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Think. Discuss. Act. Family

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Survey Finds Changing Family Structure

Associated Press. (1999, November 24). “Survey finds changing family structure.” The Boston Globe, p. A14.


Researchers from the University of Chicago interviewed 2,832 Americans 18 and older between February and May of 1998. Their findings on the American family were released on the date above.

  • The percent of households made up of a married couple with children dropped from 45% in the early 1970s, to 26% in 1998.
  • The percentage of adults married also dropped: 75% in 1972 to 56% in 1998.
  • The percent of children living with both their parents dropped from 73% in 1972, to 51% in 1998.
  • The percentage of households of unmarried adults with no children near doubled from 11% in 1972, to 33% in 1998.
  • And the number of children living with single parents increased from 4.7% in 1972, to 18.2% in 1998.
  • The percentage of married couples with children younger than 18 decreased from 50% of all households in 1970, to an estimated 36% in 1997.

Attitudes also seem to be changing; there is more acceptance of divorce and alternative families. Disagreeing with the statement that “parents ought to stay together just because they have children” were 67% of the respondents.

Director of the University’s National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, Tom W. Smith noted:

The single-earner families with young children still present in the household have become the exception rather than the rule.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When you read of young people engaged in violence or highly risky sexual activity, do you tend to blame the media, parents, or other aspects of contemporary society? If you are not into “blame,” where does primary responsibility lie?
  2. How important do you consider the family to be? How much damage or good can it do?
  3. How do you see families changing around the world in the second half of the twentieth century?
  4. What are your suggestions for family life and the socialization of children?


  1. The family is a basic building block in the social structure.
  2. Families are strongly affected by other social systems: economics, governmental policies, schools, community expectations and norms, the media, and religious life.
  3. One can find many examples of parental denial in regards to youthful problems. Parents need to face responsibility for loving, disciplining, and instructing their children.
  4. Parents need a great deal more support than they are getting. Many parents are struggling and doing the best they can. The feel overwhelmed by circumstance and impotent in dealing with rebellious children.
  5. We must be prepared to face social changes in the family and to readjust policies to support all members of the family system.

Dean Borgman
© 2018 CYS

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