CDFS 301 - . mean-I CHAPTER Diversity Within African...

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Unformatted text preview: . mean-I CHAPTER Diversity Within African American Families PERSONAL REFLECT IONS My interest in African American families as a topic of research was inspired more than two decades ago by my observation and growing dismay over the stereotypical portrayal of these families presented by the media and in much of the social science lit- erature. Most of the African American families I knew in the large southern city in which I grew up were barer represented in the various “authorita- tive” accounts I read and other scholars frequenfly referred to in their characterizations and analyses of such families. Few such accounts have acknowl— edged the regional, ethnic, class, and behavioral diversity within the African American community and among families. As a result, a highly frag- mented and distorted public image of African American family life has been perpetuated that encourages perceptions of African American fami— lies as a monolith. The 1986 television documen- tary A CBS Report: The Vanishing Family: Crisis in Black America, hosted by Bill Moyers, was fairly typical of this emphasis. It focused almost exclu— sively on low-income, single—parent households in 232 RONALD L. TAYLOR inner cities, characterized them as “vanishing” non- families, and implied that such families represented the majority of African American families in urban America. It mattered little that poor, single-parent households in the inner cities made up less than a quarter of all African American families at the time the documentary was aired. As an African American reared in the segregated South, I was keenly aware of the tremendous vari— ety of African American families in composition, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status. Racial segrega- tion ensured that African American families, regardless of means or circumstances, were con— strained to live and work in close proximity to one another. Travel outside the South made me aware of important regional differences among African American families as well. For example, African American families in the Northeast appeared far more segregated by socioeconomic status than did families in many parts of the South with which I was familiar. As a graduate student at Boston Uni- versity during the late 19605, I recall the shock I experienced upon seeing the level of concentrated poverty among African American families in Rox— ersity Within African American Families my, Massachusetts, an experience duplicated in was to New York, Philadelphia, and Newark- To Be sure, poverty of a similar magnitude was preva- ent throughout the South, but was far less concen- trated and, from my perception, far less pernicious. As I became more familiar with the growing body of research on African American families, it ecarne increasingly clear to me that the source of a major distortion in the portrayal of African Ameri— an families in the social science literature and the media was the overwhelming concentration on mpovefished inner—city communities of the North- : . east and Midwest to the near exclusion of the South, ' where mom than half the African American fami- g lies are found and differences among them in fam- -ily patterns, lifestyles, and socioeconomic charac- teristics are more apparent. In approaching the study of African American families in my work, I have adopted a holistic per- spective. This perspective, outlined first by DuB ois (1898) and more recently by Billingsley (1992) and Hill (1993), emphasizes the influence of historical, cultural, social, economic, and political forces in shaping contemporary patterns of family life ng” non- resented among African Americans of all. socioeconomic in urban backgrounds. Although the impact of these external .e-parent forces is routinely taken into account in assessing :s than a stability and change among white families, their the time effects on the structure and functioning of African American families are often minimized. In short, a gregated holistic approach undertakes to study African pus vari- American families in context. My definition of the Josition, family, akin to the definition offered by Billingsley segrega- (1992), views it as an intimate association of two or amines, more persons related to each other by blood, mar— :re con- riage, formal or informal adoption, or appropria— y to one tion. The latter term refers to the incorporation of [ware of persons in the family who are unrelated by blood or African marital ties but are treated as through they are fam— Afi-jcan ily. This definition is broader than other dominant med far definitions of families that emphasize biological or han did marital ties as defining characteristics. which I This chapter is divided into three parts. The first an Uni- part reviews the treatment of African American shock 1 families in the historical and social sciences litera- gnn-ated tures. It provides a historical overview of African 1] Rex- American families, informed by recent historical 233 scholarship, that corrects many of the misconcep- tions about the nature and quality of family life dur- ing and following the experience of slavery. The second part examines contemporary patterns of marriage, family. and household composition among African Americans in response to recent social, economic, and political developments in the larger society. The third part explores some of the long-term implications of current trends in map riage and family behavior for community function— ing and individual well-being, together with impli— cations for social policy. THE TREATMENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES IN AMERICAN SCHOLARSHIP As an area of scientific investigation, the study of African American family life is of recent vintage. As recently as 1968, Billingsley, in his classic work Black Families in White America, observed that African American family life had been virtually ignored in family studies and studies of race and ethnic relations. He attributed the general lack of interest among white social scientists, in part, to their “ethnocentrism and intellectual commitment to peoples and values transplanted from Europe” (p. 214). Content analyses of key journals in sociology, social work, and family studies during the period supported Billingsley’s contention. For example, a content analysis of 10 leading journals in sociology and social work by Johnson (1981) disclosed that articles on African American families constituted only 3% of 3,547 empirical studies of American families published between 1965 and 1975. More- over, in the two major journals in social work, only one article on African American families was pub— lished from 1965 to 1978. In fact, a 1978 special issue of the Journal of Marriage and the Family devoted to African American families accounted for 40% of all articles on these families published in the 10 major journals between 1965 and 1978. Although the past two decades have seen a sig- nificant increase in the quantity and quality of research on the family lives of African Americans, certain features and limitations associated with ear- lier studies in this area persist (Taylor, Chatters, Tucker, & Lewis, 1990). In a review of recent 234 research on African American families, Hill (1993) concluded that many studies continue to treat such families in superficial terms; that is, African Amer- ican families are not considered to be an important unit of focus and, consequently, are treated periph- erally or omitted altogether. The assumption is that African American families are automatically treated in all analyses that focus on African Ameri~ cans as individuals; thus, they are not treated in their own right. l-Iill noted that a major impediment to understanding the functioning of African Ameri- can families has been the failure of most analysts to use a theoretical or conceptual framework that took account of the totality of African American family - life. Overall, he found that the preponderance of recent studies of African American families are (a) fragmented,‘_in that they exclude the bulk of Black families by focusing on only a subgroup; (b) ad hoc, in that they apply arbitrary explanations that are not derived from systematic theoretical formulations that have been empirically substantiated; (c) negative, in that they focus exclusively on the perceived weak- nesses of Black families; and (d) internally oriented, in that they exclude