What defines “a family”?
Think about these iconic TV families. Starting in the 1950s, millions of Americans welcomed regular visits from: the Nelsons, the Bunkers, the Addams, the Jeffersons, the Huxtables and the Sopranos. You can see four of those families in the photos, at right. But, can you spot what defines every TV family on this list?
Answer: A married husband and wife with kids.
Is that required in your definition of a family today? Marriage is on the decline, as we discussed yesterday. Along with this trend, the definition of a family is in flux, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Before I tell you the results, consider each of the following living arrangements. Which ones should be considered a family?
Which should not?
- A married man and woman with children
- A married man and woman without children
- A single parent with children
- An unmarried man and woman with children
- A same-sex couple with children
- A same-sex couple without children
- An unmarried man and woman without children
Here are the results from Pew:
This list is organized from most to least support for the arrangements that qualify as a family. Almost everyone (99%) agrees that a married man and women with children is a family. But this still leads a lot of room for variation, as my television examples illustrate!
Large majorities agree that the next three living arrangements should also be considered a family. Almost nine of ten (88%) of Americans say a married man and woman without kids is a family. Almost as many (86%) say a single parent with children is a family. And, eight of ten (80%) say an unmarried couple with children is a family.
Support for what arrangement constitutes a family falls after that. A majority (63%) say that a same-sex couple with kids should be considered a family. Less than a majority of Americans defines the last two living arrangements as a family. Forty-five percent say a same-sex couple without children can be considered a family. And, 43% believe an unmarried man and woman without children is a family.
What do you think of the list?
How do you define a family?
Is marriage essential?
Are children essential?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.