Family time. For example, family structure in the

Family structure is an important cultural strand from American life. It reveals dimensions of American character and how it has evolved over time. For example, family structure in the 1950s was much different than it was in the 1990s. What made these times vastly different were the dissimilarities in the gender roles and familial roles during this time period. Families living during the 1950s were known as the traditional family, whereas in the 1990s, families were becoming modernized. The cause of these changes was the growth of society and how views on men and women were being altered. Family life in the 1950s was how the world now views an old school, stereotypical family life. For instance, women revolved their life around pleasing the people that resided in the home with them. A famous equity feminist named Betty Friedan created this American myth in 1957 that women’s identity was based off of their children, husband, and home.1    Francis J. Ryan, class notes, AMST 100, La Salle University, Fall semester, November 2017. Betty Friedan was against this because she believed women and men were equal, but in 1950s households, they were not. The responsibility for the man of the house was to work all day, in order to make money for his family. While the man did his work outside of the house, it was the woman’s job to take care of the house and children while he was gone. For example, housework was known as a women’s best friend. She would have to juggle the house work and the children in hopes that everything would be perfect when her husband came home.  During this decade, technology was not as advanced. Women had to wash laundry and dishes by hand because middle class and below families did not have the means to afford a washer, dryer or dishwasher; refrigerators were also bunched into this group of upper-class items.2 Strangely enough, performing these chores were done in an orderly manner that entailed a plethora of rules. For example, they had to wear a clean and proper outfit; not something that looked like pajamas. In addition, woman had to make it seem like they were enjoying themselves. Women were supposed to be looked at as eccentric individuals even while they were doing the most monotonous chores.  Most importantly, the woman’s goal was to make her husband happy when he gets home. The husband and father after a long day’s work should come home to a happy family, clean house, and his favorite meal in the 1950s.3   “Family Life in the 1950s,” My Learning (2017). Francis J. Ryan, class notes, AMST 100, La Salle University, Fall semester, November 2017.  The way a wife and mother were portrayed in a family during the 1950s was not comparable to the way a husband or father was portrayed. The different roles they had connects to two specific concepts. These two concepts are known as coverture and the separation of spheres. Coverture explained the behavior of a woman after she got married. In other words, women lost their legal rights when becoming a married woman; they would now have to obey their husband.4 For example, it was impossible for a woman to divorce her husband under coverture. Women had no freedom, just like they didn’t in their own household. Everything a woman did was for her husband and children. They were not able to be individuals.  Furthermore, the separation of spheres demonstrated how different a man and a woman’s worlds were. A man’s world was outside the home. Their priority was working and earning money. A woman’s world was inside the home. Their priority was housework, along with mainly raising their children. Even though it took both parents to make the children, the woman was in charge of taking care of them every day. This also goes for African American families. African American mothers had to take care of their children, and do all of their housework because the husband and father was not present.5 Circumstances within society were different for white families and African American families, but just like the separation of spheres explained, wives and mothers had different roles than fathers and husbands.   Francis J. Ryan, class notes, AMST 100, La Salle University, Fall semester, November 2017. Ibid. “Breakdown of the Black Family, and its Consequences,” Discover the Networks (2005). Children during the 1950s had different priorities compared to children from the 1990s. Having fun was not the most important thing to them. Housework was forced upon them and they were expected to enjoy it; or at least act like they were. Just like wives and mothers did housework while their husband was at work, the children helped her and did housework as well. In this time frame, education was put on the back burner, while learning the chores of the household were on the forefront of lessons. More specifically, at a young age, boys were encouraged to get jobs with their father’s outside of the house, while young girls stayed inside the house with their mother’s and improved their house working skills.6 Education was not a prime concern for children growing up in the 1950s, especially women. In the 1950s, there was an advertisement that illustrated what a traditional family looked like. The focus of the advertisement was how watching television as a family was a great way to bring everyone altogether.7 The fascinating thing about this advertisement is how the family is set up. There is a husband, wife, son, and a daughter. The husband is relaxed on a recliner, while the wife is standing behind him holding a tray of drinks. Even though it is displaying family time, the wife is still working around the house, making sure her family is content. Also, the way the children are set up is interesting. Gender inequality is demonstrated by the son sitting in a smaller chair, while the daughter sits on the ground.     “Family Life in the 1950s,” My Learning (2017). “As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s,” Harvard University Press (1996). This represents that not only men, but young men and boys in the 1950s were given the luxury of comfortability over the women and girls around them in their household. This simple advertisement explained a lot about the 1950s family structure. Family structure has changed immensely from the 1950s to the 1990s. The idea of a traditional family has broken apart and equality between men and women had risen.8 This started to happen because society was changing in the 1990s. Women were becoming independent. Furthermore, families started to break apart because of the mother and father. In the 1950s, men were in control, but in the 1990s, women gained a voice in the family. For example, women started to work outside of the home. The interesting thing was that women not only worked outside of the home because they wanted to, but they also had to make more money for their families. Money was important because things were becoming more expensive and one income just simply was not enough. The roles between parents and the importance of money had an effect on family structure in the 1990s. Smaller families were becoming popular; having one child, maybe two. Having less children costed families a little less money. Even though families only contained one or two children, it was important for the children to have both of their parents in the picture. In the 1950s, children spent most of their time with their mothers, since their fathers were at work, and in the 1990s it was natural for children to spend quality time with their mother and their father.    “Family through the years: 1990’s,” Kids Need Both Parents: Supported Separate Families (2015). Ibid.  The National Council on Family Relations published a journal article in 2000 entitled, “Work and Family in the 1990s.” This article discussed how the working industry grew and both men and women were a part of it.9 Even though there was progress within the working industry, this effected families with children. Mothers and fathers spent most of their time working, instead of being with their children every day. In the journal article it stated, “one of the most important moderators of the relationship between parental employment and child functioning is the nature and quality of alternative care that children experience.” In the same sense, it was important for parents to work, but it was just as important for their children to get the proper care they need. In the 1950s, children were with their mothers every day. It was the mother’s job to take care of her children and teach them the way of life. In the 1990s, since individuality was coming alive, the roles for parenting was altered. It was not as common for women to stay at home all day with the children. This situation was not easy since having a job can be tough at times, and so can be raising children.  A tight family structure is important no matter how old the children are. In the journal article, it stated that “care and supervision issues continue to be important throughout childhood and adolescence.” Parents during the 1990s should have made more time for their children, in hopes that their presence would help them grow as an individual. In closing, this journal article not only explained the relationship between work and family, but also explained how these components can strongly affect a family structure.    “Work and Family in the 1990s,” National Council on Family Relations (2000). Ibid. Women in the 1950s were content with being wives and mothers who revolved their world around their children, husband, and home. African American women during this time, also revolved their world around those three things. Just like the journal article from the National Council on Family Relations explained that women wanted to be independent in the 1990s; this goes for African American women as well. Racism was different for African Americans in the 1990s, then in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the separation between black and white was still happening. This situation made it harder on African American families to stay in a stable household because they would often move due to a safe environment for their family.10  Although, racism did not stop African American women from rebelling. These women wanted to prove to themselves by putting their main focus on an education and a successful job, not worrying about finding a husband.11 The article entitled, African-American Families- African-American Families in the New Millennium contained an interesting quote that says, “Staples (1997) believes the greater a woman’s educational level and income, the less desirable she is to many African-American men.” Women’s strive to become better individuals should have never made them less desirable.    “The U.S.A, from the 1970s to the Present,” Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture: The New York Public Library (2000).  “African-American Families-African-American Families in the New Millennium,” Staples, R. Net Industries (1997). Since African American men turned down these types of women, a start to a family structure must have been difficult. In conclusion, family structure in the 1950s was much different than family structure in the 1990s. The roles men and women had to fulfill in a family definitely have went from traditional, to modernized. The reason changes occurred was because of society and the impact it had on people. Some people adjusted to society, others changed. Referring back to the separation of spheres, this concept explained a lot about why the family structure was the way it was during those two decades. More importantly, the separation of spheres caused gender stereotypes, that still occur today.12 It would be beneficial for society in the 21st century to learn from the way family structure was in the 1950s and 1990s. A world with separation and stereotypes is not healthy. Lastly, it is crucial to think about children when discussing gender equality, and family structure because they learn from their surroundings. The overall message is that a positive family structure is important for any family, a person’s gender, class, race, or ethnicity should not matter.     Francis J. Ryan, class notes, AMST 100, La Salle University, Fall semester, November 2017. Ibid.      


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