Are Families Declining, or are they Resilient in the Face of Change?

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Without a doubt, the institution of marriage and family has gone through a transformation both in structure and its meaning to people’s lives. Initially, traditional gender roles dictated how work was carried out both inside and outside the home. Marriage marked entry into adulthood where children were allowed to leave their parents and forge their own lives (Arocho, & Kamp Dush, 2017). I hold that the changes experienced in the family set up have made the family unit to decline rather than being resilient. Findings contend that the family unit is falling apart owing to the vanishing family ties that diminishing by the day, the existence of troubling statistics and horrendous divorce statistics. The purpose of this essay is to assess the effects of major shifts in the conceptualization of marriage and family life and to support the stand that these changes are diminishing the family institution.

The Sexual Revolution, Relaxed Divorce Laws, the women’s liberation movement, and mobility of American families

Some societal changes that took place in the 1960s had a significant effect on the structure of the family structure. The changes had to do with the sexual revolution, relaxation of divorce laws, the women’s liberation movement, and mobility of American families. In the wake of the civil rights movement, women were liberated hence changing the perception of the family structure. Women who graduated from college were empowered and now had an opportunity to establish and assert their independent identities (Petren, Ferraro, Davis, & Pasley, 2017). There was intense awakening in realising that recognizing civil rights meant equal rights for every person in the society, including women. As such, women marched for sexual equality and a broad range of job opportunities and careers available to men. Although the movement bore good outcome, it changed the traditional notions of motherhood, marriage, and family unity forever. Even in the most conservative families, women began standing up for themselves by letting their partners know they would be returning to school or work. This was informed by the need for having two incomes to sustain a decent standard of living. Notably, the legal system allowed no-fault divorce meaning that society did not blame either spouse for divorces. This made the dissolution of marriage easy, including shared responsibility of raising children and property division. Also, following increased mobility, family members no longer lived in close proximity to one another. College graduates were able to take up jobs thousands of miles away from where they lived. The relocations made individuals invest time setting up their lives without the help of family members.

Family Conflicts and Estrangements

Other reasons that make families drift apart range from conflicts and misunderstandings, petty grievances, jealousy, inheritance feuds, sibling rivalry, homosexuality outings and family business disputes. Nowadays, family estrangements have become the norm, and they have become more hurtful and intense. It is common to find sisters not speaking to each other since their parents died or brothers who rarely visit each other because their wives do not get along. Additionally, some sons alienate themselves from the family if they marry a woman who does not want to be associated with the husband’s family. On the hand, daughters will avoid contact with their mother because their mother is always guilt-tripping her. Moreover, conflict in the family occurs when a daughter is disowned for marrying outside their religion or race. Even fathers are disowning sons for revealing they are homosexuals.

Dysfunctional Families and Increasing Divorce Rates

Worth noting, it is clear that the family unit is diminishing as it is no longer a haven. Instead, the family has become dysfunctional and is surrounded by a heartless world. Nations are facing a family relationship landscape that keeps on changing. Assumptions about family structures have been challenged, including raising children out of wedlock, boundaries of single mothers, grandparents raising their grandchildren to gay couple adopting and raising children. Notably, cracks on the American family structures began widening in the last 40 years of the 20th century, but they did not become visible until the mid-1970s when the divorce rate doubled (Pilkauskas & Dunifon, 2016). According to a study conducted by Rutgers University, divorce rates rose by 30% since 1970, marriage rates declined, and only 38% consider themselves happy in their marriages, a significant drop from the 53% recorded 25 years ago (Allendorf & Thornton, 2015). Notably, today 51% of all marriages end in divorce. Unlike the past, the spouse one has in their 20 is less likely the one they will go through mid-life crisis in their 40s.

Counterargument: Grand Parents May not provide Financial Support as they are Not Economically Productive

Worth noting, there is the school of thought that maintains that major shifts have made marriage and families to be resilient than ever. These social scientists believe that despite the challenges, families are happier today because there are multigenerational relationships that they enjoy. Because people have grandparents and great grandparents, they are close to them and get economic and emotional support. I can’t entirely agree with this standpoint because adults are worn and stressed out in their old age. Although children grow up knowing their grandparents, they might not support them moreso financially because they are retired and economically unproductive.


There has been a major shift in the structure of marriage and families and the meaning it has on people’s lives. The family institution has been declining as a result of these changes. Women, for instance, became empowered and ventured into education as well as employment. Additionally, there have been increased rates of divorce among couples and children out of wedlock. Other reasons that make families drift apart range from conflicts and misunderstandings, petty grievances, jealousy, inheritance feuds, sibling rivalry, homosexuality outings and family business disputes.


Allendorf, K., & Thornton, A. (2015). Caste and choice: The influence of developmental idealism on marriage behavior. American Journal of Sociology, 121(1), 243-287.

Arocho, R., & Kamp Dush, C. M. (2017). Like mother, like child: Offspring marital timing desires and maternal marriage timing and stability. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(3), 261.

Pilkauskas, N. V., & Dunifon, R. E. (2016). Understanding grandfamilies: Characteristics of grandparents, nonresident parents, and children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(3), 623-633.

Petren, R. E., Ferraro, A. J., Davis, T. R., & Pasley, K. (2017). Factors linked with co-parenting support and conflict after divorce. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(3), 145-160.

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