Marriage is considered as a strong bond between a man and a woman from which, the couple starts a new life—a new family. This concept of a typical family was quite popular in America before the 1950s. But nowadays, looking at the people around you: friends, relatives, colleagues … you can see various kinds of families: unmarried partners, single parent families, trial marriage … So how did we get here?

The typical family in the 1950s

American society in the 1950s was geared toward the family, at that time, marriage and children were a primary part of the national agenda.

In the 1950s, most young women had a tendency to focus their aspirations on getting married, which became the norm. The U.S. marriage rate was at the highest and the average age of couples tying the knot was younger than ever before, with most of the youth getting married right out of high school or while in college.

Staying single, at that time, was regarded as undesirable, let alone out of wedlock pregnancy which was absolutely unacceptable among white women. Those pregnant girls had to quit school and go far away from their hometown to avoid the shame for their parents. Shunned by the whole society for their pregnancy, these unwed girls paid a huge price for premarital sex.

This was also the nourishing era of the “happy bread-winner father and homemaker mother.” The image of a devoted housewife was idealized in the media, and women were encouraged to stay at home if the family could afford it.

The typical 1950s family of the breadwinner father going off to work and caregiving mother taking care of the home and children has been considered by economists as the most efficient family structure. Every member of the family has a distinct job to do in their range of public and private life. And the majority of children were brought up in such typical families.

However, everything has changed significantly since the outbreak of sexual revolution and the development of birth control pill in 1960. The mass production and availability of the Pill gave wings to the sexual revolution to fly high. It is the powerful Pill that changes the structure of typical family and American society as well.

The Cleaver family from the TV program, “Leave it to Beaver.” (ABC Television/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

What sexual revolution really brought about to America?

The big story following the revolution is the significant decline of marriage and the dramatic increase in divorce. From the 1950s to 2010, married couple families dropped from two-thirds of all households to 45 percent, less than half.

There was an increase in sexual encounters between unmarried adults. The number of unmarried Americans aged twenty to twenty-four more than doubled from 4.3 million in 1960 to 9.7 million in 1976.[1] Men and women sought to reshape marriage by instilling new norm of diversity including open marriage, mate swapping, swinging, and communal sex…

The more stable, long-term tradition marriages – the dominant family structure collapsed with the rise of all kinds of family diversity. In a report for the Council on Contemporary Families by Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, in the 1950s, 65 percent of all children under 15 were living in married male-breadwinner families. Sadly, that number today is only 22 percent. How about the rest of the kids? 34 percent live with dual-earner married parents, 23 percent are being raised by a single mother (only half of whom have ever been married), 7 percent live with a parent who cohabits with an unmarried partner, and 6 percent live with either a single father or grandparents but no parents.


(Motortion Films/ Shutterstock)

The most troubling matter is that the sharp rise in single parenthood is associated with higher levels of poverty. The poverty rate for unwed mothers is much higher than that of married couples, especially in the United States. Besides, single parenthood and family breakdown is the cause of juvenile crime, disorder and school failure among young children.

It is time for us to revalorize the idea of family

All religions defend the bond between one man and one woman because it is good for everyone, not just believers. The marriage is worth honoring because it creates families, which are the best environment for human flourishing.

Family is the best place where the dignity of the woman is protected and children are raised and embraced with love to become healthy, well-rounded, virtuous future citizens. Marriage of the couples always expresses the desire of humans for a lasting, loving union. All times and all cultures, or nearly all cultures, hold this ideal in esteem.  

Revalorize the idea of family. Let’s make the family once again the foundation stone of American society.

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