By Jueseppi B.
Sometimes I sit and think back to the days of my childhood, growing up in a home filled with love and caring. I was born in Sicily, and my grandparents moved us to Chicago when I was 4 years old. In our home the extended family was normal. Cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews were all welcome to our dinner table and our spare bedrooms. I am glad to see this is making a comeback.
Economic times are the reason in some families, but in some cultures, this has always been the way of the family.
The term extended family has several distinct meanings; a family that includes in one household near relatives in addition to a nuclear family. In modern Western cultures dominated by nuclear family constructs, it has come to be used generically to refer to grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, whether they live together within the same household or not. However, it may also refer to a family unit in which several generations live together within a single household. In some cultures the term is used synonymously with consanguineous family.
In an extended family, parents and their children’s families often may live under a single roof. This type of joint family often includes multiple generations in the family. From culture to culture, the variance of the term may have different meanings. For instance, in India, the family is a patriarchal society, with the sons’ families often staying in the same house.
In the joint family setup the workload is shared among the members. The roles of women are often restricted to housewife duties and usually they involve cooking, cleaning, and organizing for the entire family. The patriarch of the family (often the oldest male member) lays down the rules and arbitrates disputes. Other senior members of the household baby sit infants in case their mother is working. They are also responsible in teaching the younger children their mother tongue, manners and etiquette. This is not always the case.
In my household growing up, my grandmother “ran things”. She was the “patriarch” of the family. Granny was the peacemaker, and she saw to it that everybody was feed, cared for, and made to feel “at home’. Granny was never labeled or held to just one role….she was the Queen of her castle.
The house often has a large reception area and a common kitchen. Each family has their own bedroom. The members of the household also look after each other in case a member is ill.
An increasing number of extended families across the USA are under the same roof, living together either permanently or temporarily. Sometimes these arrangements are multigenerational, with adult children, grandchildren or an elderly parent sharing quarters. In other cases, an extended family bunks together, with siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews sharing space.
The reasons are economic, social and demographic. The recession and its aftermath have pushed extended families to share space at a time when the average age at first marriage has climbed to 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women. And life expectancy — now 75.7 for men and 80.6 for women in the USA — continues to rise. The flow of immigrants into this country also has been a factor; immigrants are more likely than other groups to live with members of their extended family.
Living together can be a perfect solution for upcoming generations who have young children, ageing parents or a tight budget. Rather than placing elderly family members in a nursing home, where care is suspect and the cost is above the reach of most families, bringing our loved ones back home with us is the common sense solution.
As jobs have disappeared and houses have been foreclosed on, many Americans are sharing space to save money. A new study by the Pew Research Center found the number of people in multigenerational households grew by 2.6 million between 2007 and 2008. But the bad economy isn’t the only reason more homes are filled with several generations; the trend has been under way since 1980.
Generation Gap Closing
The Pew study found that the share of people in multigenerational households has grown by a third since 1980 — to 16 percent of the population — and young adults are leading the way. The center’s Paul Taylor says baby boomers may have come of age protesting just about every conviction their parents held. But, he says, that generation gap has virtually disappeared among their children, the so-called “millennial” generation.
“It seems rather admiring of older adults,” Taylor says. Millennials “believe older adults have values that are better than their own. At some level they’re becoming buddies with mom and dad, and they may not find it so unusual to still be living in their childhood bedroom.”
These so-called “boomerang kids” aren’t the only ones driving the trend of extended family living. Older adults are also slightly more likely to share such households. Demographers say the generation that gave birth to the baby boomers has a lot more kids to potentially move in with.
Another big factor is the increasingly large share of the population made up of immigrants, who are far more likely than native-born whites to live with grandparents and grandchildren.
“Particularly among Hispanic families, they are looking for larger-sized homes,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “And some of the Asian communities are just accustomed to living with grandparents in their home countries, so they’re adopting it here as well.”
Mr. Yun says home sales were the same last year as in 2000, even though the U.S. population grew by nearly 30 million. Clearly, he says, people are moving in with each other instead of buying their own place.
Whatever the reason behind this trend, I believe the extended family is a positive thing and it will help strengthen the family. A strong extended family is essential in the growth and stability of our families, and the protection of our children. Protecting and nurturing our women and children is vital to the future survival of our planet.
Filed under: Health, Joy & Happiness, News, Opinion | Tagged: Chicago, Extended family, Family, Home, Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors, Nuclear family, Pew Research Center, Sicily, United States | 8 Comments »