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November 18, 2010

Brady Bunch 2.0: today’s “blended” families

Filed under: issues,News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:01 am

Today’s New York Times featured a lengthy article about how today’s mix-and-rematch post-divorce parents with kids make it work: not by marrying and moving everyone, and Ann B. Davis as Alice, into the same ranch house at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, but…close. As a means of preserving their own semi-independence, and sparing the kids an extra intrusion, they’re moving — well, into different ranches on the same circle, say. Or even: same house; different floors, different doors.

In the articles first example, the triple-hyphenate Curtis-Hetfield-Petrini household (two divorced parents, now each others’ partners; three kids among them), for instance, lucked into a two-family town house in Brooklyn. My initial crabby thought: “Well, of course it works great for them. They have a ‘sleek bamboo kitchen.'”

But (a) no fair, as we all know that when it comes to discord, creature comforts are more often cause than antidote, and (b)  the article goes on to describe many types of blendy families in many shapes, forms, places, and real estates. And the broadest points are well-taken. First, the economic reality of a post-Carol world:

…What’s really driving the practice of committed couples with children living in separate abodes, [said Susan Stewart, a sociologist at Iowa State University who studies how families form and change over time], “is that middle- and upper-income women have their own money and independence. They are working, and can live on their own.”

And — most important — this, also from Stewart:

“The complexity of families is the real story. Family life is not what it was. The divorce rate” — roughly half of all first marriages still end in divorce — “has been high and stable since the 1980s. The majority of these people go on to marry or cohabit. Then there’s the change in custody patterns, with more and more fathers desiring more time with their children, if not full or shared custody. The traditional family — the married-couple-biological-children family — is in the minority.”

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