any systematic consideration of the role of forces in the wider society on Black family , life (p. 5). THEORETICAL APPROACHES The study of African American families, like the study of American families in general, has evolved through successive theoretical formulations. Using white family structure as the norm, the earliest stud- ies characterized African American families as impoverished versions of white families in which the experiences of slavery, economic deprivation, and racial discrimination had induced pathogenic and dysfunctional features (Billingsley, 1968). The classic statement of this perspective was presented by Frazier, whose study, The Negro Family in the United States (1939), was the first comprehensive analysis of African American family life and its transformation under various historical condi— tions—slavery, emancipation, and urbanization (Edwards, 1968). It was Frazier’s contention that slavery de- stroyed African familial structures and cultures and RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES IN FAMIUES . gave rise to a host of dysfunctional family fea that continued to undermine the stability and WEIL being of African American families well into the 20th century. Foremost among these features Was the supposed emergence of the African American s‘matriarchal” or maternal family system, which weakened the economic position of African Ami can men and their authority in the family, In his view, this family form was inherently unstable and produced pathological outcomes in the family unit! including high rates of poverty, illegitimacy, crime, delinquency, and other problems associated with the socialization of children. Frazier concluded that the female—headed family had become a commou tradition among large segments of lower-class African American migrants to the North during the early 20th century. The two—parent male-headed household represented a second tradition among a minority of African Americans who' enjoyed some of the freedoms during slavery, had independent artisan skills, and owned property. Frazier saw an inextricable connection between economic resources and African American family structure and concluded that as the economic posi- tion of African Americans improved, their con- formity to normative family patterns would increase. However, his important insight regarding the link between family structure and economic resources was obscured by the inordinate emphasis he placed on the instability and “self-perpetuating pathologies” of lower-class African American fam- ilies, an emphasis that powerfully contributed to the pejorative tradition of scholarship that emerged in this area. Nonetheless, Frazier recognized the diversity of African American families and in his analyses, “consistently attributed the primary sources of family instability to external forces (such as racism, urbanization, technological changes and recession) and not to internal characteristics of Black families” (Hill, 1993, PP- 7—8). During the 19605, Frazier’s characterization of African American families gained wider currency with the publication of Moynihan’s The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965), in which weaknesses in family structure were identi- fied as a major source of social problems in African American communities. Moynihan attributed high 1 among a )yed some dependent [1 between :an family )mic posi- their con- 1s would regarding economic emphasis rpetuatiug .ican fam- 1ted to the merged in 1ized the 111d in his primal? rces (51.1611 anges and :ristics of ization of cunenc)’ he Negro 1965), in :re identi- n African uted high Diversity Within African American Families rates 0f welfare dependence, out-of-wedlock births, educational failure, and other problems to the “unnatural” dominance of women in African Amer- ican families. Relying largely on the work of Fra— zier as a source of reference, Moynihan traced the alleged “tangle of pathology” that characterized urban African American families to the experience of slavery and 300 years of racial oppression, which, he Concluded, had caused “deep-seated structural distortions” in the family and community life of African Americans. Although much of the Moynihan report, as the book was called, largely restated what had become conventional academic wisdom on African Ameri- can families during the 1960s, its generalized indictment of all African American families ignited a firestorm of criticism and debate and inspired a wealth of new research and writings on the nature and quality of African American family life in the United States (Staples & Mirande, 1980). In fact, the 19705 saw the beginning of the most prolific period of research on African American families, with more than 50 books and 500 articles published during that decade alone, representing a fivefold increase over the literature produced in all the years since the publication of DuBois’s (1909) pioneering study of African American family life (Staples Sc Mirande, 1980). To be sure, some of this work was polemical and defensively apologetic, but much of it sought to replace ideology with research and to provide alternative perspectives for interpreting observed differences in the characteristics of African American and white families (Allen, 1978). Critics of the deficit or pathology approach to African American family life (Scanzoni, 1977; Sta— ples, 1971) called attention to the tendency in the literature to ignore family patterns among the malofity of African Americans and to over-empha- size findings derived from studies of low-income find typically problem-ridden families. Such find— mgs Were often generalized and accepted as descriptive of the family life of all African Ameri— 0311 families, with the result that popular but erro— neous images of African American farme life were Perpetuated. Scrutinizing the research literature of the 19603, Billingsley (1968) concluded that when the majority of African American families was con— 235 sidered, evidence refuted the characterization of African American family life as unstable, depend- ent on welfare, and matriarchal. In his view, and in the view of a growing number of scholars in the late 19603 and early 19705, observed differences between white and African American families were largely the result of differences in socioeconomic position and of diflerential access to economic resources (Allen, 1978; Scanzoni, 1977). Thus, the 1970s witnessed not only a significant increase in the diversity, breadth, and quantity of research on African American families, but a shift away from a social pathology perspective to one emphasizing the resilience and adaptiveness of African American families under a variety of social and economic conditions. The new emphasis reflected what Allen (1978) referred to as the “cul- tural variant" perspective, which treats African American families as different but legitimate func- tional forms. From this perspective, “Black and White family differences [are] taken as given, with- out the presumption of one family form as norma- tive and the other as deviant.” (Farley & Allen, 1987, p. 162). In accounting for observed racial differences in family patterns, some researchers have taken a structural perspective, emphasizing poverty and other socioeconomic factors as key processes (Billingsley, 1968). Other scholars have taken a cultural approach, stressing elements of the West African cultural heritage, together with distinctive experiences, values, and behavioral modes of adaptation developed in this country, as major determinants (Nobles, 1978; Young, 1970). Still others (Collins, 1990; Sudarkasa, 1988) have pointed to evidence supporting both interpreta- tions and have argued for a more comprehensive approach. Efforts to demythologize negative images of African American families have continued during the past two decades, marked by the development of the first national sample of adult African Ameri- cans, drawn to reflect their distribution throughout the United States (Jackson, 1991), and by the use of a variety of conceptualizations, approaches, and methodologies in the study of African American family life (Collins, 1990; McAdoo, 1997). More- over, the emphasis in much of the recent work 236 has not been the defense of African American family forms, but rather the identification of forces that have altered long-standing traditions. The ideological para- digms identified by Allen (1978) to describe the ear— lier thrust of Black family research-"cultural equiva— lence, cultural deviance, and