Families in the world are very different. They come in different shapes and sizes, it can be based on different kinds of relationship, but what all families have in common that it is made of people you love and care. Over past 20 or more years families in the world has changed the most than it has changed in all history. Of course changes in the families are different among cultures and religions. It seems that United States, Canada and Northern Europe families has changed the most, now Nuclear families are dominating there, when in Asia Extended families still takes a greater number.
In the richest places in the world numbers of same sex marriages, cohabitations, divorces significantly increasing, when in most less developed countries these things are forbidden and relatives still arrange their children marriages, or even force their children to get married to someone they want to. Everyone imagines family as mother, father, sisters, brothers, grandparents and etc. To us it is normal family picture. However, today more families are described as “alternative” families.
The numbers of lone parents, homosexual partners, or foster parents are obviously increasing. It can be the cause of the changes in law. In today’s world people have more rights than they had about 50 years ago. Especially women won their equality, so they can raise their children on their own or get married to other women. Same sex marriage is something new in the world (it first became legal in Netherlands in 2001). However, it is believed that same sex relationship existed since the ancient times. We can find a lot of examples of it in ancient art and literature.
But it is just a small part in the world where same sex marriage now is absolutely legal. In the other parts of the world homosexuality is legal, but unions are not recognised. Watching at the map, the countries tolerates homosexuality are just developed countries, like USA, Canada or Northern Europe, in less developed countries they are not tolerated, and in countries with a more backward, you can get a penalty, prison for life or even death penalty for being homosexual. In some parts of the world homosexual partners can also become foster parents.
It is a good change in law, because you are not just giving an opportunity for gay couples to become parents, but also you give an opportunity for children to have a family, but there are still a lot of people who disagree with homosexual adoption legalization. They think that it might affect children in negative way. People who think like that probably are afraid of social changes, so they want to avoid any changes in families too. However, world is changing quickly, and as in 50 years family image has changed a lot in another 50 years it can change completely.
Even if cultures throughout the world are becoming more similar in many ways, laws, traditions and also families changes in different ways. Some parts of the world (like Middle East) still lives with old rules, values and their traditions. They are against alternative families. There are questions about why changes of family are so different in the world, but there are still no answers for those questions. It is thought, that economic growth influences different forms of family structure in the world, or it can also be influenced by long standing cultural traditions.
In the past 50 years marriage also has changed. Before marriage was defined as man and woman united in law forever and it has been more concerned with property rights, than love. Now couples are declining marriage and choosing cohabitation instead. It is also could be a cause of changes in law. Women have more rights now to choose if they want to spend all their life with one man. After all cohabitation is freer choice. About 50 years ago, cohabitation was unacceptable. All couples had to get married before they could live together or have children.
Now it has changed completely, most of the couples consider, that it is necessary to live together before getting married. It is believed that trial marriages reduces numbers of divorces, but looking at the recent researches we can find, that a couple who cohabit before marriage is twice as likely to divorce, than those who do not cohabit. There are also people who do not believe in marriage and think that it is an old fashioned in a modern world. Those who think like that, see no reason ever to get married, and rather just live together. There is also a financial side.
Today to have a nice, traditional wedding is very expensive and not every couple can afford it, so to live without being married is much easier way. In the other cultures, like in Asia or Middle East, cohabitation is still a taboo and it still means shame and social disapproval and in some places it is illegal to live together before marriage. In this case differences between developed countries and less developed countries are also very clear, but there is one side which should make all cultures believe in same things, it is religion. There is no religion, which allows us to have sexual ntercourse before marriage, and Eastern cultures strongly comply with these beliefs. But then it looks like Western cultures, where cohabitation cases are much higher, are no longer religious. Divorce also been more accepted today. Britain has one of the highest divorce rates in the Europe. The simple answer to a question why divorces are increasing in today’s world is that it is much easier to divorce and it is not as difficult and long procedure, than it was before. Even in Middle East is getting easier to divorce too. For example, women in Iran got greater rights to divorce their men.
Currently Iranian women are allowed to file for divorce only if they have written permission from their spouse (http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2534375. stm). We can tell that it is cause of that women completely change in their roles. It can be clearly seen that women are independent from money as they can earn money by themselves to support their living cost. And as women don’t depend on men’s money, so they rather choose to divorce and live on their own, than live with the man they don’t have any feelings for anymore.
Also there are rising expectations of marriage such as marriage being an end to loneliness and a perfect relationship without arguments and with an endless passion to each other. People holding these expectations believe that when they run in difficulties, their marriage is a failure. And as it is very easy to divorce people are not working harder at improving their marriage. It also may be the reason of increasing stress in today’s modern world. People today give too much attention to earn money.
Families have too much stress today how to earn better money, they are overworking and it leads to a lack of communication, which then clearly leads to a divorce. People are more often looking for a partner with more opportunities to earn good money. Meaning of family in today’s world changing very fast. It is hard to explain the reason why it is happening, but it is obvious, that there are no boundaries left and people can choose any lifestyle they want. Our world moving forward so fast and everything changes every minute, people are changing too, as well as families.
Now we have so many opportunities in the world and modern youth wants to try everything. That might be the reason why numbers of alternative families increasing, it might be that it is not trendy anymore to live in Extended or Nuclear family. But as long as you have people you love and care around you it doesn’t matter what type of the family you have. You can be unmarried or homosexual partners, divorced , or lone parents, or your family still could have a very strong cultural traditions and do not accept any innovations. The thing which should never change should be endless love and support to your family members.
Jonathan Blundell “Active Sociology For GCSE” pages 133-161 http://www.belmonthouse.co.uk/Marriage,%20cohab%20and%20divorce/marriage_or_cohabitation.htm