Type: Sociology
Pages: 8 | Words: 2348
Reading Time: 10 Minutes

The processes aimed at moving from an industrial society to a post-industrial one, which is called modernization, have changed the face of the world. Modernity has been formed as a result of many political, economical, social, and intellectual transformations, mutually reinforcing and conditioning each other. These processes have a serious impact on almost all spheres of life, including family relations. The egalitarian family that is based on the equality of its members has become a norm in modern civilization (Gerson, 2010). Today, the family is a relative but not an absolute goal. This crisis is largely due to the loss or inadequate fulfillment of the traditional functions of the family, that is, reproductive, economic, educational, socializing, and psychological. Therefore, attitudes towards family life and its values occupy a special place in the study of the dynamics of family orientations of modern society. This paper aims at analyzing how the dynamics of family life has changed over years and how the emancipation of women and transition from the patriarchal family system to partnership has affected the household structure and child care. The depth and scale of modern socio-cultural transformations are increasingly changing people and society, as well as family relations, gender roles, and the whole institution of family.

Changes in the Household Structure as the Problem for the Society

Family and marriage are the phenomena which generate a great interest in every society. Despite a huge variety of political and economic organizations and technical progress, the institution of family acts as the main social unit. The process of development and change of family as a social institution that ensures the transmission of social values from generation to generation is closely linked to the issues of social stability. The most important social function of every family is the preparation of the younger generation for marriage and family relations (Steinmetz & Sussman, 2013). Thus, the visible changes in the household structure, in which a modern woman is more interested in her career than in family welfare, constitute a problem for modern society.

In the past, becoming a father or a mother of the family was the main purpose of social elevation. In the conditions of urbanization, the birth of a child is considered by modern youth as a decrease in family income, rejection of the habitual way of life, a reduction of the circle of communication, and a limited range of opportunities. As for the social position of men and women, it has become equal. In most cases, women work equally with men and strive for independence in material terms. In this regard, a man can no longer maintain his traditional position and thus loses the status of the head of the family. One of the problems of the modern society is that a woman performs more roles in the family than a man (Steinmetz & Sussman, 2013). In addition to raising children and fulfilling domestic responsibilities, a woman also wants to be a successful worker who financially supports her family. Many working women have forgotten that equality with men gives rights but does not relieve them of traditional responsibilities, as only with the efforts of a mother, a child and the whole family will be happy.

Undoubtedly, the independence of women and their rights to professional activities should not be abolished. Moreover, it is impossible not only because women will oppose it but also because many fields of activity, such as medicine, education, and trade are mostly occupied by women. However, a complete immersion of a woman into professional life often causes not only conflicts in her family but also a crisis of the whole institution of socialization. There is often a spirit of rivalry between spouses, which provokes the jealousy of the success of each other. Moreover, women who spend most of their life at work often feel guilty of not giving enough attention to their husbands and children. Due to the employment of a mother, the function of the family upbringing of children is often transferred to different social institutions, such as kindergartens and schools (Steinmetz & Sussman, 2013). Working mothers come home after work very tired, so their children suffer from a lack of attention and education.

The Global Character of the Issue

The family structure has been undergoing global change processes. Modern transformations are grandiose in their historic consequences. These changes can be seen both at the global and national levels. The destruction of the traditional family is connected with the penetration of Western culture into the society. Basically, Western culture creates a new attitude to family relationships, which do not necessarily mean marriage and the birth of children. It is noteworthy that globalization can significantly accelerate family transformations, especially in less developed countries. Fertility can decline even without significant economic changes under the influence of the Western family structure on developing countries (Gubernskaya, 2010). Therefore, the demographic transition in developing countries nowadays largely depends on the speed of penetration of global processes and incorporation of Western models of marital and family behavior into the national culture.

Taking the United States as an example, it becomes clear that for the last fifty years, the family has undergone a significant transformation. Family continues to be a central institution for the American society; however, nowadays it plays a less important role than several decades ago. In addition to the growth of the number of divorces and a decrease in the birth rate, which have changed the model of a traditional family, an important transformation is related to the distribution of family roles. The level of economic activity of women significantly increased, while the portion of traditional families, where the woman is a housewife, has decreased. On the contrary, the phenomenon of families with two economically active spouses has become a norm. Moreover, the contribution of women to the family budget is now significant, and very frequently, a wife earns more than a husband. Currently, more than two-thirds of Americans are positive about the economic activity of women and do not consider that it hinders the upbringing of children (Kollmeyer, 2012). However, the other one-third of Americans think that the mothers of young children should not work full-time. A more positive attitude towards working women who do not have school-age children prevails. The majority of Americans approve of the professional activity of childless women or women with children who have graduated from school (Kollmeyer, 2012). Overall, the international comparison has revealed a typical approach to the family in the United States. Thus, Americans are looking for a compromise between the traditional and modern family models, trying to get the best from both of them.

The attitude towards the institution of family has changed in many economically developed countries, such as Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United States. Although most people who live in these countries continue to recognize the importance of marriage, about a half of the population admits that divorce is the best way for a couple who is unable to solve its problems (Gubernskaya, 2010). The model of raising children has also become different. The stress is made not on obedience, as it was previously, but on independence. Everywhere in the world women seek social support for maternity and such a model of upbringing which would not have a negative effect on them as professionals. Family roles of men and women have become more similar. Thus, Western families have undergone profound changes.

