Just as the ever-increasing number of vocational opportunities makes vocational selection and adjustment difficult, so does the ever-increasing number of family patterns make marital adjustment difficult. This difficulty is increased when one spouse has grown up in a family where the lifestyle differs markedly from that of the other spouse. A woman, for example, whose childhood home life was that of the typical nuclear family may and very likely will find it difficult to adjust to the conditions and problems that arise when she marries a man from an elongated family background.
While there are many family patterns in America today, those that are most common are listed and briefly explained below. A careful study of these patterns will help to emphasize the marital adjustment difficulties that are almost inevitable when husband and wife have been brought up in homes where different family patterns prevailed.
Typical Family Patterns in the American Culture of Today
Because of small living quarters, most American families are nuclear, consisting of parents and children.
Except in rural and small-town areas, elongated families, consisting of the nuclear family plus relatives who live under the same roof, are relatively uncommon today.
Single-child families are more common among adults who marry late than among those who marry early, and among those where the wife is dedicated to her career.
In urban and suburban areas, small families, with three or fewer children, are more common than large families with six or more children, or medium-sized families, with three to six children.
Career-oriented and highly educated men and women often decide to have no children so they can advance in their careers and enjoy the good life made possible by their joint earnings.
Adults who assume the parental role in their late teens or early twenties and have their last child before they are thirty are more common among the less-educated adults than among those who attend college and professional training schools.
Adults who marry late or who voluntarily delay parenthood until the thirties are regarded as “over-age” patterns.
Families with Working Mothers
Families where mothers work outside the home and turn the children over to caretakers or put them in child-care centers are increasing in all socioeconomic groups, especially in urban and sub-urban areas.
In a single-parent family, either the mother or the father assumes the responsibility for the care of the children after death, divorce, or the birth of an illegitimate child. An increasing number of fathers are assuming this role.
Following death or divorce, the family may be reconstituted by a stepparent who replaces the missing parent.
In communal families, several nuclear families band together to share the responsibilities for the care of the home and the children and they often share marital partners.
In foster-parent homes, the parents have no legal responsibility for the children nor do the children bear their names. Their role is primarily that of paid caretaker for children whose parents cannot or will not keep them or whose parents are dead or mistreat them.
In adoptive families, some or all of the children have no blood ties with the parents who have legal responsibility for them and given them the family name. They have all the rights and privileges of natural children.
Spouses comes from different religious faiths though one often converts to the faith of the other either before or after marriage.
In an interracial family, the two spouses come from different racial groups.
Regardless of the type of family, marital adjustment is one of the most difficult adjustments young adults must make. Although it is difficult everywhere, certain factors in the American culture of today make it particularly hard. The most important of these are given on this article.