The dynamics of the American culture have brought about many changes in our patterns of family living and have fundamentally affected the status of women and the relationships between men and women, husbands and wives, and parents and children.
*Of the many changes that have occurred, the following are the most important:
1. Families are smaller.
2. Ties with relatives are weaker. The family unit living under one roof usually consists of the immediate family group only, not of a larger kinship group.
3. Less work is done in the home.
4. More wives and mothers work outside the home.
5. Divorce and family separations are more common.
6. Child-training methods are more democratic.
7. More training is done in the school.
8. Recreation has shifted out of the home.
9. Social mobility and vocational mobility have increased.
10. The material milieu of the home has become more important.
The increase in the amount of time children spend out side the home as they grow older.
Changes in the pattern of family living are primarily the result of the cultural influence of the many different groups which make up our population.
*As Burgess has pointed out:
Never before in human history has any society been composed of so many divergent types of families. Families differ by sections of the country, by ethnic and religious groups, by economic and social classes, and by vocations. They are different according to the family life-cycle and by number and role of family members. They vary by the locus of authority within the family and by widely different styles of life.
Because of the many different cultural influences in America, variations in the pattern of family life are great. The family is a very closely knit unit among Jews, for example, and because of this, the family has a greater influence on the Jewish child than on children from many other religious groups.
Changes in the pattern of family living inevitably cause changes in the relationships of different family members. The rapid rate of change in America means that today's children have many experiences which their parents never had and which their parents are often unable or unwilling to understand. The widespread use of television in the home enables the child of today to know much more about many subjects than his parents could possibly have known at the same age. The child learns, from television, how other people live, and this often makes him critical of his parents and the pattern of life in his own home. Many children from homes where the parents education has been limited become critical of the way their parents behave and feel ashamed of them. Children whose parents are foreign-born or newly urbanized encounter more difficulties in this respect than children whose parents feel at home in their present environment. Young parents, as a rule, understand their children better than older parents because the smaller the age gap between parent and child, the less change there will have been in cultural values and patterns of living.
Child-training methods in America have undergone an almost revolutionary change; as a result, there has been much confusion about the proper way to bring up children, This is in direct contrast to most primitive and many civilized cultures today, in which there is a set pattern for family life and a prescribed, rigid program for child training. It is also in direct contrast to the continuous patterns of child training of cultures which prepare the child for his adult roles by starting with simple learning experiences and progressing to more complex learning experiences of a similar nature.
Our training of the child is characterized by discontinuities in the sense that the training in childhood has little or no relationship to the pattern of life in adulthood. This adds to the difficulties the child encounters in his adjustments and increases tension in the family. The child brought up by continuous training has fewer conflicts; he gains a sense of security and experiences relatively little tension in family relationships. Continuities in training also give parents a greater sense of security in their parental role.
That many American parents feel inadequate for their role is apparent in the frequency with which they seek advice from relatives, friends, or child-guidance experts. When parents feel inadequate, the tensions they build up are reflected in the parent-child relationship. Conflicts between parents about the best way to train the child increase family friction and intensify the feeling of inadequacy the mother has about her parental role. In a study of the concerns mothers had about their babies during the early months of babyhood, it was found that the mean number of worries reported was 4.1, with many mothers reporting a far higher number. Maternal worries are bound to be reflected in the relationship of the mother with her baby. The different sources of concern young mothers reported. Crying was the most common.