Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Ever-Changing Family portrayed in the Media

The meaning of family is constantly changing in society. Today society’s families are made up of straight, gay, and lesbian couples. Some include children while others do not. Some couples are married while others cohabitate but still refer to themselves as family. Some families are blood relatives while others are a kinship formed family.
The media has noticed the changing and diversity of America’s family and that there is becoming less of an idea typical family, which includes a husband, wife and two children. Now families come in many different forms.

A TV show that is an example of how the media is adapting its shows to the ever-changing family structure in the US is clear in the show Gilmore Girls. In this show, a single mother has one daughter of her own. They live together in their own house. There is no father or paternal figure in the family. The grandparents or the mother’s parents are a part of their lives although they live a different conservative lifestyle. The mother’s name is Lorelai Gilmore. The daughter’s name is Rory Gilmore. Rory proves that success is possible for a child growing up in a single-family home as she is admitted into an Ivy League college securing her future. The mother and daughter share a close relationship through the difficulties of life. They show how family is love and is support for each other in whatever form family comes in. They do not have a father in their life but they have plenty of love that they share with each other. This show is a common scenario in the US today. There are many single mothers with a child.

“According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2005, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August, 2007, there are approximately 13.6 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.2 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today).” Source is

Is the new view the media is taking and publicly sharing on TV changing the way families function in society today and could this portrayal encourage dysfunctional families or does it simply celebrate the diversity of types of families in society today? Or are there any other thoughts and comments you have on this subject?

-Taylor Faulkner's Portion of Group Blog.


  1. Thanks Taylor for kicking-off this blog, and while slightly off-topic, I can't help but think of new data re: the number of homeless children and how such stories are another reflection of the ever changing US family portrayed in the media. I look forward to this blog and the postings it inspires!

    See story on homelessness among American Childre at:

    Dr. Amy R-R

  2. When I was writing this blog, I also thought about how this relates to the number of homeless children and how many single parent families are living in poverty. I volunteered one summer at the Home for Little Wanderers Day Care program and I got a glimpse at some families that were in a state of financial crises. Many of whom were single parent families. This also makes me think about how women tend to be paid less for jobs that they do compared to men. This makes me wonder if the pay-gap between women and men were fixed, then would there be fewer children in poverty because single mothers would have higher incomes, and be able to adequately provide for their families. Maybe the first step towards resolving poverty issues would be to mandate equal pay for women and men in careers or find any solution to the unequal pay.


  3. I believe the media today is simply trying to draw in as many people as possible. By portraying various different lifestyles on television shows almost everyone can find something to connect with. I hope that, though glorified, these different kinds of TV families might raise awareness of some of the problems effecting society today.

    About the homeless children: It is unbelievable that in this day and age, women are still suffering from more severe financial problems than men. Especially because women are the ones that generally take care of the children. Just because the woman carries the child automatically makes her the primary caretaker. There are no laws that protect single mothers and there should be.

    The film we watched in class - Growing Up Fast - shows that taking preventative measures with classes and awareness groups is not enough. The family unit is crumbling and there is very little being done to protect it.

  4. I completely agree with you that the family unit is crumbling and that there is little being done to protect it. The movie we watched "Growing up Fast" clearly showed this. There was one example of one of the women who became pregnant and was immediately abandoned by her mother, boyfriend and left with no family and no support. This is a tragic situation and I feel like this is common as well. Then this pattern tends to continue. I know on my father's side of the family my grandmother had children as a teen and they grew up very poor. Then many of my relatives on that side also are teen mothers most of them single. It sets a bad example for the future generations and I think it becomes accepted or a norm and that many of the women feel they do not have much they could give to the world or any purpose except to have children. Another common idea that many teen moms seems to have when becoming pregnant as shown in the movie as well the mother wanted a friend and someone to love her. This is a shaky reason to have a child. The mother is clearly not thinking through all of the responsibilities of parenting if they become pregnant just to have someone to love them. I feel that is selfish of some mothers in some cases because if they do not have financial means or emotional stability to provide for the life they bring into the world I feel they should not have the baby on purpose until they can support the child adequately. The reason why I think this is selfish is because then the baby comes into the world at a disadvantage. The mother might not be able to properly feed, clothe and care for the baby never mind give the baby opportunities to succeed in their life. For example, my grandmother could not help support any of her children in their education or college because she was poor and had so many children as a teen. Whereas my father and mother were financially stable and planned their money out when they had children. Therefore, now they are sending me to college with money they have budgeted and thus given me many opportunities that my dad never had because his mom did not support him because she did not plan or take responsibility. In short, I think that it is a huge responsibility to have a child and that it needs to be well thought out before becoming pregnant. One needs to be able to adequately provide and give opportunities to the baby before deciding to have a baby in my opinion. In addition, I do think that the government does need to do more to support single mothers today since there are such a disproportionate number of single mothers in poverty. Although I do not support teen pregnancy, I know it is a reality and believe that the government should step up and help prevent or at least take steps in aiding pregnant teens raise their children in a healthy way.

    Taylor Faulkner

  5. Progression is met with resistance, and for every show that portrays an unusual family structure, there are probably 5 or more that show the typical idealized family. Media's changing and expanding view of the family is a positive thing, but it most likely will not create change or more social acceptance immediately.
    As we saw in the link the professor posted, a lesbian wedding on a TV show is enough to cause social uproar. Traditional values are difficult to get rid of, or bend. People probably just don't watch the shows they morally disagree with, and the people that watch them are most likely already accepting.
    I think different types of families, and even parenting styles, should be shown on TV, because media should be a representation of what's actually happening in our society.
    I believe family patterns are more influential on child rearing than are media representations of the family.
    Mia BloomBecker

  6. I believe the growing diversity of family structures and situations portrayed in the media is definitely celebrating diversity of family structures rather than encouraging dysfunctional families. These shows are beginning to open our eyes and lower our shock threshold to families that are not the ideal. The lesbian wedding, not surprisingly, caused a major uproar because our shock thresholds are still high to these new situations. Shows like Gilmore Girls and Two and a Half Men are starting to depict singe-parenthood in the media. As Mia hinted on in her comment about not easily breaking traditional values, I do not think that our society is ready to let go of our image and goal of striving toward that "ideal family." Yes these different shows encourage acceptance, but I feel for now they are mainly just satiating a society's media craving for drama. Many of the shows I watched as a kid did not portray an ideal family. Full house displayed extended family issues, Step By Step and the Brady Bunch showed blended families...but I still can't say that the "ideal" family isn't something I keep in the back of my mind for my future.
    I relate these values back to the idea of the "American Dream" of achieving personal success and happiness...I highly believe that the "ideal" family has become part of that dream. Because our country still thrives on it, I don't see the media having a tremendous effect on what families strive toward. I do believe however that in time these expectations can be broken down and our shock thresholds will be lowered, creating more acceptance and diversity in the media and our thinking.