Home » Blog » Parenting » Research debunks myth of self-reliant nuclear family

Research debunks myth of self-reliant nuclear family

Research debunks myth of self-reliant nuclear family

Despite the long-cherished belief that the nuclear family is independent and self-sustaining, most families with working parents depend on a network of care to manage work and family demands, according to research by Brandeis University sociologist Karen Hansen. More than half of all U.S. households with young children have two employed parents.

Closing the “care gap” in families with young and school-aged children typically means relying on a network of friends, paid caregivers and extended kin. This reality clashes with the ideology of family independence, a defining American value. Hansen’s research suggests, however, that the interdependence of today’s families is a source of positive relationships and unique bonds that the nuclear family alone cannot provide.

“The historical idea of the nuclear family, which is deeply rooted in our culture, is linked to our sense of individualism and autonomy,” explains Hansen, whose study of working parents and the networks of caregiving they develop forms the basis of a new book, Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender and Networks of Care.

In her book, which profiles four networks in depth, Hansen found that the middle class and professional middle class parents, upper class and working class families all rely on networks to provide childcare. The professional middle class parents, however, were more vulnerable to job pressures than either the upper or working class parents, leading them to express a higher level of anxiety about their patchwork childcare arrangements. “We should support and promote these kinds of relationships, which are found among all classes and races,” said Hansen. Ironically, while recent U.S. policy has focused on improving the lives of American youth by strengthening the nuclear family, improvement is more likely to be found through social policies that leverage and expand the networks already being used by millions of families, Hansen asserts.

Research debunks myth of self-reliant nuclear family

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine. He writes regularly and extensively on mental health concerns, the intersection of technology and psychology, and advocating for greater acceptance of the importance and value of mental health in today's society. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.


One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment
APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2005). Research debunks myth of self-reliant nuclear family. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/research-debunks-myth-of-self-reliant-nuclear-family/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Jul 2005
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Jul 2005
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.