Presentation Title: The Slow Disappearance of the Family As We Knew It: Emergence of New Constructs

Abstract: This paper argues that the construct of the intact family qua family in the sociological sense of a unit composed by two parents and two children is slowly disappearing. This conclusion is supported by evidence that; (1) intact families occupy only 25% of all domiciles in USA; (2) singles occupy 27th of all domiciles; (3) the remaining percentages of domiciles are occupied by completely diverse forms of individuals living under the same roof such as, for instance, same-sex couples, grandparents and grandchildren; (4) when educational, socio-economic status, ethnic and racial factors one adds one reaches an incredible diversity of intimate relationships; and finally (5) rates of marriages are slowing down not only in USA but also in Europe and Asia. In the USA but also in Europe and Asia, this construct is slowly transforming itself into intimate relationships defined as: (1) close; (2) committed; (3) interdependent; and (4) durable/lasting. These four characteristics, however, do not imply or indicate functionality. Dysfunctionality is present in each of those four characteristics. An analysis of 46 family-related texts showed that the construct of intimacy was present as early as 1987 (Fredman & Sherman 1987; Hoopes & Harper, 1987) and in at least 18 of the texts analyzed. Furthermore, friendships are becoming more and more substitutes for many communal, emotional, and instrumental functions traditionally performed by the family. The political claim of “family values” has no longer any validity because it applies only to a selected segment of the population. The training of marriage and family therapists needs to be revised and updated to meet the challenges of this change. Finally, many theoretical models will need to be revised to encompass intimate relationships rather than family relationships.


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