A Century of the American Family

Donna Ruane Morrison

in Cross Currents

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268208
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191683442 | DOI:
A Century of the American Family

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The present state of the American family is commonly interpreted as a ‘sign of the times’, a by-product of contemporary values and culture and the economic forces that shape modern life. Taking a longer view, however, reveals that many aspects of current family demography reflect patterns that have been under way since the beginning of the twentieth century, while others are newer developments. This chapter highlights the major demographic trends that have shaped family life in the United States since 1900. Some trends such as lower fertility, increases in age at marriage, and elevated divorce levels took root early on in the century, making patterns in family life ripe for change. Other developments, such as the large-scale participation of mothers with young children in the labor force, the prevalence of cohabitation, and sharp increases in out-of-wedlock childbearing, have only recently gained momentum. What is most noteworthy is that these trends have combined into a retreat from marriage in American society and the separation of childbearing from marriage.

Keywords: United States; American family; family demography; family life; fertility; marriage; cohabitation; childbearing

Chapter.  9940 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Family Law

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