cultural variation-do not fully capture the foci of this new genre of work as a whole (Tucker & Mitchell-Keman, 1995, p. 17). Researchers have sought to stress balance in their analyses, that is, to assess the strengths and weak— nesses of African American family organizations at various socioeconomic levels, and the need for solution-oriented studies (Hill, 1993). At the same light on the relationship of changing historical cir- cumstances to characteristics of African American family organization and has underscored the rele- vance of historical experiences to contemporary patterns of family life. AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE Until the 19703, it was conventional academic wis- dorn that the experience of slavery decimated African American culture and created the founda- tion for unstable female—dominated households and other familial aberrations that continued into the 20th. century. This thesis, advanced by Frazier (1939) and restated by Moynihan (1965), was seri— ously challenged by the pioneering historical research of Blassingame (1972), Furstenherg, Hershberg, and Modell (1975), and Gutman (1976), among others. These works provide compelling documentation of the centrality of family and kin- ship among African Americans during the long years of bondage and how African Americans cre- ated and sustained a rich cultural and family life despite the brutal reality of slavery. In his examination of more than twu centuries of slave letters, autobiographies, plantation records, and other materials, Blassingame (1972) meticu- lously documented the nature of community, family organization, and culture among American slaves. He concluded that slavery was not “an all-powerful, monolithic institution which strip[ped] the slave of any meaningful and distinctive culture, family life, time, recent historical scholarship has shed new' RACIAL, ETHNlC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES 1N FAMILIES religion or manhood” (p. vii). To the contrary, the relative freedom from white control that slams enjoyed in their quarters enabled them to create and sustain a complex social organization that incorpo_ rated “norms of conduct, defined roles and be_ havioral patterns” and provided for the traditional functions of group solidarity, defense, mutual assis- tance, and family organization. Although the family had no legal standing in slavery and was frequently disrupted, Blassingame noted its major role as a source of survival for slaves and as a mechanism of social control for slaveholders, many of whom encouraged “monogamous mating arrangements” as insurance against runaways and rebellion. In fashioning familial and community organization, slaves drew upon the many remnants of their African heritage (cg, courtship rituals, kinship net. works, and religious beliefs), merging those ele- ments with American forms to create a distinctive culture, features of which persist in the contemp0- rary social organization of African American family life and community. Genovese’s (1974) analysis of plantation records and slave testimony led him to similar conclusions regarding the nature of family life and community among African Americans under slavery. Genovese noted that, although chattel bondage played havoc with the domestic lives of slaves and imposed severe constraints on their ability to enact and sus- tain normative family roles and functions, the slaves “created impressive norms of family, includ- ing as much of a nuclear family norm as conditions permitted and . . . entered the postwar social system with a remarkably stable base” (p. 452). He attrib- uted this stability to the extraordinary resourceful- ness and commitment of slaves to marital relations and to what he called a “paternalistic compromise,” or bargain between masters and slaves that recog- nized certain reciprocal obligations and rightS, including recognition of slaves’ marital and family ties. Although slavery undermined the role of African American men as husbands and fathers, their function as role models for their children and as providers for their families was considerably greater than has generally been supposed. Nonethe— less, the tenuous position of male slaves as hus- bands and fathers and the more visible and nontra- Il-I-lhrh‘n ml—hr—r‘rnl—hI-q-onhuhrlfi.en-b-I~.hhub._us'r..mns-h m. a... E'nFFMH‘fll-l't-Efihul“. karma—Idealism nrs 1N FAMILIES 1e (:(JlfltraryI the rol that slaws 111 ll) create and -n that lIlCOI'po. roles and be_ the traditional 3, mutual assis_ )ugh the family was frequently iajor role as a .mechanism of any 0f whom arrangemen ” l rebellion. In ' organization, lants of their 18, kinship net. ing those ole. :e a distinctive the contempo- nerican family nation records at conclusions nd community my. Genovese played havoc and imposed enact and sus- functions, the :‘amily, includ- l as conditions ' social system 32). He attrib— y resourceful- irital relations compromise," es that recog- s and rights, tal and family the role of : and fathers, r children and considerably sed. Nonethe- laves as hus- e and nontra— I Diversity Within African American Families dinonal roles assumed by female slaves gave rise to legends of matriarchy and emasculated men. How— ever, Genovese contended that the relationship between slave men and women came closer to approximating gender equality than was possible for white families. Perhaps the most significant historical work that forced revisions in scholarship on African Ameri- can family life and culture during slavery was Gut- man’s (1976) landmark study, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom. Inspired by the controversy surrounding the Moynihan report and its thesis that African American family disorganization was a legacy of slavery, Gutman made ingenious use of quantifiable data derived from plantation birth reg— isters and marriage applications to re-create family and kinship structures among African Americans during slavery and after emancipation. Moreover, he marshaled compelling evidence to explain how African Americans developed an autonomous and complex culture that enabled them to cope with the harshness of enslavement, the massive relocation from relatively small economic units in the upper South to vast plantations in the lower South between 1790 and 1860, the experience of legal freedom in the rural and urban South, and the tran— sition to northern urban communities before 1930. Gutman reasoned that, if family disorganization (fatherless, mattifocal families) among African Americans was a legacy of slavery, then such a con- dition should have been more common among urban African Americans closer in time to slavery— in 1850 and 1860—than in 1950 and 1960. Through careful examination of census data, marriage licenses, and personal documents for the period after 1860, he found that stable, two-parent house- holds predominated during slavery and after eman- cipation and that families headed by African Amer— ican women at the turn of the century were hardly more prevalent than among comparable white fam— ilies. Thus “[a]t all moments in time between 1860 and 1925 . . . the typical Afro-American family was lower class in status and headed by two parents. That was so in the urban andrural South in 1880 and 1900 and in New York City in 1905 and 1925” (p. 456). Gutman found that the two—parent family was just as common among the peer as among the more 237 advantaged, and as common among southerners as those in the Northeast. For Gutman, the key to understanding the durability of African American families during and after slavery lay in the distinc- tive African American culture that evolved from the cumulative slave experiences that provided a defense against some of the more destructive and dehumanizing aspects of that system. Among the more enduring and important aspects of that culture are the enlarged kinship network and certain domestic arrangements (e. g., the sharing of family households with nonrelatives and the informal adoption of children) that, during slavery, formed the core of evolving African American communities and the collective sense of interdependence. Additional support for the conclusion that the two-parent household was the norm among slaves and their descendants was provided by Furstenberg et a1. (1975) from their study of the family compo— sition of African Americans, native—born whites, and immigrants to Philadelphia from 1850 to 1880. From their analysis of census data, Furstenberg et al. found that most African American families, like those of other ethnic groups, were headed by two parents (75% for African Americans versus 73% for native whites). Similar results are reported by Pleck (1973) from her study of African American family structure in late 19th-century Boston. As these and other studies (Jones, 1985; White, 1985) have shown, although female-headed households were common among African Americans during and fol— lowing slavery, such households were by no means typical. In fact, as late as the 19605, three fourths of African American households were headed by mar- ried couples (J aynes & Williams, 1989; Moynihan, 1965). However, more recent historical research would appear to modify, if not challenge, several of the contentions of the revisionist scholars of slavery. Manfra and Dykstra (1985) and Stevenson (1995), among others, found evidence of considerably greater variability in slave family structure and in household composition than was reported in previ— ous works. In her study of Virginia slave families from 1830 to 1860, Stevenson (1995) discovered evidence of widespread matrifocality, as well as other marital and household arrangements, among l i l l r in,“ a... w..._._____ ._. WM...