Breaking with the Biogenetic Model of Family

Walking through the mall during the holiday season you’ll see thousands of people, some with their friends and others with their families. However, it is not always easy to tell who is with who. This is because the structure of nuclear families has ended. From early America on, families were seen as a married couple with their two point five kids and their nice house in the suburbs. However, nowadays it is almost impossible to recognize who is a family and who is not. There no longer has to be a married couple as the head of the household, or maybe it could be a married couple of the same-sex variety. Some couples choose not to have kids and others just can’t. The biggest difference from a nuclear family that makes them unrecognizable is when they are of mixed race.

As you go through this mall you may even see a family like mine. One that is filled with a bunch of blonde haired girls and a small three month-old baby boy. A half black baby boy. When you look deeper at my family you can see that we do not fall into the biogenetic model of families. If you just take the section of my family that includes my sister and her son you can see that they are a prime example of what many families look like now. My sister is practically a single mother raising her mixed race son, while her boyfriend is stationed in North Dakota. Looking at them you may not see the resemblance at first and assume that she is not his birth mother. This is similar even to some of the cases in the book “Broken Links, Enduring Ties” by Linda J. Seligmann, published in 2013, that discusses the looks some of the families who adopted transracially got. They talked about how people would even ask if they were the adopted parents real kids or where they adopted them from. My sister has also experienced having people directly ask her if that is really her son and what is he. People still expect to see the biogenetic model even if it rarely exists nowadays.

It is not just the look of families that is different, but the way they are run as well. Families are busier now more than they have ever been causing many to seek help to take care of their children. For my sister she had limited options when it came to taking care of my nephew. His father was stationed in North Dakota before he was born so he was not going to be able to take some of the day to day responsibility. My sister is stationed in California working a job that requires her there almost thirteen hours a day and sometimes nights. This makes it hard for her to find normal day care options a possibility. Due to this she had to ask our other sister to help her out. Now my two sisters are raising our nephew together. If you take it back to the way they look, they have had many people ask how long the two have been together, mistaking my sisters as a lesbian couple. Yet in reality they are just an offbeat version of the biogenetic model. They are related to each other, but not in the way a traditional household that is typically though to consist of a husband, wife, and kids. Instead, it is the mother, son, and sister/aunt. However, this does not make them a dysfunctional family. They make it work just like any other family tries to. Their house is full of love between them all and trust that everyone is going to be taken care of.

Family is an important part of the American culture. Throughout the last couple centuries when people immigrated here, they came looking for the American Dream, which included the nuclear family. As time passed, though, the way families were formed changed. Families are no longer made up of blood relations alone but also by emotional connections, liked discussed multiple times in Seligmann’s book. Mother and father were no longer a common find in households, as well as children who were related by blood. More than that, though, is families that were made up of same-sex or mixed race parents. It is no longer possible to look at groups of people together and easily assume them as a family. However, the thing is that families are a lot more complicated than the nuclear family and biogenetic model make it seem like. What is most important to remember, though, is that a family is made up of people who love and take care of each other and that is why no matter how much the set up of them changes, they will never cease to be an important part of the American culture.

by Laura McIntyre

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