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The American Nuclear Family

Although family forms have varied over historical and cultural lines, why is the image of the nuclear family so pervasive in American society? What are the implications of using the nuclear family form as an 'ideological code', or as an ideal family structure?

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OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

The Nuclear Family

When we think of a typical and ideal family, what comes to mind is a mother and a father devoted to raising their children in a happy and safe environment. The father would be he breadwinner, the family patriarch, fulfilling his role in a stereotypical manner befitting the strong American male ideal. The mother would be matriarchal, ruling the home and the kitchen, a home-maker both dutiful and loving as mother and wife. The children would usually be a boy and a girl, well-mannered, bright-eyed, clean, polite and smart. There would be a pet or two completing the family circle - a dog and a cat. They would live in a clean home in the suburbs, white-picket fences all around. The neighbourhood would be the same - a safe community of families who believe in the importance of family and morals. They would be patriotic as well. We see this ever so often in idealized American images of the family from the 50's through the 80's and the 90's and even now, despite heavy criticism from post-modernists,Marxists, feminists and non-traditionalists, the image of the idealized American nuclear family is pervasive it is seen as the ultimate expression of what a family should be like. It is important to remember however that this ideal image of a family is not unique to the American society. In most Christian and Western societies - this image is seen as the standard brought on from the ideals of a very Christian-influenced Western social history. Consider the rise of the ideal family as pronounced in the Bible - the source of all things ideal and moral for all Christendom. It said as part of it's 10 Commandments - 'Honor they father and thy mother.' While it does not explain in context the ideal family setting, the mention of father and mother here forces the identity of a Christian child to be loving, loyal and respectful towards his/her parents. In Christian morality this also meant that father and mother will both ...

Solution Summary

The solution is a 1,398-word narrative that explores the American nuclear family as an ideological code. It also looks at the normalization of the nuclear family in American society as it evolved through American history, influenced by socio-cultural elements, particularly religious views side by side with the mass marketing of the nuclear family via capitalist endeavors. References are listed for expansion. A word version of the solution is attached for easy printing.