What About the American Family?

Abortion, education, economics, illegal immigrants, and governmental policies are very important to our country. They are the well-known issues that are a part of our every day life and the American culture. Far too often the little small things, the American values, which make a difference, are not noticeable and they are the ordinary factor that helps to change the entire society tremendously. One important value of the American culture is family. This group of people has change over time in the perspective of tradition, lifestyle, childhood, and parental control. Every set of parents have their own way of raising their children from the time they are born until they are old enough to go out and have a mature life of their own. As the time change, the family and raising of children has change, too.

In 1946, Benjamin Spock published “Baby and Child Care” that dealt with for parents on how to raise their children. There were many different typical problems he Dr. Spock discussed about in this book that the parents would have to deal with whenever they had their babies. This book was looked as quick advice whenever the father or friends whom were often away were not around at the quickest rate. One idea of this child-rearing literature is the fact that parenthood was given more emphasis on the mother raising the children while the father went out and worked several hours a week. This started to be a psychological issue for both the mothers and towards the children. Advice was also given help to change the way the family was perceived in the manner of placing both single and divorced parents a hand in child raising. By the 1950’s, everyone had access to these different material. This does include the idea of spanking children when they are misbehaving versus not spanking them letting them be out of control

From the article Benjamin Spock: The Public Pediatrician, the author Ray Lewonia mentions that “Spock was certainly human. Maier's biography describes with balance and sensitivity the difficulties that Spock experienced as a husband and father. Spock's early interests in psychoanalysis might have attributed his personal traits to the strict upbringing by his mother, and her rules, catechisms, and obsession with fresh air (Lewkonia).” This could mean that from his time of being raised by his mother, the ideas and childhood could have lead him to form these beliefs and produce so many articles and books on child rearing and the ideas of spanking and how there are other ways around to punishing a child if he or she misbehaves. Nevertheless, parents, especially mothers, were able to find helpful information on just beyond spanking the child, but the smallest thing such as changing a diaper or being able to manage time to spend with the children and form relationships. In an historical sense, families could have wanted their children to perfect such as the mother of Spock. There is a difference between raising the child during the war worlds and the time of Spock’s and how that has changed up until the present century.

Drastically moving into a new century, by 1877 the United States changed politically, economically, and socially. With the changes to overturn the industrial society into an urban society of jazz, the big city life, and education came the changes of the family. During these specific years, parents enforced the Victorian lifestyle through strict standards such as sexual behaviors, mannerism, and how the children dressed. Sometimes when the children got the chance they would run off to be alone with their friends. The clothing they wore reflected the type of family they were—middle-class families. Besides being closeness and strict standards were the religious values of Protestants and Roman Catholics from most church members. While the families were in their Victorian lifestyles, the entire family worked in factories and began to move to the suburbs. Wives were known as the stay at home wives because they had to raise the children while the husband did the work to bring in the money. Historically, blacks, immigrants, and other ethic groups had fewer babies in order to continue to help take care of the family and be the stay-at-home moms (Divine).

The role of parenting and child raising changes significantly in the twentieth century from the strict Victorian parents with children, to the middle-class working wives, and finally the family seems to go into a direction of being nontraditional. This simply means families started to live in the suburbs with a mixture of people white Christians, Jews, and blacks that worked in the factories and in the inner cities like New York. Transportation was important because the families lived a good distance away from the cities since their jobs are located there. Typically the wives went shopping while the husband worked and the children eventually rode the bus to school and played recreational activities. The home was viewed as such in the movie Pleasantville and 1950s sitcoms. Women started the work and played the role of wife and mother. As mentioned before they read Dr. Spock’s and many other how-to magazine and books to help them with their daily routines. Towards, the end of the century, the traditional family is no longer exists and now families are different in the number of children raised by two parents or a single parent or having more then two siblings to live with. Birthrates, divorce rates, and married couple stats increased and declined by 2000. Presently, the American family is much different this century than the last and the way children are being raised from household to household is different and most likely not in a traditional way (Divine). Unlike the past where the mother was generally raising the children and then being able to be a working wife, both parents deal with the misconduct of the children and work while the children are at school.

The raising of a typical American family has changed due to the emerging of cultures and new advancement each year and over centuries help advances our lives until this present day. In a historically sense “these changes led to increased urbanization, greater ethnic diversity, and growing social unrest” (Divine) within the borders of America. Every day there is a new invention, new reading material, and concepts that are being brought off a white piece of paper and into our lives in order to better help us. This is what happened with the raising of children and the role of the American family over the decades.

Divine, Robert, et al. Americana Past and Present. Brief 7th ed. Pearson Education, Inc., 2007. Print.

Lewkonia, Ray. "Benjamin Spock: the public paediatrician." The Lancet 352.n9130 (Sept 5, 1998): 825(1). General OneFile. Gale. University of Memphis. 24 Mar. 2009

Spock, Benjamin. 1946. The Commonsense Book of Baby and Child Care. New York. Pocket Books.

"Spock, Benjamin (1903–1998)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. 2008. The Gale Group. Web.28 Apr 2009. <http://www.faqs.org/childhood/So-Th/Spock-Benjamin-1903-1998.html>.

Now It's Your Turn: How do you feel about the raising of the American family? How's the child raising life in other countries if you are not from the United States? Are parents loosing their moral values as authority figures? Is there a lack of respect and discipline among the family? The comment section is open to you for discussion!


