Research looks at how the modern American family has changed
- Published: 20/11/2012 at 09:24 AM
- Online news:
A new study has classified the modern American family into four tidy categories, defined by either religious beliefs, progressive and liberal attitudes, disengaged parenting and making sacrifices.
What defines the modern American family? ©Monkey Business Images/shutterstock.com
For their study, researchers from the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture analyzed the results of online surveys filled out by 3,000 parents of school-aged children across the US.
Follow-up interviews were then conducted among 101 of the survey respondents.
After analyzing the data, scientists decided that the modern American family falls into one of four categories: The Faithful, The Engaged Progressives, The Detached or American Dreamers.
Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic group that supports scientific, philosophical and theological research into the ‘meaning of life,’ the results were presented at a conference on the culture of American families in Washington, DC.
The Faithful, who make up about 20 percent of American households, instill order in their homes in accordance to their religious beliefs, be it Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. The religious community – church, synagogue, mosque – plays a dominant role in family life, and rearing children “whose lives reflect God’s purpose” is more important than their children’s eventual happiness or career success.
For 21 percent of parents, God and religion have been “sidelined” in favor of tenets like personal freedom, responsibility, progressive, and liberal openness, and honesty. Politically liberal and more left-leaning, they are generally optimistic about their children’s prospects and raise their kids to be “responsible choosers.” By age 14, their children have complete information about birth control, by age 15 they’re surfing the Web without adult supervision and by age 16 they’re watching R-rated movies. No helicopter parenting here.
Perhaps the most pessimistic of the bunch, 21 percent of families that fall into the Detached category are primarily white parents with blue-collar jobs, no college degree and lower household incomes. They report lower levels of marital happiness and don’t feel particularly close to their children, spending less than two hours a day interacting with them. Furthermore, detached parents have defeatist attitudes about their children’s outcome, with little ambition or hope for their futures.
These are parents who bust their chops with one sole aim: to give their kids a better future, more often than not one that’s better than their own. American Dreamers (27 percent) have relatively low household income and education, but contrary to The Detached, pour all their energies into raising their children and providing them with every possible material and social advantage, researchers say. The Dreamers also invest much effort in protecting their kids from negative social influences, a parenting style most commonly observed among black and Hispanic families. Dreamers are also very close with their kids.
These characteristics overlap somewhat with another kind of parenting that made headlines last year, the 'Tiger Mom' syndrome, in which kids are brought up by unbendingly strict parents who demand nothing less than the best from their children, coined famously by writer Amy Chau in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Another interesting finding from the University of Virginia study: today’s parents are less confident in the authoritarian role, and prefer a parenting style that hinges on constant communication and forging friendships with their kids.
About the author
- Writer: AFP Relax News
Position: News agency