Changes in African American Family





Changes in African American Family


In the human society, family revolves around relationship of individuals through recognized birth, affinity by marriage or shared consumption through nurture kinship. An immediate family comprises of members who include spouses, parents, children, and siblings. In an extended family, grandparents, nephews, ankles, cousins, aunts, and distant in-laws make up the composition. The family is taken as the principal institution for children’s socialization. African American structure of a family in status of the present represents two models involving the presence of a father. In the first one, the patriarch shows the father as the head of the household and the sole breadwinner of its members as more of a classical outlook. In the second, the mother is presented as the matriarchal holder of the position in a broken household. Since families represent institutions used for formation of social networks, African American families use their structures to uphold black values. The changes in African American families have resulted in unique standards of the society regarding politics, economy, health, education, welfare, religion, culture, and the media.



In the African American family structures of the current setting, majority of the children are raised up in single-parent homes. Black matriarchy has been used to explain the phenomena of headed homes by women in, which black women are seen as able to become mothers at teenage level and decide to stay single. Stanfield (14) argues that the resultant effects are seen through marriage instability and therefore the children brought up are headed by single parent. The above structure borrows its roots from the period of 1880. In this time, most homes were made of nuclear families and decreased over time until the sixties. Children born out of wedlock continued to increase in numbers as single-parent structures were formed. The upturn of the matriarchal type of structures was primarily made of the mothers compared to those headed by the father as evidenced from the census reports.

            Changes towards the African American family are based on four organizations as shown by incipient, simple nuclear, segmented I and segmented II structures (Hattery and Smith 17). The incipient kind represents a couple of African Americans without children. The simple nuclear on the other hand consists of a couple of African American descent with a child or more. The latter formed the traditional mechanism of black composition within the society. The segmented nuclear II and I were typified by parent-child relationships. In this, either the mother or father who was unmarried was with the child or children in the family setup. The first nuclear gave precedence to the mother as compared to the father. Distinction between the nuclear, extended, and augmented families of African American descent lay in the composition of non-relatives in the augmented setup. It comprises the three organizations of families with varied sub-structures.


African American family regards as seen by the society represented it as being fatherless, poor, and dependent on governmental interventions. In addition, the father was seen as having numerous children out of wedlock. Considerable percentages showed that the families did not live wit their rightful biological fathers. The father was taken as the role model for some of the children within the family and not all of them. Non-resident fathers did not also perform their duties as expected. The mother representative was classified under the role she played in the family. It was dependable on her marriage status as well as responsibilities towards the family especially the children. Ninety-four percent of the African American family comprised of single mothers who fulfilled their roles within the structures and upbringing of the children. The mothers had to act, as the fathers were not present.

            The enculturation of a child into the African American family was responsible for their upbringing and imparting of values. Cultural patterns, child-rearing practices from the parents and society as well as the child’s individual heredity determined the development. Inconsistencies within the society have had a differential impact towards the African American child according to race and backgrounds over the years. Wood (17) notes that the child’s recognizable age groups further determine the significant problems undergone by the members. Extended family members on the other had been there to help in child rearing and assistance towards support to the parents. In the latter, they were primarily in target to the single parents owing to the fact of their income status or developmental ability within the community.

Theories on Family Structure

According to historical accounts, theories on the effect of slavery had an impact on the composition and changes of African American family structures (Stanfield 18). The low economic statuses at the time could not provide for stable homes leading to labor participation in distant areas. The results were seen through non-conformity of all the members in one area as they were separated by demand and action. In addition, continued trends to the present on income and economies have increased the support ion the theory. Traditional African influence also explains towards the changes realized in the family structures. Sources avail facts on realized practices within Africans on the need to live the spouse by the male counterparts a well as the children. Researches state that experiences during the practice of slavery from an African perspective fostered the structure of majority African American family as reliance was increased on kin networks.