The comparison of family models in sixteen Western countries in the period between 1967 and 2005 shows that the number of working women has increased to a large extent during several decades. As a result, many poor families have received a new source of income (Kollmeyer, 2012). However, it has resulted in the weakening of the role of family and strengthened non-family value orientations towards personal achievement. Among the married couples in economically developed countries in which both a man and a woman work, the representatives of the working class tend to regard the work of a wife as an economic necessity, while middle-class families mostly consider female work as a factor of emancipation (Hantrias & Letablier, 2014). As for the attitude towards children, in general, there are no significant differences between families of various social classes. However, the representatives of the working class attach more importance to such concepts as obedience and punishment; they do not prefer autonomy and independence of their children.

The Social Causes of Сhanges in Family Structure

The family structure began to change about one hundred years ago, with the transition to the post-industrial society. Firstly, the economic independence of women has dramatically increased. The number of purely male jobs has declined, and the number of universal jobs has risen. This is connected with the development of the service sector and automation of production processes, as male power is no longer needed. In the United States and Western Europe, a sharp increase in women’s employment occurred in the 1960s, at the time of the first post-industrial change (Hantrias & Letablier, 2014). Secondly, the growth of women’s economic independence has led to their emancipation. Many researchers consider that sexual liberation is the main cause of this social transformation. Thirdly, the loss of former rigidly outlined gender roles has undermined the classical concept of marriage as an alliance between a man and a woman. The acquisition of economic independence by women has led to an increase in the number of incomplete families as well as so-called dynamic families, as the spouses easily divorce and seek new partners. Homosexual marriages are becoming widespread in many countries as well (Gerson, 2010). All these changes are rather slow, but the trend is evident.

Thus, the main reasons for historical and socio-cultural changes of the modern family are industrial urbanization, evolution of economic relations and culture, and emancipation of women. As a result of these factors, a man ceases to be the head of a family. Nowadays, women work on the same terms with men. Undoubtedly, emancipation of women could not take place without a number of psychological consequences related to modern marriage. It has changed women’s psychology and made them economically independent. The range of women’s interests has expanded, and the material and spiritual needs have increased. The family budget and, consequently, its material condition are now largely determined by the contribution of women (Gerson, 2010). However, a woman also serves the functions of a mother, which can lead to psycho-emotional overload. At the same time, a man becomes a hostage to the situation when a woman earns more. Various scholars interpret the changes that occur with the family in different ways. For some scholars, it is a crisis of the family, while for others, it is the transformation due to the process of modernization.

Solutions to the Family Crisis

Due to a deep socio-economic crisis, which the modern world faces, the crisis phenomena have also captured the sphere of family-marriage relations. However, even in modern conditions, it continues to be one of the social foundations of the society and at the same time, one of its most important values. Despite all the changes that have taken place with the family, it should be a sociocultural environment for a person which develops creative abilities, collects, keeps, and transfers social experience to the younger generation. Moreover, the behavior of family members should be regulated by a system of values, thereby exercising social control, which contributes to the maintenance of social stability (Steinmetz & Sussman, 2013). In addition, stability of social life as well as the health of a nation is directly dependent on the state of the family. Many crisis phenomena and processes occurring in the family require serious attention from the society and its institutions, changing the attitudes towards marriage, paternity, and motherhood. At present, it is necessary to develop a positive attitude to family values, which must be set in families and then fostered in educational institutions and youth organizations.

Harmony and mutual understanding in the family can be preserved if the wife acts as a hidden leader, allowing her husband to remain a formal leader and the head of the family. However, the problem of modernity lies in the fact that women refuse to use such behavioral tactic, creating a high tension in the family, which often leads to the loss of authority of the father in the eyes of children, which, in turn, leads to annihilation of the family (Steinmetz & Sussman, 2013). Therefore, it is necessary to clearly define the concept of equality. A woman should have equal rights with a man; however, motherhood is a purely feminine function. A man cannot fulfill the role of a mother in children upbringing. Women should understand that their contribution to the society is not necessarily financially assessable.

The issue of equality should not adversely affect the relations between a man and a woman. It is difficult to be a leader in everything, and thus both genders should have their own responsibilities. A man and a woman should complement each other, follow one direction, and combine their strong skills and qualities. Only by combining their efforts, they will become a happy family and contribute to the creation of a healthy society.


The family is a part of the socio-cultural space and civilization, which is subject to the evolution in close relationship with other social institutions. Under the influence of historical changes in the society, the role of family in transforming the foundations of social life is changing. The modern society of economically developed countries is undergoing a dynamic transformation of social relations, in the process of which the patterns of marriage and family, value systems, gender roles and statuses are changing. These global processes characterize the transformation of the family institution in many countries. Due to the transition of family into new forms and the development of new functions of parenthood and marital relations, previously existing family values lose their significance. Today, the family does not have its sanctity anymore and is becoming a new social institution with unconventional rules and norms based on the partnership of family members. Therefore, it is necessary to form an adequate attitude to the family and its values among young people.

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