Redefining the Modern Family

Sweeping social and technological changes are redefining how society views the modern family.


| April 2016



Modern Family

The archetype of a husband and wife with their children is no longer the standard of the modern family. Social and technological progress has helped change the landscape and ultimately what society sees as a family.

Photo by Graham Oliver/Fotolia

Modern Families: Stories of Extraordinary Journeys to Kinship (NYU Press, 2015) by Joshua Gamson takes a thorough look at the modern family structure and how it has evolved over time. Gamson takes a look into the "traditional" nuclear family and how that image of family may have never been the norm to begin with. The following excerpt is taken from the introduction of Gamson's book and helps frame his journey of coming to terms with what it means to be a family in today's society.

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Redefining the Modern Family

These kids I know were sitting at a Chinese restaurant in Berkeley a few years ago, on the evening of their preschool’s Winter Gathering, the centerpiece of which is performances by the preschoolers of little shows they mostly wrote themselves. My daughter Reba, then five, was in the older group, and her show was to be about the adventures of a brown paper package: it gets picked up by two dogs, which are chased by two cats, which drop it in front of two mailmen, who deliver it to a Superboy, who takes it to two astronauts, who send it on a rocket into outer space, from which it floats down to earth and lands on two sleeping girls, Reba and her friend Donatella.

Reba was practicing her line while munching a pot sticker: “A brown paper package tied up with strings, this is one of my favorite things!” Next to her, her friends Diego and Flora were playing with chopsticks, while several parents and grandparents chattered across her.