A family is a structural unit of every generation. In America, it also defines the relationship between two or more people. However, the current generation continues to experience adverse decline in this institution. There are moral values that are no longer esteemed. Various scholars persist in carrying out researches in order to analyze the concept of family in America. It is apparent that kins play a significant role in the setup. Moreover, provision of care is one of the vital factors that keep a family together.
The Family in America
Understanding the concept of family in America today is difficult. In fact, numerous attempts to determine its position in American society have revealed controversial facts. In essence, there are myths and half-truths that define the institution of relations. However, highlighting different views, these accounts have detrimental effects on the understanding of this unit. Myths create unrealistic expectations that tend to erode the unity and optimistic nature of such kins. Consequently, it is imperative to strike a balance on the subject of family in America. There are various approaches that are significant in the process. The following paper explores the concept of family in America in regard to Hansen’s report.
The Family Concept
Understanding the Family Unit
Hansen brings out a comprehensive view on the concept of marriage. According to Hansen (2005), the family is an institution that displays the centrality of relatives as care providers. In other words, the unit exists as a network of support the provision to each other. However, it is important to comprehend the meaning of the term “family”. Popenoe (1993) defines it as a unit where members have specified societal functions. For instance, they have traditional responsibilities such as procreation, socialization of children, and provision of care to its members. In other words, family exists to accomplish its role in the community. Consequently, failing to take up the responsibly is a sign of decline in the unit. Other responsibilities that Popenoe (1993) highlights include showing affection, companionship, economic corporation, and sexual fulfillment. It is evident that American families face challenges in fulfilling these duties. However, Popenoe’s definition is broad and demands a critical analysis. Braithwaite, on the other hand, depicts family as a social construction that is designed to understand the parties. He says, “…the ways in which participants discursively construct their alternative family relationships” (p. 2). These definitions may be complicated. Personally, I believe that a family is a dependent entity comprised of people with a commitment to each other. In essence, they recognize one another and meet the needs of one another. It is evident that there are similarities between these definitions and Hansen’s report.
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The argument on How Hansen’s View Helps Us Understand the Family Concept
There are essential facts that Hansen (2005) uses to illustrate the concept of family in America. First and foremost, he notes that family is a major point of reference and inspiration. In essence, the institution acts as a point of retreat and acceptance. One draws his strength from the care and support provided by the family. Hansen uses the Cranes as an example illustrating the life of people that occur through intense association. The six-year-old Robbie Crane moves through life comfortably. He is surrounded by kin and kith who understand the need to care for him. Even though Patricia is his only biological parent, the rest of the family members show significant concern. Robert, for instance, lives quite a distance from the town. Nevertheless, he shows commitment towards Crane’s life. He occasionally turns up to pick the little boy in school when the mother is busy. However, Coontz (1992) cites that the modern family in America has failed to fulfill the notion and gives a litany of failures that characterize the unit. They include the lack of traditional commitments, failing of children, and loss of a moral compass. The perspective of “self-actualization” continues to make divorce a regular occurrence. Coontz (1992) displays societal failures to account for the deteriorating image of the unit. For example, the rates of homicides have been on the increase in the recent past. Youths are seen to easily acquire guns. Moreover, cases of teenage pregnancy continue to amaze the world. The emergences of subjects such as surrogate motherhood continue to bring a different perspective concerning family life. While one can deny a surrogate woman the opportunity to relate with the child, it is evident that the new family definitions may include such parties. It is apparent that the 21st century faces a considerable evolution in understanding Hansen’s view of family. The court works as a place of propagating undesired justice. Child custody continues to deny most children their rights for a balanced livelihood.
Social constructionists, however, support Hansen’s perspective. In essence, he believes that the family identity embedded itself in communication. The family is constituted of legitimate and illegitimate members. There are voluntary kins who, therefore, make a discourse-created family. Social constructionists note that “people make sense of experience by constructing a model of the social world and how it works” (p, 11). Most American families integrate Hansen’s features. However, they are also open to societal make-ups. Presently, non-legal family members have become well incorporated into the family. Most of the times, such relationship commences through open communication. Such non-legal members are referred to as voluntary kins. In essence “voluntary kin” is a person who by virtue of association becomes a part of the family. Nevertheless, he does not have genetic or legal linkages to the actual family members. They progress and later adopt the individual. Braithwaite et al. (1992) note that the family-like relationships are either genetically recognized or legal. However, they have proven useful in this generation. However, the act of “kinscription” is still viable. It entails recruiting individuals to take part in fulfilling the responsibilities of the immediate kins.
