Nuclear families, which include a mother, father and any children living in the household, are often thought to be passé. Yet, approximately 70 percent of children live within a nuclear family unit, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. The nuclear family is generally believed to be the ideal arrangement to raise a family, although it is not without its problems.
Strength and Stability
Two parent families, whether married or not, tend to be more stable than a single parent or multi-generational family. Spouses or partners can role model a loving, caring and supportive relationship for their children. This will translate into future success by teaching children how to seek out positive relationships and interact well with others. Children will also benefit from watching partners work together to solve problems, delegate household responsibilities and support one another through positive and negative issues.
Financial Stability Equals More Opportunity
Many nuclear families have enough economic stability to provide children with luxuries and opportunities in life. Children may be able to attend dance, gymnastics, music or other types of classes, especially both partners work outside the home. Children who are provided with these types of opportunities are more likely do better academically and socially, as well as develop confidence and time management skills.
Consistency Means Behavior Successes
The nuclear family can provide children with consistency, in addition to stability. Children who have both stability and consistency in their lives are more likely to behave positively, do better in school and become more involved in community and extracurricular activities. The nuclear family may eat dinner together on a regular basis, go to church and take family vacations, further strengthening relationships and building a solid foundation for future life goals.
Close-Knit or Isolated?
The nuclear family unit does provide a closeness that many single parent or multi-generational families cannot. The smaller family size allows for individualized attention towards partners and children, creating lifelong bonds. However, the nuclear family unit can also isolate people from other relatives and relationships. This can break down the extended family unit, which can be beneficial in hard times. Grandparents, aunts and uncles should have a place within a family, but the nuclear family does not always create one for them.
Family members, particularly mothers, may have a tendency to burn out from attempting to meet every person's needs alone. Mom is the cook, maid, babysitter and sometimes, moneymaker. That leaves little time for pampering and nurturing herself and her relationships with others. Without help, she may need to take off work to care for sick children. Mothers may struggle to balance the demands of work, family and friendships without any outside assistance. Stress, depression, anxiety or other problems can all be a result of nuclear family burnout.
Less Conflict Resolution Skills
While the idea of less conflict and stress could certainly be considered an advantage to the nuclear family, it also puts the family at a disadvantage. Conflict is a part of life, and conflict resolution skills are beneficial in school, in the community and in the workplace. Nuclear families can begin to develop like-minded thinking, which will lead to fewer arguments within the family unit. However, it can increase the disagreements with extended family members. Extended family, with differing opinions and ideas, can help families see alternate viewpoints and learn to effectively deal with conflicts and opinions other than their own.
Preferred Family Structure
The nuclear family is still a preferred way of many to raise children, although the incidence of single parent, divorced and multi-generational households is rising. Choosing to raise a family by the nuclear model will not guarantee success or happiness, but it can provide a basis to obtaining those ideals. By being aware of the possible disadvantages, you can look for ways to alleviate them. After all, no family is perfect. Working together with all family members ensures the best possible outcomes for everyone involved.