“- - _.A..__ .m- - “Wm” “.mwm I H W 238 antebellum slaves. Her analysis of the family histo— ries of slaves in colonial and antebellum Virginia revealed that many slaves did not have a nuclear “core” in their families. Rather, the “most dis- cernible ideal for their principal kinship organiza- tion was a malleable extended family that provided its members with nurture, education, socialization, material support, and recreation in the face of the potential social chaos the slavemasters’ power imposed” (1995, p. 36). A variety of conditions affected the family con- figurations of slaves, including cultural differences among the slaves themselves, the state or territory in which they lived, and the size of the plantation on which they resided. Thus, Stevenson concluded that the slave family was not astatic, imitative institution that necessarily favored one form of family organiza- tion over another. Rather, it was a diverse phenome- non, sometimes assuming several forrns even among the slaves of one community. . . . Far from having a negative impact, the diversity of slave marriage and family norms, as a measure of the slave family’s enor- mous adaptive potential, allowed the slave and the slave family to survive. (p. 29) Hence, “postrevisionist” historiography empha- sizes the great diversity of familial arrangements among African Americans during slavery. Although nuclear, manifocal, and extended families were prevalent, none dominated slave family forms. These postrevisionist amendments notwithstand- ing, there is compelling historical evidence that .. African American nuclear families and kin-related households remained relatively intact and survived the experiences of slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, and the transition to northern urban communities. Such evidence underscores the importance of considering recent developments and conditions in accounting for changes in family pat— terns among African Americans in the contempo- rary period. CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILY PATI'ERNS Substantial changes have occurred in patterns of marriage, family, and household composition in the United States during the past three decades, accom~ RACIAL, EI'HNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES lN FAMIU panied by significant alterations in the family has of men, women, and children. During this period, divorce rates have more than doubled, marriage rates have declined, fertility rates have fallen to _ record levels, the proportion of “traditional” faml, lies (nuclear families in which children live with I both biological parents) as a percentage of all fam. ily groups has declined, and the proportion of ch11- dren reared in single-parent households has risen ' bee dramatically (Taylor, 1997). j hol Some of the changes in family patterns have ' ma been more rapid and dramatic among African ily Americans than among the populati0n as a whole. inc: . For example, while declining rates of marriage and ' cou remarriage, high levels of separation and divorce, I and higher proportions of children living in single- tior parent households are trends that have Character- GEE ized the US. population as a whole during the past try. 30 years, these trends have been more pronounced typ- among African Americans and, in some respecIS, ball represent marked departures from earlier African 1101' American family patterns. A growing body of ma research has implicated demographic and economic 130S factors as causes of the divergent marital and fam— 313' ily experiences of African Americans and other 63“! populations. ' In the following section, I examine diverse pat- €011 tems and evolving trends in family structure and 111% household composition among African Americans, can together with those demographic, economic, and late social factors that have been identified as sources of MC change in patterns of family formation. 1313 re: fair Diversity of Family Structure me] Since 1960, the number of African American CO“ households has increased at more than twice the 9x“ rate of white households. By 1995, African Ameri- “Va can households numbered 11.6 million, compared “MS with 83.7 million white households. Of these find households, 58.4 million white and 8.0 million mg African American ones Were classified as family ex“ households by the U.S. Bureau of the Census “Pf (1996), which defines a household as the person or W1C persons occupying a housing unit and a family as for consisting of two or more persons who live in the Staj same household and are related by birth, marriage, 133’ or adoption. Thus, family households are house— Pitt ls has risen items haw: [1g African 33 a Whole. image and ad divorce, 3 in single- character. l‘ig the past ronounced e reSpects, 61' African C body of economic l and fem. and other VCISB pat. lcture and mericans, )mic, and sources of American mice the nAmeri- cmpared 3f these l million 5 family Census nerson or hmily as re in the ran-lags, : house— Diversity Within African American Families hows maintained by individuals who share their residence with one or more relatives, whereas non- family households are maintained by individuals with no relatives in the housing unit. In 1995, 70% of the 11.6 million African American households 5. were family households, the same proportion as among white households (U .S. Bureau of the Cen— ' sus, 1996). However, nonfamily households have been increasing at a faster rate than family house- holds among African Americans because of delayed marriages among young adults, higher rates of fam— ily disruption (divorce and separation), and sharp increases in the number of unmarried cohabiting couples (Cherlin, 1995; Glick, 1997). Family households vary by type and composi— tion. Although the 11.3. Bureau of the Census rec- ognizes the wide diversity of families in this coun- try, it differentiates between three broad and basic types of family households: married-couple or hus- band-wife families, families with female house- holders (no husband present), and families with male householders (no wife present). Family com~ position refers to whether the household is nuclear: that is, contains parents and children only, or extended, that is, nuclear plus other relatives. To take account of the diversity in types and composition of African American families, Bill— ingsley (1968; 1992) added to these conventional categories augmented families (nuclear plus nonre- lated persons), and modified the definition of nuclear family to include incipient (a married cou- ple without children), simple (a couple with chil— dren), and attenuated (a single parent with children) families. He also added three combinations of aug— mented families: incipient extended augmented (a couple with relatives and nonrelatives), nuclear extended augmented (a couple with children, rela— tives, and nonrelatives), and attenuated extended augmented (a single parent with children, relatives, and nonrelatives). “nth these modifications, Bill- ingsley identified 32 different kinds of nuclear, extended, and augmented family households among African Americans. His typology has been widely used and modified by other scholars (see, for example, Shimkin, Shimkin, & Frate, 1978; Stack, 1974). For example, on the basis of Billings- ley’s typology, Dressler, Haworth—Hoeppner, and Pitts (1985) developed