The Changing American Family

It should come as no surprise to the reader that families in America and other parts of the world are changing. It is important to understand what the major changes are and what these shifting patterns mean for marketers in the future. This section provides some insight into these issues.

Perhaps the most important change occurring today is the shifting view of the roles of marriage partners. Over the last several years, the number favoring shared roles in marriage (in which both work, share homemaking, and child raising) has surpassed those favoring a traditional marriage (in which the husband is the breadwinner and the wife is homemaker) by a ratio of 48 per cent to 43 percent However, the small remaining number favoring alternative living arrangements (such as unmarried couples) reinforces the basic and continuing strength of Americans belief in the nuclear family system. In addition, it should also be noted that the American norm is still a family including children. More than 94 per cent of women are in favor of having at least one child. The real shift has come, however in attitudes toward the ideal number of children to have, which has decreased over the past twenty years.

Although the perception may exist that traditional male female roles are disappearing a recent large survey found that American women are still frequently found in kitchen, with day to day housekeeping tasks primarily women’s responsibility. Apparently it made only a slight difference whether the wife was not earning a paycheck. Figure reports how often the wife does those household chores that are traditionally thought of as men’s and, similarly how frequently the husband assumes tasks generally considered being women’s domain. Variables affecting the pattern were respondents’ age income and geographical location. Thus, the distinction between so-called men’s work and women’s work is not rapidly evaporating. In fact, the lack of more equal distribution of the household responsibilities with men has fueled some resentment and stress for American women whose expectations have outpaced the change in men’s behavior.

Let us examine more closely changing female and male roles, particularly as they exist within the family structure today. In addition, we will discuss some marketing implications of these changes.

Changing female Roles:

One of the most significant areas of change to occur in the American family concerns the role of the wife. More than that of either the husband or children the role of the wife has undergone the greatest transformation in the past few decades. More and more women are opting for a shared role situation rather than the traditional approach in marriage. To a large extent, what this means is that the wife has accepted a job outside the home in addition to her job within the home. But less than one third of the men surveyed in a national study approve of the changes in the role of women in American society. Married men were concerned about how these changes may affect their personal comfort and well being. The biggest drawback to these men is that they have to spend more time on household chores they don’t like.

These changing female role patterns will be examined in this section in terms of two dimensions, both of which may be fruitful from a segmentation standpoint. First, it is useful to view women in terms of their traditional / feminist orientation. Second, wives may also be categorized along a working dimension which may be partially reflective of their traditional / feminist orientation. Each of these concepts may be helpful in achieving a better understanding of how family patterns are changing today.