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The Myth of the Traditional Family Essay Sample

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The Myth of the Traditional Family Essay Sample

The myth of the “traditional family” argued by Coontz was a definition and idea as to what I thought characterized “the perfect family,” or what I thought a family should ultimately resemble. Coontz argues that the traditional family, or the nuclear family, in which most people associate as a model only emerged within the last century and is associated by most in American society as 1950’s era Leave it to Beaver or Donna Reed scenario of family life. In fact, when thinking of the “traditional family” this is what comes to my mind. This idealized version of the family was promoted mostly by the various influences of 1950’s media. As a child I used to watch re-aired episodes of Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver and this displayed an important role in determining what I thought was the perfect sought after structure of a family. In addition I must have also been influenced by the views of my parents and grandparents from their experiences during the 1940’s and 1950’s culture.

The traditional family was always represented by the submissive, dependent, nurturing mother, housewife of the 50’s and the strong masculine breadwinner, loving, “Honey I’m home” father figures I grew up witnessing on television. The script always represented simplistic issues that were usually comical or innocent in nature and I thought this was real life. As an adult I tend to still hold on to this idealized version of family even with the compelling evidence provided by Coontz and my own experiences growing up in my family as a child. Ultimately it’s hard to let go of that picture and one that I strive to attain. My childhood family came close to this version of a “traditional family”. It was “traditional” in the sense of it being a nuclear family but in my view it also had characters of an “untraditional” family with a domineering husband and submissive, yet career oriented wife. In this sense it was patriarchal with a clear division in terms of control of family affairs and roles between the sexes.

However my family may have been an anomaly from most people growing up in the decade of the early eighties given the fact that my father was ethnic Turkish with a patriarchal expectation of the family deeply embedded in his culture and being. After divorcing, the roles shifted as my mother was expected to assume the responsibilities as the sole breadwinner. Ultimately, my mother being a single parent was able to fit the role of both father and mother, although very difficult with five children. This version of family definitely did not fit neatly into my definition of what the “traditional family” was or should be. In maintaining and developing my own family, I tend to still hold on to some of the ideas promoted by society as to what the traditional family looked like and what it should resemble today.

However, I do agree with Coontz’s view that the term “traditional family” has never really existed to describe an ideal family arrangement that could be revived to apply to any family setting today since there were many different definitions of what the “traditional family” was. According to Coontz, society dealt with many similar social and economic issues that families face today, but the families of the 50’s were just better at hiding or accepting those issues. Coontz explores various historical periods in refuting the position held by traditionalist that we should, as a society revert to the ideal family values of the past.

In her article Coontz argues that the historical characteristics of the family have been ever changing from the colonial period to the early turn of the century industrialization period to historical milestones of the 1920’s and pre and post war periods of American history. In addition, her claim is that the structure and expectations of the family has coincided with the economic, social and cultural pressures of the times. In other words a “traditional family” of 2013 cannot be expected to be upheld to the norms of the “traditional family” from the 1940’s. The traditional family as Coontz describes it today has its work cut out for it due both only to the declining social institution that once aided families, but also to the economic stressors associated with falling real wages over the last forty years.

We live in an economically depressed age that is only adding to the difficulties in promoting sustainable families that many people are forgoing the idea of a family in whole. From my own experience this was definitely something that myself and my significant other had considered. Coontz argues that idolized idea of that “traditional family” hasn’t helped in curtailing any social issues that families face either but in fact has hindered many constructive discourse in trying to improve the issues that families face. The traditional family and suggestions as how to revive it cannot apply to the family structure of the 21st century simply because the society of today, affords greater equality to its women, great economic freedom and rights and is very different from the colonial era and societies that were mentioned in the article.

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