a four-way typology with 12 239 subtypes for their study of household structures in a southern African American community and found a variety of types of female—headed households, less than a fourth of them consisting of a mother and her children or grandchildren. However, as Staples (1971) pointed out, Billingsley’s typology emphasized the household and ignored an important characteristic of such families—their “extendedness.” African Americans are significantly more likely than whites to live in extended families that “transcend and link several different households, each containing a separate . . . family” (Farley & Allen, 1987, p. 168). In 1992, approximately 1 in 5 African American families was extended, compared to 1 in 10 white families (Glick, 1997). The greater proportion of extended households among African Americans has been linked to the extended family tradition of West African cultures (Nobles, 1978; Sudarkasa, 1988) and to the economic marginality of many African American families, which has encouraged the shar- ing and exchange of resources, services, and emo— tional support among family units spread across a number of households (Stack, 1974). In comparative research on West African, Caribbean, and African American family patterns, some anthropologists (Herskovits, 1958; Sudarkasa, 1997) found evidence of cultural continuities in the significance attached to coresidence, formal kinship relations, and nuclear families among black popula— tions in these areas. Summarizing this work, Hill (1993, pp. 104—105) observed that, with respect to co-residencc, the African concept of family is not restricted to persons living in the same household, but includes key persons living in separate house- holds. . . . As for defining kin relationships, the African concept of family is not confined to relations between formal kin, but includes networks of unre- lated [i.e., “fictive kin"] as well as related persons liv— ing in separate households. . . . [According to] Her- skovits (1941), the African nuclear family unit is not as central to its family organization as is the case for European nuclear families: “The African immediate family, consisting of a father, his wives, and their chil— dren, is but a part of a larger unit. This immediate fam- ily is generally recognized by Africanists as belonging to a local relationship group termed the ‘extended family.m 240 Similarly, Sudarkasa (1988) found that unlike the European extended family, in which primacy is given to the conjugal unit (husband, wife, and chil— dren) as the basic building block, the African extended family is organized around blood ties (consanguineous relations). In their analysis of data from the National Sur- vey of Black Americans (NSBA) on household composition and family structure, Hatchett, Coch- ran, and Jackson (1991) noted that the extended family perspective, especially kin networks, was valuable in describing the nature and functioning of African American families. They suggested that the “extended family can be viewed both as a family network in the physical-spatial sense and in terms of family relations or contact and exchanges. In this view of extendedness, family structure and function are interdependent concepts” (p. 49). Their exami- nation of the composition of the 2,107 households in the NSBA resulted in the identification of 12 cat- egories, 8 of which roughly captured the “dimen— sions of household family structure identified in Billingsley’s typology of Black families (1968)—— the incipient nuclear family, the incipient nuclear extended andlor augmented nuclear family, the simple nuclear family, the simple extended andfor augmented nuclear family, the attenuated nuclear family, and the attenuated extended and/or aug- mented family, respectively" (p. 51). These house- holds were examined with respect to their actual kin networks, defined as subjective feelings of emo- tional closeness to family members, frequency of contact, and patterns of mutual assistance, and their potential kin networks, defined as the availability or proximity of immediate family members and the density or concentration of family members within a given range. Hatchett et a1. (1991) found that approximately 1 in 5 African American households in the NSBA was an extended household (included other relatives-u parents and siblings of the household head, grand— children, grandparents, and nieces and nephews). Nearly 20% of the extended households with chil- dren contained minors who were not the head’s; most of these children were grandchildren, nieces, and nephews of the head. The anthem suggested that “[t]hese are instances of informal fostering or RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES IN FAN“ adoption—absorption of minor children. network” (p. 58). In this sample, female-headed househol by the for the propensity among African Americans incorporate other relatives in their households. That? _ is, the inclusion of other relatives in the households" 3 did not substantially improve the overall economic' situation of the households because the majority of other relatives were minor children, primarily grandchildren of heads who coresided with the, - household heads’ own minor and adult children, Moreover, they stated, “household extendedness at both the household and extra-household levels appears to be a characteristic of black-fanniies, regardless of socioeconomic leve ” (p. 81), and regardless of region of the country or rural or urban residence. .' The households in the NSBA were also com- pared in terms of their potential and actual kin net- wurks. The availability of potential kin networks varied by the age of the respondent, by the region and degree of urban development of the respon- dent’s place of residence, and by the type of house- hold in which the respondent resided (Hatchett et a1., 1991). For example, households with older heads and spouses were more isolated from kin than were younger households headed by single mothers, and female—headed households tended to have greater potential kin networks than did indi- viduals in nuclear households. With reSpect to region and urbanicity, the respondents in the South- ern and North Central regions and those in rural areas had a greater concentration of relatives closer at hand than did the respondents in other regions and those in urban areas. However, proximity to rel- atives and their concentration nearby did not trans- late directly into actual kin networks or extended family functioning: Complex relationships were found across age, income, and type of household. From these data came a picture of the Black elderly with high psychological connectedness to family in the midst of relative geo- graphical aud international isolation from them. The image of female single-parent households is, on the 5 IN FAMILIES Bbythekin eholds were Ldfid house ‘Support for nay account nericans to :holds.Ti1at households [1 economic majority of ! Primarily Ed With the Lit children. udedncss at hold levels :k families, _J. 81), and ral or urban : also com- ual kin net- 11 networks r the region the respon- )6 of house- Hatchett et with older d from kin i by single .3 tended to to did indi- respect to r the South— 186 in rural .tives closer her regions Lmity to re]- d not trans- ir extended across age9 se data carue sychological relative geo~ n them. The is is, on the Diversity Within African American Families other hand, the reverse or negative of this picture. Female heads were geographically closer to kin, had more contact with them, and received more help from family but did not perceive as much family solidarity or psychological connectedness. (Hatchett et a1., 1991, p. 81) The nature and frequency of mutual aid among kin were also assessed in this survey. More than two thirds of the respondents reported receiving some assistance from family members, including finan- cial support, child care, goods and services, and help during sickness and at death. Financial assis- tance and child care were the two most frequent types of support reported by the younger respon— dents, whereas goods and services were the major types reported by older family members. The type of support the respondents received from their fam— ilies was determined, to some extent, by needs defined by the family life cycle. In sum, the results of the NSBA document the wide variety of family configurations and house— holds in which African Americans reside and sug— gest, along with other studies, that the diversity of structures represents