The chapter under review provides a sociological analysis of how the idea of the family has evolved in the U.S. and the current and future condition of the family institute in the country. As for the former, it is shown how American people switched from favoring the extended family to preferring more nuclear households during the 1950s. It means that if after the 1950s, the families have mostly included only husband, wife, and kids; before this period, the households would also have one of the spouse’s parents, siblings, and nephews/nieces living together. Yet, such change is not equally evident for all the ethnic groups in the country as, for instance, Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans still predominantly prefer to live as an extended family.
As for the current condition of the family, the chapter discusses how individuals choose their partners. In this regard, it is stated that in the U.S., almost all society members have a strong belief in the importance of the marriage institution. People also consider that families should be created as a result of love between partners. However, love is quite often not the only and not the most important factor that affects the decision to marry. Other aspects may include the common cultural, religious, and national background, economic security, and social pressure, to name a few.
Moreover, the issues that modern households encounter are analyzed and described. The author(s) state(s) that one of the major issues is household violence which is although reducing but still remains quite common. Interestingly that despite the intuitive reasoning that most of the abuses are associated with mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, and certain social classes, in reality, their occurrence is better predicted by the process of socialization. Additionally, the other major problem includes the high rates of divorces in the country, which primarily have a negative effect on children. Such a trend is explained by a number of factors, namely marriage age, socioeconomic well-being, race, religion, changes in law, among the few most important ones.
Finally, the chapter presents the two opposite views regarding the future of the family institute in the country. On the one hand, pessimists claim that family would continue deteriorating, which will have a tremendous negative impact on society as a whole. On the other hand, optimists maintain that from the broader historical perspective, it is hard to judge that family is actually becoming weaker as an institute.