Over the last few years, there’s been controversy surrounding the idea of the “nuclear family” within academia.
Sociologists coined the concept of the nuclear family in 1925. The term derived from the Latin word nucleus, which means “core.” The theory is that the family forms its own tiny nucleus, separate from the rest of the world. The nuclear family’s modern definition is “a family group that consists only of parents and children.”
This idea seems simple enough in Western society. It’s what most of us grew up seeing on our TV. For many of us, people taught us that that’s what a healthy family consists of.
However, in recent years, younger generations have challenged the nuclear family structure. Feminist, LGBTQ+, and sociology scholars, along with others from liberal institutions, have weaponized and made the term taboo.
Recently, the popularization of gay and lesbian child adoption and invitro fertilization expanded the options to start families. According to Family Quality, “between 2 million and 3.7 million children under age 18 have an LGBTQ+ parent. Many of these children are being raised by a single LGBTQ+ parent, or by a different-sex couple where one parent is bisexual. Approximately 191,000 children are being raised by two same-sex parents.” These statistics match up with the ideology and narrative that LGBTQ+ advocates promote.
Although those in the LGBTQ+ community normally propagate the idea, groups like Black Lives Matter have promoted disrupting the nuclear family too. For LGBTQ+, some believe that advocating for two-parent households means excluding them from the conversation. Others take offense at the thought of two-parent households because their own families rejected them.
For many, the first time they experience rejection about their sexual orientation is from a close love-one. Many experience homelessness for coming out, so they cling to the idea of communal families over their blood relatives.
For those reasons, it’s easily understood why they advocate against two-parent households. A human’s first relationships are normally with his or her family. In the home, parents cultivate, educate, and socialize children. They teach children to learn to connect to others and engage in society. A supportive family provides a child with the emotional comfort he or she requires for successful growth.
However, if a family is unwilling to tend to a child because of their sexual preferences, the child will naturally hold resentment. Thus, they thwart off the idea of the nuclear family because of their personal experience. All of their perceived biases are understandable given what they have experienced.
However, this can lead to projection and biases against the positive statistics about growing up in a 2-parent household. These experiences are only anecdotal and the data advocating for two parent households is still strong.
As of 2018, a majority of Americans still lived in a two-parent household. “After a steady decline since the 1970s, the share of American children who live with two parents has leveled off in the past two decades,” the Institute for Family Studies writes. They continue, “Today, nearly 7 in 10 children live with two parents, and this share remains flat since 2000. However, unlike their peers growing up a couple of decades ago, children under age 18 today are more likely to live with parents who are living together but not married.”
Regardless, critics point to the decline of marriage as a case for the disruption of the nuclear family. But ideas such as these fail to account for the socio-economic changes our society has experienced.
They don’t take into account how and why things are the way they currently are. For example, there’s the rising cost of education. Also, requirements to enter the workforce have contributed to the decline of marriage and children.
Divorce and parental cohabitation are rising in the United States too. Additionally, families are becoming smaller due to the rise of single-parent households and the decline in fertility. Because the conditions of parenthood have changed so drastically, fewer couples are having children.
In some parts of society, foregoing a traditional wedding or not being married altogether has become the standard. Many people who decided to have children out of wedlock did so because they don’t place a high value on the institution of marriage. Yet, the number of American children who remain in a household with two parental figures is steady.
Furthermore, children growing up in two-parent households tend to fare off better in life than their peers. According to some scholars, children that grow up in households without their two biological are twice as likely to be poor. Research also shows that millennials who married before starting a family are less likely to be disadvantaged than those raising a child before marriage. They’re also 60% more likely to be wealthier than their peers.
Children conceived out of wedlock are also more likely to have behavioral and lifestyle problems growing up. Many studies document the behavioral problems children of divorced or single parents experience. They’re also more likely to use and abuse drugs.
Additionally, a kid raised by a single mom is fourteen times more likely than a child living with married biological parents to experience severe physical violence. An infant whose mother lives with someone other than the child’s parent is 33 times more likely to be subjected to severe physical violence.
The reason is because, “sadly, adults who are unrelated to children are much more likely to abuse or neglect them than their own parents are,” an American Enterprise Institute federal report found. They also found that “children living in a household with an unrelated adult were about nine times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused than children raised in an intact nuclear family.”
Now, no one family is perfect and there will always be room for improvement. However, this doesn’t negate the data about the positive contributions from growing up in a two-parent household or nuclear family.
People should embrace the data on children growing up within the nuclear family instead of rejecting it. There are strong benefits to raising children in a nuclear family, according to social science studies. This statement doesn’t take away from the extraordinary contributions of single parents and extended family members though. They have invested love and care into the children in their families as well.
In general, however, it’s clear that the basis for having a strong family structure starts with a strong nuclear family.