What Exactly Is The Typical American Family

2704 words - 11 pages

For numerous years now, when we think of the typical American family, our thoughts often go to the suburbs. We picture a family with a father, mother and the average 2.5 children. This ideal family most likely has it's roots in the 1950's. After World War II,, there was a significant move from urban and rural areas to the newly formed suburbs. A substantial part of this move can be attributed to the low interest mortgage loans supplied by the GI bill, signed into law in 1944.1 There was also another significant change coming to the American family, the television set. Families would gather in front of this relatively new device as a source not only for news but also for entertainment. Fathers of the 50's, many of whom as children, had grown up through the hard times of the Great Depression. Also, seen the horrors of the second world war were now within the peace and tranquility of their suburban homes with their families. This father served roles as provider, authoritarian, and wise counselor for his wife and children, much like the father, Ward Cleaver, played by Hugh Beaumont, on the 50's television show “Leave It To Beaver”. These roles would change somewhat over the next 60 years or so. Television sitcoms have reflected the changing roles of the American father as the provider, authoritarian, and counselor over the last 60 years.
For example, the quintessential suburban father of the 50's worked the typical 9-5 job. His wife was a stay at home mom commonly called a homemaker. It was his sole income that provided his family with the lifestyle, typical of this suburban life. This was the case for about sixty percent of homes in the 1950's.2 Shows like “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It To Beaver” reflected this standard. Even though their incomes were not particularly high, Ward Cleaver earned about $46, 835 as an accountant and Jim Anderson, played by Robert Young, of “Father Knows Best” earned about $38,974 as an Insurance agent (both in 2005 dollars)3, it was enough to support the family in the conventional middle class comforts of the 50's.
Consequently, this has drastically changed over the last 60 years. In 1960, only 25 percent of American families were dual income. By 2011, that number was over half at 60 percent.4 In order to sustain their affluent suburban lifestyle there increasingly became the need for two incomes. It was not only the need for the second income to sustain the suburban lifestyle, but growing feminist movement that also contributed to the dual income families. By the 1980's, this was reflected in such popular shows as “Family Ties” and 'The Cosby Show”. Professor of Women’s Studies at Boston University, Barbara Gottfried, stated “I think times have changed. I don't think that most people want to be June...

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