The relationship between social class and family ties has dramatically changed the fabric of family life in the United States in an extremely short period of time. It was less than fifty years ago that you could describe families by race and culture. Today, cultural diversity is rooted itself deeply within all aspects of society and trying to classify our nation by specific social classes is a difficult task. Nevertheless, distinct differences can still be seen if examined closely. Within the family grouping, relationships valued with each higher social class are present in the minds of all Americans, but the ability to reach these dreams are as far away as the stars they are wished on. Race and ethnicity play a key role in determining how a family will be able to provide for itself as the family progresses. Further more social structures such as churches, political organizations, and even youth sports leagues can unify or even separate the social classes. In our nation it is hard to explain that there is a clear connection between social class and the type family relationship it produces, but by breaking social class down further into subsections such as, race, family background, religion, and political influence, the distinctions become more present.
This nation founded on ten essential freedoms, and grants entry to citizens of other countries to start their lives in the land of opportunity. Are these assumed opportunities equally available to everyone? After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were herded into internment camps similar to the Jewish persecution we were fighting against in Europe. The discrimination shown over fifty years ago can still be seen, but often times our society has become accustomed to it that it goes unnoticed. For example, women are still being treated unfairly in the job-market. In 1997, African-American families earned an average of $28,602, which is 64 percent of the national income standard, and 47 percent are single-parent families where the mother is the head of the household without a father present (Macionis 317). When these figures are examined it is obvious to see why many African-Americans live in sub-standard housing. Furthermore, it is socially accepted for white women to stay home and raise children, whereas for Africans it is highly unusual if one parent willingly stays home to rear children (Zinn 37). This disadvantage hurts future generations and also breaks down the family structures because the children have no one to look up to and lack the adult guidance necessary in life. Tamika Allen stated that she hardly ever has the chance to sit down and eat a meal with her mother and on average they spend less than ten hours a week together because her mother has to work to help support the family. On the other hand, white males are able to earn more money and provide enough subsistence for their families where a mother can stay home and help raise children. This ability helps secure the functions of the family, socialization, regulation of sexual activity, social placement, and material and emotional security. The majority of ethnic families rely on other family-like structures to provide them with the support and stability that might be lacking at home. Therefore, the races of the members of society have a defining effect on the type of family relationships that can be found in our nation today.
“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer,” Aaron Allen explains why he believes from birth he was facing an uphill battle with society. Many of our nation’s values come from the ideal that hard work will get you to the top of the social stratum. Unfortunately, many of today’s under privileged have two jobs and are still unable to achieve the social ranking that people of “old money” are able to achieve at birth. The foundations of our dreams were all established by immigrants and then passed on to the future generations, but as time progresses the past is lost. Tony Bardolino is the second generation of a family of Italian immigrants. He considers himself Italian, however he has distanced himself from his family and its culture. Personally, I am a direct descendent of an immigrant. I consider myself to be in touch with my culture, but yet I am not connected to the traditions my parents and grand parents participated in when they were children. In addition, I can speak little of our native and I am more concerned about today and the future than I am about my family. Bardolino feels the same way, and recognizes the strong ties between family background the key to the future (Rubin 143-151). The history of an individual’s family is very important to the future of the family and its tradition. With the rate of speed society is traveling at today it is hard to find a family that is connected to each other on many levels. Geographic mobility is easier than it has ever been before. Instead of families living near each other and growing up in the same neighborhood their entire lives, families will move several times depending on job availability. This puts a strain on families without the funding to keep their children connected with the past. On the other hand, families with a high social stand could be able to connect themselves much easier with their family and see them on a more frequent basis. Thus, a family without history could be much like a house without a strong foundation; it looks good from the outside, but deep down inside the essentials are missing and this is directly connected with social class and wears thin on family relationships.
“I lost my faith at the age of thirteen when my parents separated and God cheated me out of family,” nineteen year old Daniel Martinez explains to me about his families bitter divorce and how it effected his beliefs and still does today. Everyday it seems like someone is stating how morally deficient our country has become. Should our country jump into religion as our savior? A few of our religious leaders themselves could be said to be morally void. It hurt me to find out how my pastor became involved in religion. He was a young man lost in this crazy world and he was using drugs heavily. Finally, one of his friends convinced him to attend a service at the local church and he was saved. From that day forward he led a pure life and devoted himself to God’s work. Am I supposed to believe the words of an ex-drug addict, or should I believe that he is a reformed man and that he is a good example of what our country should strive to be? For some, religion is only a set of beliefs told to you by others, but many believe that it is the way of life. Karl Marx believed that religion was used by the more elite to keep the underclass people from revolting by providing them hope that the after life would reward them (Macionis 170-173). Religion is a binding organization that gives people comfort and allows them to see life from a different perspective, and it effects our family unity because many families come together and attend church ceremonies as one. The frequency of church attendance usually depends on a family’s social class; lower social class often equals a lower level of church attendance (Wolfe 39-87).
The family dynamic today is changing at a constant rate. Human sexuality is experimenting with new ideas and now our nation is divided on the essence of family structures. Must a family have a female mother and a male father, or should homosexuals be allowed to raise their own children? At the foundation of this argument is social class and the grasp it has on our nation. The upper class has many more freedoms, and the middle class is becoming more blended, resulting to be a great divide to the lower class and poor. In order to survive today, families have to work harder and longer to maintain their standards of living. This usually means that both parents are working and the children are living their lives with minimal direction from their kinship. Social class is present in many things surrounding the family. The gap between social classes seems to be spreading farther apart. It will be more difficult for the lower classes to achieve the American dream that has been instilled in their minds since birth.
Allen, Tamika. Personal interview. 3 Mar. 2001.
Macionis, John. Society The Basics. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2000.
Martinez, Daniel. Personal interview. 4 Mar. 2001.
Rubin, Lillian. Families on the Fault Line. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
Wolfe, Alan. One Nation, After All. New York: Viking Penguin, 1998.