Just Sociology

Changing Family Structures: The Impact of Social and Economic Factors

The concept of the family structure has undergone significant changes over the years. Traditional ideological beliefs about family structures have given way to modern perspectives due to social, economic, and cultural factors that emerged in the past few decades.

A decline in the number of marriages, increasing cohabitation rates, the rise of single parents and single person households, reconstituted families, and multigenerational households have all resulted in changing family structures. Moreover, economic factors such as wealth and standards of living, the cost of living and housing, and social class scales have all contributed to shaping family structures.

This article will explore the complex theories of changing family structures and economic factors that have influenced them.

Changing Family Structures

Marriage, Cohabitation, and Divorce

Marriage used to be the dominant institution for legalizing romantic relationships. However, the declining number of marriages has forced sociologists to rethink the traditional family structures.

Pew Research Center stated that the proportion of adults who are married fell from 72% in 1960 to 50% in 2010 (Parker & Stepler, 2017). Cohabitation, on the other hand, has become a more frequent alternative to marriage, with more couples choosing to live together rather than getting married.

This trend is particularly common among young adults. The National Institute of Health reported that 22% of women aged 15 to 44 in the United States cohabited with a partner before marriage in the 1970s, whereas in the 2000s, the rate had increased to 76% (Kuperberg, 2011).

Another significant change in family structures is the rise of divorce rates. Divorce has become widely acceptable, and the stigma attached to it has decreased.

In the United States, divorces per 1000 marriages have risen from 2.5 in 1960 to 10 in 2017 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021). Divorce has led to the emergence of blended families, which are also known as reconstituted families.

These families have a mixture of children from different unions and marriages. The rise of single-parent households has also been notable in the last decades.

Children living with one parent have increased from 9.6 million in 1960 to 16.4 million in 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021). Kidult households have emerged as a new category of living arrangements for adults who choose to live with their parents in adulthood.

These households have become more common due to several factors, including the increasing cost of living and economic uncertainty. Single-person households are also on the rise, particularly among retirees and young adults.

The trend of multigenerational households has reemerged, particularly among ethnic minorities. The National Association of Realtors reported that in 2018, 12% of homebuyers purchased a multigenerational home (Yun, 2019).

These various family structures have contributed to significant changes in the way society views families.

Social and Cultural Factors

Several social and cultural factors have contributed to the shift in family structures. The rise of postmodernism and diversity has promoted the idea of tolerance towards unconventional family structures.

This has led to a general acceptance of cohabitation, single parenting, and divorce. Single-parent households have become more common due to social diversity, stigma, and rising numbers of teenage pregnancies.

Tradition and religion also play an important role in shaping family structures. They support the traditional ideology of marriage and the nuclear family, but they also have restrictions on things like cohabitation and divorce.

Society’s response to the claims of same-sex couples to access marriage has been a significant debate in the U.S in recent years, with some cultures resistant to the idea due to religious or moral beliefs.

Economic Factors

Wealth and Standards of Living

Income, wealth, and standards of living influence family structures. Wealthy families have more resources, which afford them greater flexibility to exert their preferences over alternative family arrangements.

Single-person households are common among retirees and people with higher income, as they can afford to live alone. The rise in divorce rates can also lead to women experiencing a long-term economic disadvantage, particularly if they had children while married.

The marriage premium, which is the economic advantage that marriage provides in terms of income and wealth, is slowly disappearing (Sassler et al., 2014).

Cost of Living and Housing

The cost of living and housing affects family structures in significant ways. High rent prices and the cost of owning a home has led to the rise in multigenerational and Kidult households.

Multigenerational households have become more prevalent due to the mutual gains in living together; older parents can take care of grandchildren, and younger people can provide care and companionship to their elderly parents. Living with parents has become more common for young people due to financial constraints.

A survey by the Federal Reserve Board in 2016 reported that 31% of people aged 18 to 36 were living with their parents (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2017). Conclusion:

In conclusion, changing family structures and economic factors are intricately linked.

Marriage, cohabitation, and divorce have undergone a significant shift due to social and cultural factors; also, the cost of living and housing has forced people to explore alternative ways to live together. Society’s changing values and economic constraints have led to an increase in the number of Kidult households, single-person households, reconstituted families, and multigenerational households.

These changes in family structures have profound implications for social policies, government programs, and businesses. Further studies must continue to explore the effects of these changes to society in general.

In conclusion, this article has explored the intricate theories of changing family structures and economic factors that have influenced them. Family structures have changed significantly, with the decline in marriages, rising cohabitation rates, and the rise of single parent households and Kidult households.

Social and cultural factors such as postmodernism and diversity, tradition, and religion have contributed to this change, along with economic factors such as wealth, standards of living, and the cost of living and housing. These changes have significant implications for social policies, government programs, and businesses.

To recap, the article discussed the following FAQs on the topics: (1) How have family structures changed in recent years? (2) What social and cultural factors have influenced changing family structures?

(3) How have economic factors such as wealth and cost of living impacted family structures? (4) What are the implications of changing family structures for society?

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