Posts Tagged ‘kin’

American Ties (II)

The American family has changed greatly in the last couple of generations – some call that change a “breakdown” and others prefer a term like “evolution.” For one, the family starts later; that is, Americans marry and have their first children at an older age they used to. For another, the family is smaller, with fewer children. The decline in family size largely took place in the ‘60s and ‘70s and then leveled off. Fewer children born since the 1960s means that today’s adults have fewer sibs, aunts, uncles, and cousins than Americans did 40 years ago. A rough calculation suggests that the average American today has about 25% fewer blood kin than the average American of the 1970s had.

A.F. Burns, U. of FL.

But what most people mean when they say the family has changed, broken down, or evolved is less about the quantity and more about the quality of family ties – something about how much people are involved with kin, rely on kin, care about kin. That is a lot harder to measure than simple numbers, but there are fragmentary survey data. And they suggest a complex picture of change and continuity.

(Disclosure: This post is part of an occasional series drawing from my new book, Still Connected: Family and Friends in America since 1970. Further details can be found there.  A previous post focused on friends and confidants.)

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