“From Nuclear to Modern Family”
The notion of the Nuclear Family as one set of biological parents: a mother and a father living in one household with their ‘2.4’ children is a relatively new one. It probably started round the 18th century and was solidified just after the Second World War, where economic growth made it possible for the majority of nuclear families in the western world to live in one household. Before this development households typically housed more people than those closely bound by blood ties. The nuclear family in modern times has become the cornerstone of conservative interest groups throughout the western world and its sanctity has been often over-emphasized by religious groups. Marriage is between a man and a woman and its function according to religion is the creation of a family by procreation. The nuclear family has also been linked with capitalism as the basic unit of economy in the form of a household.
Economic, technological and social changes have lead to the creation of cracks in this nuclear family as soon as it was firmly established. Changes to family law, feminist and LGBT movements have led to the creation of different types of family. So apart from nuclear and extended family we have new adjectives being used and created: alternative, mono-parental, conjugal, adopted, step-families, same-sex parent, child-free, and many others. While a lot of the argument focuses on the adjective, what is often ignored is the noun itself.
Alternative families are becoming more and more relevant in western society. Two major developments are influencing this and leading the argument (hopefully) forward: 1) changes in assisted reproductive technology and 2) changes in family law.
Reproductive technology has advanced significantly in the last years and has changed the map of blood (genetic) and family relations. At the same time more and more countries are changing their marital laws to include same-sex marriage and family laws to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Whichever side of the debate we are, family structure is changing. Are we going to take part in shaping the modern family?
We are not defined by the family into which we are born, but the one we choose and create. We are not born, we become. Tori Spelling
Curator: Iro Taggalou