adaptive responses to the vari- ety of social, economic, and demographic condi— tions that African Americans have encountered over time (Billingsley, 1968; Farley & Allen, 1987). Although 'Hatchett et a1. (1991) focused on extended or augmented African American families in their analysis of the NSBA data, only 1 in 5 households in this survey contained persons outside the nuclear family. The majority of households was nuclear, containing one or both parents with their own children. Between 1970 and 1990, the number of all U.S. married-couple families with children dropped by almost 1 million, and their share of all family house— holds declined from40% to 26% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). The proportion of married-couple families with children among African Americans also declined during this period, from 41% to 26% of all African American families. In addition, the percentage of African American families headed by women more than doubled, increasing from 33% in 1970 to 57% in 1990. By 1995, married-couple fam— ilies with children constituted 36% of all African American families, while single-parent families 241 represented 64% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1996). The year 1980 was the first time in history that African American female-headed families with chil- dren outnumbered married-couple families. This shift in the distribution of AfricanAmerican families by type is associated with a number of complex, interrelated social and economic developments, including increases in age at first marriage, high rates of separation and divorce, male joblessness, and out-of-wedlock births Marriage, Divorce, and Separation In a reversal of a long—time trend, African Ameri- cans are now marrying at a much later age than are persons of other races. Thirty years ago, African American men and women were far more likely to have married by ages 20—24 than were white Amer- icans. In 1960, 56% of African American men and 36% of African American women aged 20—24 were never married; by 1993, 90% of all African Ameri— can men and 81% of African American women in this age cohort were never married (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994). The trend toward later marriages among African Americans has contributed to changes in the distri- bution of African American families by type. Delayed marriage tends to increase the risk of out— of—wedlock childbearing and single parenting (Her— nandez, 1993). In fact, a large proportion of the increase in single—parent households in recent years is accounted for by never—married women main— taining families (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). The growing preportion of never—married young African American adults is partly a result of a com- bination of factors, including continuing high rates of unemployment, especially among young men; college attendance; military service; and an extended period of cohabitation prior to marriage (Glick, 1997; Testa & Krogh, 1995; Wilson, 1987). In their investigation of the effect of employment on marriage among African American men in the inner city of Chicago, Testa and Krogh (1995) found that men in stable jobs were twice as likely to marry as were men who were unemployed, not in school, or in the Hence, it has been argued that the feasibility of marriage among African Americans in 242 recent decades has decreased because the precari- ous economic position of African American men has made them less attractive as potential husbands and less interested in becoming husbands, given the difficulties they are likely to encounter in perform- ing the provider role in marriage (Tucker & Mitchell-Keman, 1995). However, other research has indicated that eco— nomic factors are only part of the story. Using cen— sus data from 1940 through the mid-19803, Marc and Winship (1991) sought to determine the impact of declining employment opportunities on marriage rates among African Americans and found that although men who were employed were more likely to marry, recent declines in employment rates among young African American men were not large enough to account for a substantial part of the declining trend in their marriage rates. Similarly, in their analysis of data from a national survey of young African American adults, Lichter, McLaugh— lin, Kephart, and Landry (1992) found that lower employment rates among African American men were an important contributing factor to delayed marriage—and perhaps to nonmarriage—among African American women. However, even when marital opportunities were taken into account, the researchers found that the rate of marriage among young African American women in the survey was only 50% to 60% the rate of white women of simi— lar ages. In addition to recent declines in employment rates, an unbalanced sex ratio has been identified as an important contributing factor to declining mar- riage rates among African Americans. This short- age of men is due partly to high rates of mortality and incarceration of African American men (Kiecolt & Fossett, 1995; Wilson & Neckerman, 1986). Guttentag and Secord (1983) identified a number of major consequences of the shortage of men over time: higher rates of singlehood, out-of- wedlock births, divorce, and infidelity and less commitment among men to relationships. Among African Americans, they found that in 1980 the ratio of men to women was unusually low; in fact, few populations in the United States had sex ratios as low as those of African Americans. Because African American women outnumber men in each RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES lN FAMILIES of the age categories 20 to 49, the resulting “mar. riage squeeze" puts African American women at a significant disadvantage in the marriage market, causing an unusually large proportion of them to remain unmarried. Howover, Glick (1997) observed a reversal of the marriage squeeze among African Americans in the age categories 18 to 27 during the past decade: In 1995, there were 102 African Amer. ican men for every 100 African American women in this age range. Thus, “Ew]hereas the earlier mar. riage squeeze made it difficult for Black women to many, the future marriage squeeze will make it harder for Black men” (Glick, 1997, p. 126). But, as Kiecolt and Fossett (1995) observed, the impact of ' the sex ratio on marital outcomes for African Amer— icans may vary, depending on the nature of the local marriage market. Indeed, “marriage markets are local, as opposed to national, phenomena which may have different implications for different gen- ders . . . {for example,] men and women residing near a military base face a different sex ratio than their counterparts attending a large university” (Smith, 1995, p. 137). African American men and women are not only delaying marriage, but are spending fewer years in their first marriages and are slower to remarry than in decades past. Since 1960, a sharp decline has occurred in the number of years African American women spend with their first husbands and a corre- sponding rise in the interval of separation and divorce between the first and second marriages (Espenshade, 1985; Jaynes & Williams, 1989). Data from the National Fertility Surveys of 1965 and 1970 disclosed that twice as many African American couples as white couples (10% versus 5%) who reached their 5th wedding anniversaries ended their marriages before their 10th anniver- saries (Thornton, 1978), and about half the African American and a quarter of the white marriages were dissolved within the first 15 years of marriage (McCarthy, 1978). Similarly, a comparison of the prevalence of marital disruption (defined as separa- tion or divorce) among 13 racial-ethnic groups in the United States based on the 1980 census revealed that of the women who had married for the first time 10 to 14 years before 1980, 53% of the African American Women, 48% of the Native American Diversity Within African American Families women, and 37% of the non—Hispanic white women were separated or divorced by the 1980 census (Sweet & Bumpass, 1987). Although African American women have a higher likelihood of separating fiom their husbands than do non—Hispanic white women, they are slower to obtain legal divorces (Cherlin, 1996). According to data from the 1980 census, within three years of separating from their husbands, only 55% of the African American women had obtained divorces, compared to 91% of the non-Hispanic white women (Sweet & Bumpass, 1987). Cherlin specu— lated that, because of their