From Hansen’s report, one understands that in America, family obligations come first. However, they operate as part of the culture of helping others. People prioritize the needs of the family above all. The concept turns out to be significant in the analysis of Robbie’s parents. Both being married, they have taken the responsibility to care for the little boy. In essence, Hansen illustrates that the centrality of kins and provision of support is a higher priority than cultivating a common goal. For example, we would expect the two parents to iron out their arguments and start living together. However, it is possible that owing to their separation, the father may stop supporting the child. Nevertheless, the failure of the marriage does not affect the parents’ conceptualization concerning the unit. The father still comes out to carry out his responsibilities as for the boy’s life. I believe that this feature is evident in America. People no longer uphold the growth and nurture of various relations. The area of interest is accomplishing their obligations. Parents who divorce continue to pay fees for their loved ones. In fact, they also ensure that their offsprings lead a decent life. However, parents fail to recognize that children and their family to be together. In fact, they yearn for the social and emotional bond of membership. Accomplishing obligations does not give them the successful living.
Hansen further illustrates the concept using the example of Tracy, who has let an outsider to rare her child. It is apparent that she encounters a sharp disparagement because of failing. In his evaluation of family decline, Popenue (1993) discusses some of the issues that account for the perspective brought out by Hansen. He claims that “familism” has weakened because of the competition from other values. He cites self-fulfillment and egalitarianism to account for familism. However, it is essential to find a distinction between the familism and other values. Popenue (1993) says:
Familism is the belief in a strong sense of family identification and loyalty, mutual assistance among family members, a concern for the perpetuation of the family unit, and the subordination of the interests and personality of individual family members to the interests and welfare of the family group (p. 4).
While it is obvious that most Americans still uphold family values, pressures of life threaten to destroy these values. In fact, there is a small percentage of Americans who believe that the family should stick together. Their concern is contradicting. While they express the desire to marry and have children, they are becoming more egocentric and, therefore, fail in their obligations. Consequently, they have redefined their understanding of family. In other words, they shift the weight of the unit to the accomplishment of obligations rather than relations. The quest for independence deprives America of the renowned social institution. The functions have also been reduced to material support. For example, teenagers need to spend time with their parents and learn about the different dimensions of life. However, most parents are concentrated on their quest for wealth, power, and education. Consequently, the youths continue to deteriorate in their behaviors. The nuclear unit which is the element of the extended family is continually under the wreckage.
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Hansen makes one understand the perspective of folks in America by highlighting the significant role of resources in the stability of every family member. He explains how sharing or resources shields others from the misfortunes of life. Hansen believes that sharing of the available resources prevents members of the kin from facing the harshness that accompanies economic insecurity. He says, “The Crane network acts as a true safety net for its members and for those it encounters and absorbs” (p. 17). I believe that this perspective ought to remain apparent in America. The reason for the continued disintegration of families is greed among people. In other words, everyone desires to become independent. Individualism is the central aim of most people. However, they forget the valuable return that comes from communal living in the family. The deficit comparative model accounts for the ongoing misunderstanding of marriages. Youths is a continuation of families. However, they have no role models. In fact, they have a broken image concerning the picture of a family. There is a need to realize that our possession is not eternal. In other words, it can disappear within a minute. In fact, one must comprehend the role of providence defining the fate of every generation. Commitment to family values demands humility among the rich and the poor. All stakeholders must embrace communal income and resources. Hansen explores the concept to illustrate that the Americas would be at a better place if they acknowledge their individual limitations.
There are key points out of Hansen’s concept. Firstly, Americans have different perspectives concerning the family. These standpoints are motivated by greed and self-independence. Consequently, the family unit has faced decline. However, there are important elements that Hansen promotes, He defines the central role of kins in providing care for one another. He further points out the family obligation as the highest priority that needs to be maintained in society. He also discusses the role of resources in the family unit. Although Hansen’s opinion is valid, there are numerous factors that deny the unit its stability. Consequently, the American people must reinstate the moral values that propagate successful family.
- Braithwaite, et al. (2010). Constructing family: A typology of voluntary kin. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 27(3), 388-407.
- Coontz, S. (1992). Introduction. The way we never were: American families and the nostalgia trap. New York, NY: Basic Books.
- Hansen, K. (2005). Not-so-nuclear families’ class, gender, and networks of care. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
- Popenoe, D. (1993). American family decline, 1960-1990: A review and appraisal. Journal of Marriage and Family 55(3), 527-542.