Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Divorce and Gen X
As we look forward to the future we might also look back and gain a better perspective of the changes in family structure in America.
Can you fill in the blanks below? (Answers at the end of this column.)
1. Divorces per 1000 married women in 1900, the divorce rate was:
2. In 1970 50% of American households consisted of a mother, a father, and non-adult children. By 1990 that figure dropped to:
3. Divorces per 1000 married women in 1979, the highest rate of divorce was:
4. Divorces per 1000 married women in 1994, the divorce rate stabilized at:
5. The USA has the choose lowest highest divorce rate among all Western nations.
Divorce changes families. In 1992, the American Heritage Dictionary dropped the words “blood, marriage or adoption” as defining norms for family. And, in her popular book Divorce Culture (Knoff, 1997), Barbara Defoe Whitehead talks of a new cultural identity for family based on “affectionate bonds.”
However, a correction seems to be showing up in the Generation X-ers (those young people coming of age in the ’90s.). This generation is rebelling against the family relativism of the ’70s and ’80s.
An article in Women’s Quarterly (Spring 1997) titled “Ozzie and Harriet Redux”, by Dana Mack contends that “more and more young parents are realizing that . . . time and attention are the chief currencies of family life.” Families, note Mack, now have more stay-at-home moms, eat more meals together, and shun conspicuous consumption as a trade off for relationship.”
Some sociologists call this generational reaction a “new familism” for the 21st century. Glenn Stanton, executive director of the Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina, believes young adults need “great encouragement and successful models to follow as they establish families.” Writing in Current Trends and Thoughts (Jan. 1999), Stanton calls for groups to pair young marrieds with older mentoring couples for advice and accountability.
Seniors who have a longer view of time may become key players in helping young families restore nourishing values within the home. As mature adults, we can do nothing better for our families than to contribute to the “love pool” within new family circles. After all, perhaps the real mark of a happy family — in any era — is not its outside configuration but its inside ability to love.
Answers to quiz above about the changing American family:
Find out more on how you can strengthen or rebuild your marriage.