What would be some advantages to accepting gay family structure as “main stream” in society? What would be some disadvantages to society? Look at your responses to this question. How many problems that you have identified could be applied to heterosexual families as well? What insights does this give you about objections to gay families?

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