lower expectations of remarrying, African American women may be less motivated to obtain legal divorces. Indeed, given the shortage of African American men in each of the age categories fiom 20 to 49, it is not surprising that the proportion of divorced women who remarry is lower among African American than among non- Hispanic white women (Glick, 1997). Overall, the remarriage rate among African Americans is about one fourth the rate of whites (Staples 8; Johnson, 1993). Cherlin (1996) identified lower educational lev— els, high rates of unemployment, and low income as importance sources of differences in African Amer— ican and white rates of marital dissolution However, as he pointed out, these factors alone are insuffi- cient to account for all the observed difference. At every level of educational attainment, African American women are more likely to be separated or divorced from their husbands than are non-His- panic white women. Using data from the 1980 cen— sus, Iaynes and Williams (1989) compared the actual marital—status distributions of African Amer— icans and whites, controlling for differences in edu- cational attainment for men and women and for income distribution for men. They found that when differences in educational attainment were taken into account, African American women were more likely to be “formerly married than White women and much less likely to be living with a husband” (p. 529). Moreover, income was an important factor in accounting for differences in the marital status of African American and white men. Overall, Jaynes and Williams found that socioeconomic differences explained a significant amount of the variance in 243 marital status differences between African Ameri- cans and whites, although Bumpass, Sweet, and Martin (1990) noted that such difierences rapidly diminish as income increases, especially for men. As Glick (1997) reported, African American men with high income levels are more likely to be in intact first marriages by middle age than are African American women with high earnings. This relation- ship between income and marital status, he stated, is strongest at the lower end of the income distribu- tion, suggesting that marital permanence for men is less dependent on their being well—to-do than on their having the income to support a family. As a result of sharp increases in marital disrup— tion and relatively low remarriage rates, less than half (43%) the AfricanAmerican adults aged 18 and older were currently married in 1995, down from 64% in 1970 (U .3. Bureau of the Census, 1996). Moreover, although the vast majority of the 11.6 million African Americans households in 1995 were family households, less than half (47%) were headed by married couples, down from 56% in 1980. Some analysts expect the decline in marriage among African Americans to continue for some time, consistent with the movement away from marriage as a conSequence of modernization and urbanization (Espenshade, 1985) and in response to condoning economic marginalization. But African American culture may also play arole. As a number of writers have noted (Billingsley, 1992', Cherlin, 1996), blood ties and extended families have tradi— tionally been given primacy over other types of relationships, including marriage, among African Americans, and this emphasis may have influenced the way many African Americans responded to recent shifts in values in the larger society and the restructuring of the economy that struck the African American community especially hard. Such is the interpretation of Cherlin (1992, p. 112), who argued that the institution of marriage has been weakened during the past few decades by the increasing economic independence of women and men and by a cultural drift “toward a more indi- vidualistic ethos, one which emphasized self-ful- fillment in personal relations.” In addition, Wilson (1987) and others described structural shifts in the economy (from manufacturing to service industries 244 RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES m FAMlilg'S' as a source of the growth in employment) that have benefitedAfrican American women more than men, eroding men’s earning potential and their ability to support families. According to Oberlin, the way African Americans responded to such broad socio- cultural and economic changes was conditioned by their history and culture: wedlock births, or death of a parent. Among adult African American women aged 2544, increases in the percentage of never-married women and dis_ rupted marriages are significant contributors to the rise in female-headed households; for white women of the same age group, marital dissolution or divorce is the most important factor (Demo, 1992; _ I I _ Jaynes & Williams, 1989 . Moreover, changes in Faced wrth difficult times economically, many Blacks the living mangements of women who give birth reSponded by dramng upon amodel of social support outsi d e maniage or Experience marital disruption that was in their cultural repertorre. . . . This response have also been Si .fic t factors in th . relied heavrly on extended kinship networks and de— gm an 3 use Of emphasized marriage. It is a response that taps a tra- female‘head?d househoms among African Ameri‘ ditional source of strength inAfrican—American soci- can and Whlte women In ety: cooperation and sharing among a large network expefienced Separation 01' di oflrin. (p. 113) the past, women who vorce, or bore children out of wedlock were more likely to move in with , . and their parents or other relatives, creating subfami— “the Thuss it Seems likely that economic developments lies; as a result, they were not classified as female . 0f and Cultural values have contributed independently headed. In recent decades, however, mare and mere Whe arid jomfly t9 the explanation 0f deeming Fates 0f of these women have established their own house— 3X“ marriage among African Americans in recent years holds (Parish, Hag, & Hogan! 1991)_ statl (Farley & Allen. 1937} An increasing proportion of female-headed 0011' householders are unmarried teenage mothers with 1:3: . . . young children. In 1990, for example, 96% of all ' Single-Parent Fam'hes births to African American teenagers occurred out— fam Just as rates of divorce, separation, and out-of-wed— side marriage; for white teenagers, the figure was 55” lock childbearing have increased over the past few 55% (National Center for Health Statistics, 1991). 333‘ decades, so has the number of children living in sin— Although overall fertility rates among teenage ( gle-parent households. For example, between 1970 women declined steadily from the 1950s through far“ and 1990, the number and proportion of all US. the end of the 1980s, the share of births to unmar— Chm single-parent households increased threefold, from tied women has risen sharply over time. In 1970, far? 1 in 10 to 3 in 10. There were 3.8 million single-par— the proportion of all births to unmarried teenage tam ent families with children under 18 in 1970, com- women aged 15—19 was less than 1 in 3; by 1991, it eve! pared to 11.4 million in 1994. The vast majority of had increased to 2 in 3. hes’ single-parent households are maintained by women Differences in fertility and births outside mar— Patr (86% in 1994), but the number of single-parent riagc among young African American and white fece households headed by men has more than tripled: women are accounted for, in part, by differences in mm from 393,000 in 1970 to 1.5 million in 1994 (U .8. sexual activity, use of contraceptives, the selection be“ Bureau of the Census, 1995). of adoption as an option, and the proportion of pre- [Ole Among the 58% of African American families marital pregnancies that are legitimated by mar— i99' with children at home in 1995, more were one-par— riage before the children's births (Trusell, 1988). [Pro ent families (34%) than married-couple families Compared to their white counterparts, African slav- (24%). In 1994, single-parent families accounted American teenagers are more likely to be sexually lab“ for 25% of all white family groups with children active and less likely to use contraceptives, to have B1?