A family refers to a group of people living together and they are related by blood and /or mutual understanding. People living together as a family share common values that include tradition and culture. Examples of types of families are nuclear family and extended family. Nuclear family consists of a mother, father and the children. After is also the head in most of the family settings. On the other hand, extended family refers to a nuclear family that lives with other relatives. Family as a basic social unit has changed over decades from ancient to modern. These changes are in form of the type of marriages, type of sexual relationships, roles and last but least the size of families. By looking at these family transformations, it is very necessary that we also shed some light on the advantages and disadvantages brought about. Additionally, the importance of these changes in family has to be looked at together with peoples' responses to these phenomena (Keenan, 2002).
Coontz (2000) cited a study that was conducted in the University of Chicago shows a drop in the nuclear families from 45 percent to 25 percent between the years 1970s to 1998. Initially, families composed of father, mother and children. Nowadays, this family structure has deteriorated as most families today has a whole new structure different from that of a nuclear one. Extended families have grown in numbers over the years. This type of families consists of a father, mother, children and other next of kin in the name of grand parents, uncles, cousins among others.
Another notable change in family is in the roles played by different family members. In 1950s, the common family structure was nuclear family. This type of families was characterized by a single bread winner. Fathers went to work in the morning as mothers remained to take care of the children, cook and clean among other family chores. However, this has changed in the recent times. Today, it is common to see families with both mother and father going to work in the morning. They both provide for the family (Lewin, 2010).
Coontz (2000) argues that apart from the above changes in the family structure, recent generation has also seen an increasing number of single mothers. This has been caused by high divorce rates and other female members of society not being able to secure male partners for marriage. This is contrary to the past when majority that constituted nuclear families were successful.
Other change has been in the form of domestic partnerships. These partnerships lead to marriages. The normal type of a domestic partnership is a relationship between two people of opposite sex. This has changed to bring about different type of families with couples being of the same sex i.e. homosexual couples. This idea or rather a type of a family is different from normal marriages or rather families. The structure of such family is different in that there are no children brought forth. This is not the case in a traditional nuclear family or rather a family by two people of the opposite sex (Keenan, 2002).
Lastly, Lewin, 2010 stated that majority of the traditional nuclear families consisted of a father and a mother from the same race. For example in America, a white could only get married to a fellow white of the opposite sex; an African American would do the same. This is a whole new story nowadays. There is an emergency of inter racial marriages. In such types of marriages, the children are half cast. This whole idea brings forth a whole new type of a family structure.
Extended family is one example of a modern family form. To a family that lives up country, this form of family is advantageous as it offers a large pool of human resource especially in cases where farming is an economic activity. This is because the larger the extended family, the higher the work rate on farms (Lewin, 2010).
In modern families both father and mother go to work, the fact that both of the parents provide for the family increases the socio-economic security of the family. One couple will cover up for a crisis that might come up as a result one being incapacitated or deceased.
However, Coontz (2000) was also quick to note that modern family types have number of limitations. To start with, an extended family without enough economic resource in form of land would struggle to sustain the needs of its members. Also lack enough health and energetic members render the whole extended family unproductive. This may result into a poor social and economic welfare.
On the other hand, families with single mothers may find it hard to sustain the needs of its members. Children need food, health care and education among others. These may be difficult to meet in cases where the single mother has no good source of income and /or paternal support (Keenan, 2002)
Lastly, gay marriages as form of family face legal and social challenges. They are illegal in most countries and socially unacceptable by majority across the globe. Most religions also view same sex marriages as ungodly (Coontz, 2000).
Lewin (2010) pointed out that changes in the form and structure of families should be viewed positively. This is because a family is a basic unit of society, and society just like we people, it is in continuous evolution. Change is inevitable and at any time in history, change faces challenges of resistance from people. In my opinion, homosexuality meets the social needs of quite a good number of people in society. Also some people love single motherhood. Therefore any objection to these may equally generate conflicts and /or may be discriminative in some way (Keenan, 2002).
Since most crucial changes in family forms and structure seems to go against the law of most countries, the most important measure is legislation in order to constitute laws that protect the rights these groups e.g. the gay, single parents and females (Coontz, 2000).
In conclusion, forms of family and their structure have changed over the decades. Some of the changes are welcome but other like same sex marriages is facing social and legal challenges. However, each change has the pros and cons, but for the sake of equal rights and peace, all these changes should be taken positively. However legal regulations should be put in place to ensure access to justice for all.