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Whatever happened to the picture that perfect traditional families portrayed?
Television has had such an influence over us when we begin wishing we had families like
the ones we see on Little House on the Prairie and The Brady Bunch. Families who work
together, support one another, and seem to have all of life’s problems figured out. The
media is catching up to society and showing more single-family sitcoms with down to earth
family relationships such as Blossom, Sinbad and Married with Children. These types of
families show the nuclear family of today. They experience day to day worries and concerns
with the reality that everything is not always so perfect in the real world. There have been
many changes in American families since the 1950’s. We are seeing more women in the
work force, family values changing, and more divorces leading to the rise of single parent
households. This is putting the American home downhill. Divorce seems to be a problem
solving solution that many families are taking into consideration; statistics show that it has
left half of all families fatherless. The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world.
Marriage is no longer taken for its life long commitment; most couples get into a marriage
wanting the best out of it. Unfortunately, people are getting married without thinking of the
responsibilities that come with marriage. What is happening to the meaning of a family?
Where are we taking it and why aren’t we doing much about it? A family is suppose to be
the love and support of both a mother and father for their children. There is not much time
spent at home building new bonds and expressing the love. Instead, Americans have
become more of individuals and have left the importance of a family-oriented-household out
in the dark. Their priorities are viewed more towards personal happiness and
achievements. There is much more to divorce than just family matters. With the working
women moving up in the business world, their dependence on financial support has been
reduced. Women are more confident that they can survive alone without the support of a
man; so as it turns out, they find it easier to turn to divorce. Do we really have an
understanding on what the phenomenon of divorce is?
Divorce is often considered to be a problem between two adults, and nothing more
than that. Since the children have an attachment to both the parents, it is not surprising to
know that here is a higher percentage in which the mother gets custody of the children -the
increase has been of three million. The most recent increase in divorce has been among
younger couples, but the ones that leave the greater impact are divorces which are tearing
the family apart.
The number of children affected by such divorces have just tripled and is increasing by
the year. Why is divorce giving the children the hardest hit? Children are taught, whether
at home or on the playgrounds of our schools, that a household consists of a “mommy”,
“daddy”, baby, and maybe even a pet. There is much hostility felt by the children when a
divorce occurs; poverty and stress are also other problems. Not all families are well-off to
make it alone. This makes it difficult for a child while growing up. When there is a divorce
in the family, it tears in half the perfect family portrait. The fact that the majority of the
children live with mother when a divorce has occurred has left the importance that a father’s
absence means more than tears can express.
Divorce can be viewed in different ways with its different perspectives; for example, a
functionalism would discourage divorce. They view that divorce is a rapid change in
society. Functionalism are not too happy with change. They see this issue from the macro
perspective and judge that divorce is bad. A functionalism would look at the social
information and ask, “Why?” Why does divorce occur? Since functionalism look at the
group instead of the individual, they would blame that social institutions are failing. They
would include that the institutions are not doing their part in instructing; therefore, society
is falling apart. They argue that society should encourage couples to conform; to unite.
They would encourage parents to plan family outings with activities that can bring a sense
of togetherness and communication within the group. They believe that conformity would
promote a cohesion and would strongly support the traditional family. They will back up
the traditional family values and norms and add that we need to go back to the way things
use to be. To conclude, functionalism believe we have fewer divorces when we conform.
A conflict theorist would also frown against divorce, but would destroy the traditional
family. They want to start all over again. They look at the big picture and answer, “Why?”
Why are divorces happening and who is benefiting from them? They try to raise people’s
conscience and make them aware of what is really going on. There are several expenses in
processing a divorce; for example, court costs, child support, attorneys, sometime counseling
and the divorce itself. Not to mention, the government’s profit from taxes. When a family
splits, they are no longer one; they are now two different cases. A conflict theorist would
make a couple think of who really is benefiting from the divorce, the couple or the agencies?
They would argue that society is to blame for such misconduct. We are influenced to take
the easy way out of a family problem and by doing so, more of us are looking for divorce.
A symbolic interactionalist would decide how a couple came about deciding for a
divorce. They look at things from the micro perspective, in which they look at the
individual instead of the whole society. They make no judgment on whether society is good
or bad. The believe that our decisions are learned behaviors. They add that our roles and
expectations are what we learned in relationships; therefore, a family has its different
realities of what a family is suppose to be like. They simply tell why and conclude that we
are influenced to divorce by the environment of what our family and friends do.
Lastly, the communitarist believes that the family is in trouble. They say that we are in
a state of decline and that something must be done. In the case of divorce, a communitarist
would argue that we must go back to the small community where the church was the center
focus. They believe in the traditional values and in the group oriented form. They would
encourage couples to surround themselves with family support and church involvement.
I have come to understand all angles of divorce, but when your get parent divorced
when you were four, understanding will not do the trick. Fourteen years of my life I have
wondered what it would be like to have my father around. It really didn’t bother me when I
was a kid, but when I got to the age where all my friends talked about their daddies, I
would cry silent cries because mine wasn’t around. I never knew how much fun it would be
to have a “daddy” there to do things with the family; I felt left out. I didn’t really feel
anything towards my father. He came and visited us once in a while, sometimes months
later. I always wondered what had wrong and whether it could have been my fault. My
mother always told me that my father loved me very much. I hardly knew how he was
really like and I don’t think he really knew what I was like. I felt weird calling him dad. To
me, a dad was someone who was always there for his children, a person to look for when
mom wasn’t there, someone who gave you money to go on school trip, the backbone of the
family, the strong person who would take care of any matters. When I think of a “daddy” I
think of my mother, she took care of all that stuff on her own until I was old enough to assist
her. As my sisters and I got older, we went through a stage where money was a problem.
My mother was making good money at the time, but it was enough for the bills, meals on
the table, and supplies. It is hard when a single parent has three teenage girls at home; it is
even tougher when my sisters and I expected certain things and we couldn’t get them. I am
now a freshman in college and financially we are getting along just fine. I am grateful that
my family turned out great and that we didn’t experience many of the e short falls other
single-parent households go through. I don’t think the hurt of not having a dad will ever
disappear, but the love and support I have received makes up for it. Things happen for a
reason and I strongly feel that the divorce in my family has made our family stronger. We
don’t depend on any one else but ourselves. When it comes to my family, we treasure what
we have gotten and never regret anything. I have learned to forgive my father over the
years and to love him for bringing me into this world. He has made me realize that if I ever
have to go through a divorce, I want to think of my children first. Thanks to my mother, I
know I can grow up to become a great mother for my children.
In my case, I agree with what the communitarist says about bringing our families back
to the small community with the church as the center fold. Just like a functionalism or
conflict theorist would say, I do not believe divorce is right nor do I feel it is the answer to a
bad marriage. There is always a solution to everything; it just takes time and
communication. I strongly feel that when God is the center of any relationship; whether it
be between brother and sister, mother and daughter, father and son, boyfriend and
girlfriend, or husband and wife, it reassures the heart that everything is going to be all right.
I support the phrase, “a family that prays together stays together”.
In society today there is no idealistic family. There is no going back to what the traditional
families were like. We are living in a day and age where children live with both parents, one or the
other parent, grandparents, aunt, or even homeless on the streets. There is no solution to prevent
divorces; it is a matter of true love and support before the commitment. There is no such thing as a
perfect marriage, but that doesn’t mean we cannot strive for one. It is up to us to paint the family we
want and pray for its strength to last. What is to be said about the American family dream?
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