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Over 20% of the U.S. population live in a traditional family system.

Explore the structure, advantages, and disadvantages associated with the traditional family system.

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Definitions

Think about the popular 1980’s television show The Cosby Show and the more recent cartoon show Family Guy. What do these two television shows have in common? If you guessed that both shows depict traditional families, you would be correct.

A traditional family is a family structure that consists of a man, woman, and one or more of their biological or adopted children. In most traditional families, the man and woman are husband and wife. In The Cosby Show, viewers watch doctor Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable and his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable, raise their five biological children in Brooklyn, New York. In the show Family Guy, married couple Peter and Lois Griffin raise their three children in their home.

The percentage of traditional families in the U.S. has steadily declined over the past 40 years. In 1970, traditional families accounted for 40% of U.S. households.

By 1990, the percentage of traditional families had declined to 25.6%. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that only 20% of all U.

S. households were traditional families. Another term used to refer to a traditional family is a nuclear family.The traditional family is different than the nontraditional family, which is a blanketed term used to describe all other types of families that are not traditional. If you have ever seen the television show Modern Family, you have been exposed to several different types of nontraditional family structures.Nontraditional families include:

  • Cohabitation families, or unwed couples who live in the same household
  • Single-parent families, which consist of one parent and one or more biological or adopted children
  • Extended families, which consist of two or more adults from different generations of the same family who maintain a household together
  • Same-sex families, which consist of couples of the same sex and one or more children

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are several benefits to living in a traditional family.

They include:

  • More stability when compared to single parent or multi-generational families
  • Increased consistency with raising children
  • Strong bonds and emotional support among the family
  • In most of today’s traditional families, both parents contribute financially. This leads to increased financial stability and cash flow for family needs and extracurricular activities for children, among other things.

There are also several problems that may arise as a result of living in a traditional family. They include:

  • Isolation from extended family members
  • The stress of finding outside childcare, especially if both parents are working
  • Burnout

Lesson Summary

A traditional family is a family structure that consists of a man, woman, and one or more of their biological or adopted children. In most traditional families, the man and woman are husband and wife.

The percentage of traditional families in the U.S. has steadily declined over the past 40 years.

In 1970, traditional families accounted for 40% of U.S. households; by 1990, the percentage was 25.6%.

In 2010, that number dropped to 20%.The traditional family is different from the nontraditional family, which is a blanketed term used to describe all other types of families that are not traditional. These include: cohabitation, single parent, extended, and same-sex families. There are several benefits to living in a traditional family such as more stability or consistency with raising children and increased financial stability. The disadvantages, however, can be isolation from extended family members, difficulty finding childcare, and burnout.

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