Family Challenges: Divorce, Blended Families & Family Violence Video

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  • 0:01 Problems Families Face
  • 0:38 Divorce
  • 2:38 Step & Blended Families
  • 4:57 Family Violence
  • 6:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson covers some of the more challenging issues a growing number of families are currently facing, including divorce, blending of families, and abuse. A short quiz will follow the lesson to check your understanding.

Problems Families Face

If you were to watch some of the popular TV shows filmed during the 1950s, you might notice that many of the shows seem to feature perfect families. In these families, the father goes to work, the wife stays home, and the family has two, maybe three children - all of whom behave perfectly, of course. Today's families, however, look much different. Many of today's families face tough issues like divorce, blended family members, and issues of abuse and violence. It's not that these issues didn't exist back in the 1950s; it's just that they were normally kept private, and they most certainly weren't showcased on television.


One of the most common state-sanctioned events in the United States is marriage. Marriage is the formal, state-licensed and legal union between people. Talk of dissolving a marriage, or what we call divorce, before 1970 may have been met with angry whispers, disapproving gestures, and judgment in general. This is, in part, because the institution of marriage has traditionally had strong ties to religious institutions and other social norms.

After the 1960s, divorce started to become much more commonplace, most likely because of the relaxation of divorce laws and the shift in societal norms as more women started to enter the workforce. Divorce rates would remain high for some time, but within the last 10-15 years, divorce rates have steadily declined. Many sociologists feel that one of the biggest reasons for this is because people are increasingly waiting longer to get married to make sure that it is the right decision for them to make.

A common question that many sociologists seek to address is the issue of what causes divorce. While more young people are choosing to postpone or opt out of marriage, those who enter into the union do so with the expectation that it will last. However, what seems to predict an increased likelihood that a marriage will end in a divorce is the amount of stress a couple faces. A great deal of marital problems can be related to stress, especially financial stress. Couples who have low incomes and few financial assets are at an increased likelihood for divorce, as are couples who have multiple children, which also creates added financial and subsequent emotional stress.

Just as you might not have taken other previous major decisions, like what college you decided to go to or where you decided to live, lightly, neither should you take the decision to marry or get subsequently divorced lightly either. Researchers have found that the best way to ensure a happy marriage is to make sure that each person is at a financially and emotionally stable point in their lives and that there is a strong sense of equity, or equality, in the marriage.

Step & Blended Families

Even though divorce rates have been declining, they do still occur. And, to take it a step further, many of those people who do divorce also end up remarrying and creating all different types of family structures. One of those family structures we may have heard most often is that of a stepfamily. A stepfamily is created when a lone parent starts living with, or marries an individual, who may or may not be another lone parent. In fact, if we remember at the beginning of this lesson, we mentioned that TV shows almost never included alternative family structures back in the 1950s. However, starting in the 1960s and 1970s, society started to slowly change, and TV shows started to showcase these different family structures.

One of the most well-known shows that featured this set-up was The Brady Bunch, which brought together a seemly divorced mother with three children and a widowed father with three of his own children. Men and women can enter stepfamilies as a stepparent or a biological parent. Researchers may get even more specific to use the term blended family, which is a stepfamily that may also include the introduction of a new child as part of a new union.

While step and blended families can be just as stable and healthy as a nuclear family, or a family resulting from one original marriage, these new types of family structures bring with them some unique issues. Rarely does that happiness arrive without concerted efforts to make it a happy family. Strength comes in the persistent struggle against the forces of complexity, ambiguity, and missing family history.

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