A Changing World

The family is an ever-changing unit and has undergone some major shifts in the past two decades, including higher rates of single parenting, and increasingly involved dads. Although times have changed, your role as a parent is the same as ever: to give your child consistent love, loyalty, and care.
Parenting Today
Table of contents

Today, there are many varieties of family life. Although studies report on the problems of modern childhood, children are familiar with and tolerant of different cultures, and living and working practices.

Mature moms

The number of births to women in the US between 35-39 has risen 52 percent since 1990; the birth rate in women 40-44 has risen 65 percent since 1990 and is at an all-time high. Benefits are that older expectant moms are more likely to be settled, financially stable, and mature.

Single parenting

Single moms in the US have risen from 1 percent in 1971, to 12.5 percent in 2007. There's no doubt that children in single-parent families can be disadvantaged, but it's thought that much of this is due to financial constraints, and that those who have adequate socioeconomic resources do well.


Stepfamilies are the fastest-growing family type. It's thought that at least 1 in 3 children will have a stepfamily situation within their lifetime. Siblings may be of wildly different ages, or of the same age; these are unique and beneficial relationships for all children.

Modern dads

Dads today are more involved in family life. Some 93 percent attend the birth (compared to 5 percent in 1965), and over 70 percent take time off after the birth. In the 1970s, dads of children under five devoted less than 15 minutes a day to child-related activities, compared to over two hours by the 1990s. Research shows that children whose dads spend considerable time with them do well educationally and at work.

Child care

This is a necessity in most families. Studies show that good care outside the family has a positive impact on social skills, intellect, and language. Grandparents care for about 30 percent of US babies. A good grandparent relationship provides stability, family values, and is thought to improve cognitive development.

Multiple cultures

Your baby will live in a multicultural society. This affects educational experience and friendships, and there's a strong chance a child will be cared for by someone from another culture at some point in her childhood.

The statistics

Changing family life

The statistics below reveal how family life has changed over decades.

  • In the US, 64 percent of moms with children under the age of six work; in the UK, 55 percent of mothers of children under five work (compared with around 25 percent in 1975).
  • About 25 percent of children under five with working moms are cared for full-time by dad and 30 percent of working parents share child care.
  • About 25 percent of married moms stay at home full time with the children.
  • Today, around 25 percent of children live in one-parent families, of which about 9 percent have a single dad at the helm.
  • Around 25 percent of babies in the UK are born to immigrant moms, and in some parts of the country up to a third of all babies are born to ethnic minority families-a figure that is similar in New Zealand and Australia. In the US, about a third of all children are minorities.
  • More than 41 percent of babies in the UK are born to unmarried women; in the US, 37 percent of babies are born out of wedlock. This trend is echoed throughout the West, and the numbers are steadily rising.
  • One in every 100 babies grows up in a household with same-sex parents.
The gender gap

Boys versus girls

Historically, about 106 boys have been born for every 100 girls-a phenomenon believed to be nature's way of compensating for the fact that males are more likely to be killed through conflicts. But ratios are changing with girls outnumbering boys. One factor may be increased stress (women under stress produce more girls than boys). However, the most important contributor is now thought to be the number of gender-bending chemicals in our environment, such as synthetic estrogens, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and pesticides.