How is the American family doing today? The answer depends upon whom you are talking with and the social/political/cultural lens you are looking through. This article is written by an American professor emeritus of family studies who has studied and taught about families for more than forty years. The author has been married to his wife Nikki for fifty years and they have raised three daughters and are now active in an extended family which included four grandchildren and three sons-in-law. In this article, the author avoids talking about families from a political perspective because in America this kind of talk usually generates more heat than light. Even though the American media tends to focus only on problems and give all of us the impression that families in particular and life on the planet in general are in grave danger, after studying strong families in the U.S. and around the world for more than forty years, the author personally believes that the majority of families in America are doing well and are satisfied with their life together. Some families are just doing okay. And some, of course, are in deep trouble. Truth be told, all American families have problems, just as all families around the world have problems. And, as it is true from a global perspective, not all families in the U.S. are strong families. But all families in the U.S. have strengths and they use these strengths in their efforts to meet the challenges their family inevitably faces. In this article, the author begins looking at American families today from the top-down perspective - the macro-level - and follows that with a discussion from the bottom-up perspective - the micro-level. These two perspectives complement each other and give us a reasonably good answer to the question of how the American family is doing today. And these two perspectives give us a better understanding of the paradox that families and family values are changing in some ways while we stay, deep-down, basically the same in our families.

About the authors

J DeFrain

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

NE 68588-0236 USA


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