Sociologists say the major factor in the change is a growing acceptance of non-traditional households. "Our society isn't telling us that we need to be married to raise children," says TIME contributing society writer Amy Dickinson. "There are more and more examples of men and women who raise children alone and have happy homes." Also affecting the picture is the high divorce rate -- one in two marriages -- and the increasing decisions to stay unhitched (56 percent of adults were married in 1998, compared with nearly 75 percent in 1972). "Today we have different expectations than our parents did," says Dickinson. "We expect to be satisfied at a level that's probably completely unrealistic." That includes having two parents with careers who remain emotionally supportive of one another and help raise the children.
Remember when President George Bush said American families need to be more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons? Well, today Bush would probably welcome Homer, Marge et al as role models. At least they've stayed together for the past decade. Families in which children live with both of their parents are quickly becoming a minority, according to a University of Chicago study released Wednesday. Only about a quarter of modern households consist of a married couple with children under 18, down from just under half of all households in the early '70s. Vastly increasing: the number of unmarried people -- both single and living together -- without children, which has risen from 16 to 32 percent of all households.