            The expansion of US welfare state after the 1960 hold significant attributes to the changes realized in African American family structure. The general federal welfare at the time increased in the country and significant increase in discrimination, subsidies, and programs all contributed (Stanfield 19). The embrace of ways of life among the African Americans rose. In contrast, advancement of technology and embrace of machines as opposed to human labor factored in the changes. Women rights movements articulated for increased freedom to cater for their families also contributed. The decline in black marriages has forced for the single parent structure in the midst of evolving periods. The considerations placed on minority groupings of the black families have continuously led to a pervasive culture from the majority. Te rate of births on the other hand has not dropped thereby increasing the pressures on mothers to form matriarchal structures for the children.

            As witnessed, the rise in divorce rates shapes majority of the families within the African American context. As compared to the whites, the African Americans who do not marry encounter these rates. Majority of the individuals have been noted to achieve middle-class status once they are married and can provide for their families. Social stigma has also declined and made it possible for the divorces to go ahead with minimal objection. The black male incarceration has also had significant impact on the African American family composition. Income inequality, traditional cultures to non-education preferences have all contributed to levels of incarceration through criminal activities. As such, the father representatives do spend their time behind bars while the mothers take care of the families. Mortality on the other hand favors the males as opposed to the females and can end up starting alternate families.  

Implications of Family Structure

Several factors have led to the family structure composition among the African American as evidenced through outcomes like poverty, educational gaps, teenage pregnancies while social factors like discrimination, segregation and institutional systems have taken root. The implications are felt on a family-to-family basis as the extension covers the community, society, and culture. Therefore, poverty is maintained with the single parent families as opposed to the nuclear homes (Wood 12). Enhanced typical culture within the African Americans also leads to non-developmental socioeconomic means for families as compared to others. Educational performance as witnessed through academic institutions is low despite the increasing numbers of individuals from such families attending centers. From the socioeconomic problems to integrated culture of regard to education, significant changes have been attained although the conversion rate is still low in comparison to the white Americans.

            Teenage pregnancies are also on the increase from the historical advent of structure formation in regards to families. Such a factor can be attributed to the high fertility rate among the African Americans but not without fair share of negativity. The disdain for education and marriage culture within the communities encourages such tendencies at early ages without proper formation and time taken to establish foundations. In addition, the implication of maintained morals and stigma with such families has led to incarceration levels and disregard for the law to be observed. While the advent of young black adults get to serve time in the confines of judicial prudence, families continue to be rocked with member absentee and responsibility failure. The numbers on retention of such causes have significantly dropped, but retain high figures when compared to other compositions. It translates to other sectors of the society and economy.

Criticism and Strengths

Labeled criticism towards African American family structures and composition is given to the parenting roles of the spouses. Emphasis laid on development of the children towards active roles in future family plans is neglected in most occasions. In addition, the constant use of emotional and verbal abuse by the African American parents towards the children does not auger well with upbringing. On the other hand, the anger towards the male figures by the single mothers portrays maintained culture within the family and negative drawbacks from the male representatives. However, despite the criticism, it is noted that within the African American family structure, strong religion orientation is maintained (Hattery and Smith 17). In addition, rate of aspirations are high, exchange of roles is easily taken up by the women, maintenance of kinship is encouraged, and there is willingness by the members to work.  


The changes in African American families have resulted in unique standards of the society regarding politics, economy, health, education, welfare, religion, culture, and the media. Black matriarchy has been used to explain the phenomena of headed homes by women in, which black women are seen as able to become mothers at teenage level and decide to stay single. The resultant effects are seen through marriage instability and therefore the children brought up are headed by single parent. Changes have to be initiated towards the culture and maintained roles as regards formation of families in order to create stronger societies with developmental individuals. 

Works Cited

Hattery, Angela, and Earl Smith. African American Families Today: Myths and Realities. New York: Cengage, 2012. Print.

Stanfield, John H. Historical Foundations of Black Reflective Sociology. Walnut Creek, Calif: Left Coast Press, 2011. Print

Wood, Leon. “Family Support Factors in African American Families and their Effects.” CGU Journals, 2. (2012): 1-152. Print.

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