The Nuclear Family

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The nuclear family is so deeply ingrained in American culture and inextricably linked to the foundation of the American dream—it is an image that can succinctly communicate the fundamental components of happiness and, for an era bygone, normalcy. Conceptually, the nuclear family is neither inferior nor superior to any family composition though its failings are suggestive of an idyllic and sterile family devoid of any intrinsic elements. Life is harmonious, and children are unquestionably obedient while their parents wield total influence over their lives, and most importantly, stability is evocative of familial perfection.

Realistically, however, society and culture will inevitably grow more and more diverse over time and the nuclear family’s perceived normalcy will wane. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2013) surmised traditionalism also presumes that human life is easily encapsulated into neatly divided components (para. 6). In this sense, the nuclear family is doomed to fail specifically for this reason—‘family’ is an individual concept that ultimately means something different to every person. This being the case, one might suggest that the nuclear family was never ideal but perhaps it was an ideal. There are a plurality of different family forms and dynamics (Vespa, Lewis, & Kreider, 2013, p. 1) and the nuclear family as a concept presupposes that there is a normal construction to this—which is certainly untrue considering the increasing commonality of single-parent families (Vespa et al., 2013, p. 13) that are still capable of functioning.

Due to the inherent individuality of perception in regards to family units, there is no objective metric by which to judge the efficacy of a family. The nuclear family, however, is an abstraction that serves no real purpose than to establish a norm by which families should strive to live by. Essentially, being that the nuclear family is just a notion that does not properly account for the inevitable complexities of human life, any possible family formation may be both simultaneously weaker and stronger than the conceptualized nuclear family; it ultimately depends on the individuals within the family itself.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013, July 9). The "perfect" family. Retrieved from

Vespa, J., Lewis, J. M., & Kreider, R. M. (2013, August). America’s families and living arrangements: 2012. United States Census Bureau.