16    Mar 20112 comments

Families and Friends in America: Are We Still Connected?

Today we're looking back at Americans' personal ties since the 1970s and wondering if the digital age has helped to make families and friends more connected or less so?

Americans are fascinated by the quality of their relationships with family and friends and whether these ties have declined or remained stable over the years. With this in mind, Berkeley sociologist, Claude Fischer has examined American social history in his book Still Connected, and in analyzing 40 years of surveys -- ranging from family involvement, the number of friends, the amount of practical and emotional support they are able to count on, to how emotionally tied they feel to these relationships -- has found what may be a surprise to many: Americans' personal ties remain strong.

While Americans today have fewer relatives than they did forty years ago, less formal gatherings, more single-parent families, neither the overall quantity of personal relationships nor the quality of those relationships has declined. Americans' feelings of emotional connectedness to relatives and friends have changed relatively little since the 1970s. Fischer claims that this constancy testifies to the value Americans place on family and friends and to their willingness to adapt to changing times. For example, these days children are as busy as their parents with homework and school projects, play dates, and after-school enrichment activities. Yet today's parents spend more quality time with their children than parents did forty years ago. And while survey research shows that families have less dinners together at home, it also shows that families are dining out together more often.

With so many claiming the demise of personal relationships, this book sheds some light on a topic that deserves attention. Americans' personal ties, this book contends, remain strong.

Do you think personal / family ties have changed much since the 1970s?  Please add your comments below.

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Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I am in more contact with my family and friends now than ever. Facebook, emails and Skype keep us connected in 3 continents!
  2. A fascinating topic. An interesting angle is that in the 1970s we were all pretty much stuck with what we were born into (family-wise) and what we grew up with (friends, etc.) - and that could lead to a lot of folk feeling trapped in poor relationships. Now it's far easier to 'reach out' and find new, and more fulfulling relationships, whilst leaving the undesirable aspects of the world we were born into behind. So, yes, it's great to be able to use modern technology to keep in touch with distant friends and family whom we love - and even better to be able to dump those we don't get on with (including family) much easier than we could in the past. Blood is thicker than water? - rubbish! (that's a bit strange coming from a family historian, I know!)

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