American Culture


The average American family has classically been understood as a nuclear family with their extended family living separately. Today the archetypal nuclear family is still dominant; however, it can no longer be an exact social expectation. For example, almost half of America’s youth have a step-sibling. More children are also being born to unwed mothers or teenagers as the stigma associated with premarital intercourse has diminished. Furthermore, more families are incorporating LGBTQI+ marriages. Thus, same-sex couples with children are becoming more common. As such, the traditional archetypal American family structure is now arguably more visible among immigrant families.

The preference for most Americans is to still have a small family unit. This allows them to be mobile as the average American moves over ten times in his or her lifetime – primarily for economic reasons. Within these nuclear households, the unique personal relationships that family members share and the support they receive from one another is considered the main form of value.

Individualism characterises much of American family dynamics. For example, many elderly Americans would rather live alone and be self-reliant than ‘burden’ the younger generations of their family by living with them. Similarly, most children feel an obligation not to financially drain their hard-working parents by remaining dependant on them as adults. Thus, parents expect their children to leave home within a few years of finishing high school. Those parents who do let their adult children live with them are sometimes labelled “enablers”. Most American parents discipline their children in a way similar to Australians, balancing support with control.

Roles and duties in the family are becoming less dictated by a person's gender. Women enjoy equal rights and the opportunity to choose their form of contribution to the household dynamic. However, due to a number of reasons, more women choose not to work full-time and prefer to be available to raise their children.

Dating and Marriage
American dating practices are similar to those of Australians. It is common for couples to meet though their social circles, workplaces or hobbies. Online dating services are popular amongst several age groups. Younger people tend to use free apps (such as Tinder) for casual dating, whilst middle-aged or older people looking to find serious or long-term partners tend to prefer dating websites that require paid membership.

Dates usually happen in contexts that allow the couple to engage in enough conversation to get to know one another (for example, over a meal or drink). It is common for an American to ‘date’ or get to know multiple people at once over a period of time without having an exclusive relationship with any of those people. However, if feelings develop for a particular person, it is expected that they stop meeting new dates or seeing others. Instead they usually pursue that one person until he or she agrees to be in a committed relationship with them or indicates a lack of interest.

Some American couples may be in a relationship for multiple years and live together before getting married; however, this varies significantly among individual circumstances and family backgrounds. The average age of (first) marriage is 29 for men and 27 for women. Some couples choose not to marry and remain in a de facto partnership whilst maintaining the same function and relationship as a married couple. However, many strongly religious families see marriage as a necessity to the household. A couple’s intimate love for one another is usually seen as essential for marriage. Marriages for economic or social reasons are rare.

Although about 40-50% of American couples divorce, the institution of marriage is still dominant and highly valued in the United States. It is expected that any strong couple will want to ‘take that step’. It is legal for same-sex couples to marry throughout the entire country.
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