A study by the Pew Research Center in Washington says the American idea of the typical US family has changed. A survey says a number of people think it is not necessary to be married to have a family. Many of them say that parents who are divorced or not married, and gay couples with children, are also considered a family.
Kim Doering is preparing dinner as her daughter Samantha does her homework. Husband Pat Doering helps son Patrick with his school work.
Kim and Pat represent what was once considered the typical American family - a married couple with an average of two children. Kim says her marriage is important to her. "I can't imagine my life without it. You need to have something else in your life. Something that you're commited to," she said.
Pat says he and his wife realize the idea of the typical American family has changed and they view that as a positive development. "Our perception of things has changed. The divorce rate now and how many people are divorced who have kids, they're still a family," she said.
Kim and Pat lived together before they got married. According to the study, an increasing number of American young adult couples are living together without being married. Richard Morin, editor of the study, says, in general, there has been a jump in the number of unmarried couples. "About 44 percent of adults said they had lived with someone in their lifetimes. Significantly, the majority of those said it was kind of a step toward marriage, where the rest said it was for financial reasons or a step along the way," he said.
Morin says the changing views of family are largely being driven by young adults, who are more likely than older generations to have an unmarried or divorced parent or to have friends who do. He also says sixty-three percent of those surveyed consider single-sex couples with children as families. "Now it doesn't mean that they necessarily think it's a good thing, or endorse it, in fact, a majority say that trend is bad for society, but people acknowledge, in fact, that those living arrangements do function as families," he said.
Chris Kline and Jim Lacey have been living together for 13 years and have a two-year-old son, Jeremy. The couple married a few years ago, but their union is not legal in Virginia since the state does not recognize same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, Chris says he and Jim feel accepted in their neighborhood. "For anyone to consider a same-sex couple like us a family, versus a heterosexual couple down the street with no kids as family also, there's no differentiation between the two. It's a group of people who live together and love each other and I think that's what defines a family," he said.
Jim says he and Chris wanted children and used a surrogate mother who gave birth to their son. "Jeremy brings a lot of joy to our lives and I think that just has made our relationship that much stronger," he said.
Not everyone in the study who said marriage is becoming obsolete was happy about it. And, despite changing attitudes, the survey indicates marriage is not going to disappear any time soon. It says 67 per cent of Americans are optimistic about the future of marriage and family.