The Changing American Family

June 3, 1977

Report Outline
Signs of Families in Transition
Historic Forces and Home Life
National Family Policy Proposals
Special Focus

Signs of Families in Transition

Evidence of Stress in American Homes

John and Mary Smith are getting a divorce. Smith's frequent business trips and long work hours were a source of friction. Despite his frequent absences, he was upset when his wife announced that she was going back to work, especially when she said it would mean that Grandpa Smith would have to go to a nursing home. Tensions in the Smith household increased when their oldest daughter got divorced and moved back home with her two young boys. Then the youngest daughter left home to live with her boyfriend. And just recently, the son dropped out of college and joined a religious commune.

This fictional family may sound like it sprang from the script for “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” But similar scenarios are being played out in millions of real households across the nation. Caught in the middle of broad social and economic changes, American families are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with their problems. Rapidly changing values are creating uncertainties and doubts in parents and children. Traditional notions of parental authority and responsibility are being questioned. Old taboos on sexual conduct in and out of marriage are breaking down. Men and women's roles in the home and in the work force are being redefined.

In the face of all these changes, observed Alan Pifer, president of the Carnegie Corporation, “important governmental and private-sector policies that intimately affect the family…are still in the main geared to earlier value systems and beliefs. Social policies have not yet caught up with changing social practice.” Evidence of stress in the family is not hard to find.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Marriage, Divorce, and Single Parents
Dec. 01, 2017  Future of Marriage
May 07, 2004  Future of Marriage
Jan. 19, 2001  Children and Divorce
Jun. 02, 2000  Fatherhood Movement
May 10, 1996  Marriage and Divorce
Jan. 13, 1995  Child Custody and Support
Jun. 07, 1991  Children and Divorce
Oct. 26, 1990  Child Support: Payments, Progress and Problems
Jul. 06, 1990  Are Americans Still in Love with Marriage?
Feb. 03, 1989  Joint Custody: Is it Good for the Children?
Mar. 12, 1982  Trends in Child Custody and Support
Jun. 03, 1977  The Changing American Family
Sep. 10, 1976  Single-Parent Families
Jan. 25, 1974  Child Support
Oct. 10, 1973  No-Fault Divorce
Oct. 06, 1971  Marriage: Changing Institution
Nov. 27, 1963  Divorce Law Reform
May 24, 1961  Mixed Marriage
Apr. 20, 1959  Rise in Illegitimacy
Feb. 02, 1949  Marriage and Divorce
Marriage and Divorce
Work and the Family