  • I think that the lack of strictness in raising children nowadays is evident. I can only say what I know because I am not american but here in the UK some young parents are just far too lenient. When children have no authority to listen to in their homes the chances are that they won't listen to any outside the home.

  • Although you may not be American but you are on the right path of the way mannerism of children who are raised by young parents or even if they do not have any disciplinary actions towards them by the parents. Many times people will say everything starts from the home.

  • I am a strong believer that when you become an adult "what you saw is what you do" basically however you were raised as a child is going to relfect how you are as an adult.

    If you dont grow up with alot of attention/love when you get older you are going to seek this attention in anyway possible because you have been deprived of it. *seen this happen with cousins*
    If you are abused as a child you don't necesarily look for that later on but you do think oh well this is how I grew up and this is what i know it must be ok.

    I do believe it all starts in your home. I believe I was raised pretty darn well and I thank my parents everyday for being my parents I love them tremendously.

  • I'll admit it; I could used a few more ass-whuppings as a gromit - it would helped me grow up much sooner. I might have been an adult at eighteen, but it took a few more years to become a MAN

  • @Evan, sometimes people get that way, but I think I have had enough of beatings when I was younger. I'm not into no rush to become an adult, but rather I sometimes classify myself as a young adult. But hey, everyone is different and we grow and mature different.

  • Hey Kelvin,
    Not to sound disrespectful of the whole culture, but My parents are wary of me pursuing an MBA from the US bcos of this very reason that I shall settle there and follow the American Way.
    In India we still have parents livin with their kids once they retire and cant take care of themselves, and Divorce rates arent above 15%, that too only in the major cities or in cases of dometic violence etc.

  • - Aditi, no harm done. There are many reasons to venture off the U.S. I've read and heard about people coming here to follow their dreams, but they desire to accomplish goals. We aren't meant to be alike and there's a purpose for life. I think if that is what you want to do to get an MBA, then there should be much discussion among yourselves.

  • I think we need to rethink how we raise our children. Women at work are great, but children will always remember a childhood of babysitters and daycare. I am also quilty of this. Partially, what society and economics has created is to blame.

  • Hello Kelvin

    Here in Brazil there is not so diference of United States, in spite of the social transformations occurred with a delay of thirty fourty years, because Brazil is a unequal country and the welfare isn't distribute correctly. Nowadays we are getting better, we are one of the BRIC and de perspectives are good. Telling about education, I have seen that brazilian families are diminishing in size and in some times in importance. Urbanization is a reality among us and divorces are increasing. So many families has been led by women.Women, according data of IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistic) have a better scholarhip than men. And when women live at country and get a graduation, they go to biggest cities and capitals looking for improvent to their lives. The problem is that some men stay in country, because they don't have good scholship and don't get marry because lack of women. And the women on the cities are leading their families without men - and who suffer are the childreen, reared without a father, rebels some times, getting into addictions. IT's a problem not only of sociology, but geographic too. Brazilian governor have to create spot of development in order to stop migration and avaible a better life to all citizens.

  • Like a few others said, the parent's experiences in their own lives usually dictate how they raise their kids. Parents who went through much hardship and work to get where they are become stricter, maybe because they don't want their kids to experience what they did. Maybe if the parent wasn't paid much attention to as a kid, they might display the same behavior themselves. Point is, our experiences play a bit of a role in our attitudes whether we know it or not. Obviously it's not that black and white, but it's definitly a factor.

    Interesting blog by the way.

  • I have a real issue with the perspective presented in this piece, which I realize derives from your sources. However, here's the point where a little critical engagement of your sources would be incredibly helpful.

    First of all, how can you or anyone justify using the mythologized experience of white, upper- and middle-class families as "typically" American? What makes Blacks and Latinos less "typically" American? Does the fact that the leisured pursuits and stay-at-home activities of whites historically has been facilitated by Black women performing the bulk of their domestic work matter? As the child and grandchild of women who work as domestics for white families, I tell you this is not a historical issue, but rather quite contemporary. Why does "women entering the workforce" become a family issue only when white women do it?

    As far as the spatial politics of families, as I'm sure you must know, the creation of suburbs was fueled by the preferential treatment of whites under the GI bill. It was spurred by white flight. So, why do the experiences of Black and Latino families in America's cities not factor into the story you are trying to tell? Where is the story about the impact of the disappearance of unionized blue-collar jobs for Blacks in urban centers on the Black family.

    We Blacks and Latinos are not merely a tangential footnote to the story of America and the issue of American families, and we should no longer be treated as such.

  • I think here in Malaysia the raising of families and children is still underlined by a strong religious value to it, even if, in the beginning the new parents weren't all that religious themselves.

    What I mean to say is that I see lots of young couples who enjoy doing things that will make their own religious parents faint, but once they have a family of their own, the values that were very much instilled in them (but not initially practiced!) slowly comes out, and they start going for sunday masses, friday prayers, and observing religious events according to their beliefs.

    accordingly, in some ways, i am glad to see respect for the elders have yet to erode as it has been in the some western families. and this is just my observation (so please don't shoot me for my rather simplistic opinion) but then again perhaps i am basing my observation on silly things like "parental control" on Channel [V] (but seriously if my bf was to swear at my mum, i'd be the one who kicks him right out of the house first)

    Parents here are far more protective, you find many of their kids who are already working but are still living under the same roof. Single women especially, find it harder to move out on their own without getting married first.

    ..just some of my perspective :) im sure a topic such as this deserves an essay on its own huh?