You don’t need a sociology degree to see that the American family has changed a great deal from the Leave It to Beaver TV families of the 1950s.
Over the decades, we’ve watched a dizzying succession of TV families as they have mirrored the evolving American family. We watched the blended Brady Bunch family in the ’70s, the working mother and work-from-home dad of Growing Pains in the ’80s, and the single father, his brother and their friend raising a family in Full House in the ’90s. These permutations, and many others, all seemed to lead naturally to shows like today’s Modern Family, which depicts three different nuclear families — a same-sex couple with an adopted daughter, a family with heterosexual parents and three children, and an older patriarch married to a younger woman with a son from a previous marriage.
In the real world, American families have been changing as fast as their TV-show counterparts.
Ongoing demographic changes, shifting cultural attitudes, advances in medical technology, an evolving legal landscape and some harsh economic realities are all combining to create families that are more structurally complex and diverse — racially, ethnically, religiously and politically — than ever before.
The archetypal family of the 1950s — the stay-at-home mother, working father and two children — still certainly exists, but many other family structures have joined it over the years. Higher divorce and remarriage rates, more families bringing together children from prior relationships and marriages, the changing roles of women, the accelerating legalization of same-sex marriage, advances in reproductive technology and longer life expectancies — these trends and many more are transforming the American family, making for more multigenerational families and ever-more complex combinations of siblings, half-siblings and adopted children or stepchildren. The definition of the American family has grown considerably longer, and families in general have grown more complex.
“When it comes to managing wealth in this new environment, addressing the full combination of a family’s needs and goals often requires significant expertise and sophisticated approaches,” says Mitchell A. Drossman, national director of wealth planning strategies at U.S. Trust. “After all, if the portrait of the American family is growing increasingly complex, substantial wealth only adds another layer of complexity to the picture.”
Always consult with your independent attorney, tax advisor, investment manager and insurance agent for final recommendations and before changing or implementing any financial, tax or estate planning strategy.