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c sus .e du /s a c s t ate ma ga z in e | Fa l l 2 015 15 The ambiguity of the 'typical' American family Within today's families, we're seeing an increase in diversity of family forms—reflected in the fact that American families come in many different sizes and gender make-ups, says sociology professor Ellen Berg. And since 1965, fathers have doubled the hours spent on housework and tripled their hours of childcare. "Men are more involved as parents—I think that's key," says social work professor David Nylund. But on the other hand, when it comes to responsibilities like kids' birthday parties, clothes shopping, even illnesses, he says, it's still Mom who's accountable. According to Berg, our work now lies in changing our views of men's roles in families—and our views of masculinity in general. "Traditional views of masculinity are very limiting for men as individuals, as partners AND as fathers," she says. "We need to allow men the same broadened scope of ways to 'be men' as we are slowly allowing for women." These changing parenting models can also be tied to morphing economic structures in the U.S. According to the Pew Research Institute, countries with low levels of income inequality and child poverty (for instance Norway, Denmark and Sweden) tend to have more available childcare and financial support for children—and the U.S. has one of the most unequal income distributions in the developed world. This is where education comes into play. "Research shows that education can lead to increased knowledge and skills that enrich our lives and relationships, lead to greater employment opportunities, and enhance our health, wellbeing, careers and civic engagement," says Ann Moylan, a professor of family and consumer sciences. While this may result in great opportunities for personal development, it can also put us in conflict with our families, who may have a different worldview, understanding of events and issues and set of values, she says. "Families tend toward homeostasis—maintaining patterns and relationships as they currently are, maintaining the status quo. But if one person steps outside the mold and starts being honest with the reality of the situation, he or she can give the family an opportunity to change and grow." Changing cultural norms and expectations are also allowing couples more flexibility to choose not to have children or for single parents to raise children on their own, says Berg. And because today's parents are also raising children from multiple relationships together, we now have a blended subgroup of "multi" families: multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual and also multigenerational, as the life expectancies of grandparents continue to increase. But gay parents may very well be the most noteworthy addition to our nation's family. Today, more than 115,000 same- sex couples are raising children together. The evolution of the 'nuclear family' Though the children's rhyme may advise, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage…," family structure in 2015 is rarely so cut and dried— or final. "We want love for everybody, but that depends on what love means to us," Moylan says. "There's lots of fantasy out there on what love should look like. This can lead to discontentment, which can lead us to questioning relationships." And while the right to marry has been expanded in recent years, divorce rates continue to rise—all of which is impacting families. Percentage of children living with t wo heterosexual married parents Percentage of same- sex couple households with children AMILY AFFAIR—We asked preschoolers from the ASI Children's Center to draw us their idea of "family" and got these masterpieces.