“ under age 18, 65% of all African American family abortions when pregnant, and to marry before the new groups, and 36% of Hispanic family groups ((1.8. babies are born. In consequence, y0ung African (jinn Bureau of the Census, 1995). American women constitute a larger share of single “fin: Single-parent families are created in a number of mothers than they did in past decades. This devel— €115“ ways: through divorce, marital separation, out—of- opment has serious social and economic conse— haw “Hg adult :enage 991, it : mar- white lces in ection )f pre— mar- [988) frican rually I have re the frican tingle level- onse— Diversity Within African American Families quences for children and adults because female- headed households have much higher rates of poverty and deprivation than do other families (Taylor, 1991b). Family Structure and Family Dynamics As a number of studies have shOWn, there is a strong correspondence between organization and eco- nomic status of families, regardless of race (Farley &; Allen, 1987). For both African Americans and whites, the higher the income, the greater the per— centage of families headed by married couples. In their analysis of 1980 census data on family income and structure, Farley and Allen (1987) found that “there were near linear decreases in the proportions of households headed by women, households where children reside with a single parent, and extended households with increases in economic status” (p. 185). Yet, socioeconomic factors, they concluded, explained only part of the observed dif— ferences in family organization between African Americans and whites. “Cultural factors—that is, family preferences, notions of the appropriate and established habits—also help explain race differ— ences in family organization” (p. 186). One such difference is the egalitarian mode of family functioning in African American families, characterized by complementarity and flexibility in family roles (Billingsley, 1992; Hill, 1971). Egali— tarian modes of family functioning are corann even among low—income African American fami— lies, where one might expect the more traditional patriarchal pattern of authority to prevail. Until recently, such modes of family functioning were interpreted as signs of weakness or pathology because they were counternormative to the gender- role division of labor in majority families (Collins, 1990). Some scholars have suggested that role rec- iprocity in African American families is a legacy of slavery, in which the traditional gender division of labor was largely ignored by slaveholders, and Black men and women were “equal in the sense that neither sex wielded economic power over the other” (Jones, 1985, p. 14). As a result of historical expe— riences and economic conditions, traditional gender distinctions in the homemaker and provider roles have been less rigid in African American families 245 than in white families (Beckett & Smith, 1981). Moreover, since African American women have historically been involved in the paid labor force in greater numbers than have white women and because they have had a more significant economic role in families than their white counterparts, Scott— Jones and Nelson—LeGall (1986, p. 95) argued that African Americans “have not experienced as strong an economic basis for the subordination of women, either in marital roles or in the preparation of girls for schooling, jobs, and careers.” In her analysis of data from the NSBA, Hatchett (1991) found strong support for an egalitarian divi- sion of family responsibilities and tasks. With respect to attitudes toward the sharing of familial roles, 88% of the African American adults agreed that women and men should share child care and housework equally, and 73% agreed that both men and women should have jobs to support their fami- lies. For African American men, support for an egalitarian division of labor in the family did not differ by education or socioeconomic level, but education was related to attitudes toward the shar- ing of family responsibilities and roles among African American women. College—educated wom— en were more likely than were women with less education to support the flexibility and interchanga- bility of family roles and tasks. Egalitarian attitudes toward familial roles among African Americans are also reflected in child—rearing attitudes and practices (Taylor, 1991a). Studies have indicated that African Ameri- can families tend to place less emphasis on differ- ential gender-role socialization than do other fami- lies (Blau, 1981). In her analysis of gender—role socialization among southern African American families, Lewis (1975) found few patterned differ— ences in parental attitudes toward male and female roles. Rather, age and relative birth order were found to be more important than gender as determi— nants of differential treatment and behavioral expectations for children. Through their socializa- tion practices, African American parents seek to inculcate in both genders traits of assertiveness, independence, and self~confidence (Boykin & Toms, 1985; Lewis, 1975). However, as children mature, socialization practices are adapted to reflect “more closely the structure of expectations and 246 opportunities provided for Black men and women by the dominant society” (Lewis, 1975, p. 237}— that is, geared to the macrostructural conditions that constrain familial role options for African Ameri— can men and women. However, such shifts in emphasis and expecta— tions often lead to complications in the socialization process by inculcating in men and women compo- nents of gender-role definitions that are incompati— ble or noncomplementary, thereby engendering a potential source of conflict in their relationships. Franklin (1986) suggested that young African American men and women are frequently con~ fronted with contradictory messages and dilemmas as a result of familial socialization. 0n the one hand, men are socialized to embrace an androgynous gen- der role within the African American community, but, on the other hand, they are expected to perform according to the white masculine gender-role par- idigrn in some contexts. According to Franklin, this dual orientation tends to foster confusion in some young men and difficulties developing an appropri- ate gender identity. Likewise, some young African American Women may receive two different and contradictory messages: “One message states, ‘Be- cause you will be a Black woman, it is imperative that you learn to take care of yourself because it is hard to find a Black man who will take care of you.’ A second message . . . that conflicts with the first . . . is ‘your ultimate achievement will occur when you have snared a Black man who will take care of you’ ” (Franklin, 1986, p. 109). Franklin contended that such contradictory expectations and mixed mes- sages frequently lead to incompatible gender—based behaviors among African American men and women and conflicts in their relationships. Despite the apparently greater acceptance of role flexibility and power sharing in African American families, conflict around these issues figures promi— nently in marital instability. In their study of marital instability among African American and white cou- ples in early marriages, Hatchett, Verofi, and Don- van (1995) found young African American couples at odds over gender roles in the family. Anxiety over their ability to function in the provider role was found to be an impertant source of instability in the marriages for African American husbands, but not for white husbands. Hatchett (1991) observed that RACIAL, ETHNlC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES IN FAMIU' marital instability tended to be more com among young African American couples ifthe huS___ bands felt that their wives had equal poWer in the family and if the wives felt there was not enough- '. 7' sharing of family tasks and responsibilities. Hatch; ett et a1. (1991) suggested that African American men’s feelings of economic anxiety and self-doubt may be expressed in conflicts over decisional power and in the men’s more tenuous commitment to their marriages vis-a-vis African American women! Although the results of their study relate to African American couples in the early stages of marriage, the findings may be predictive of major marital dif. ficulties in the long term. These and other findings (see, for. example, Tucker & Mitchell—Keman, 1995) indicate that changing attitudes and defini_ tions of familial roles among young African Amer. ican couples are tied to social and economic trends (such as new and increased employment opportuni- ties for women and new value orientations toward marriage and family) in the larger society. African American Families, Social Change, and Public Policy Over the past three decades, no change in the African American community has been more fun- damental and dramatic than the restructuring of families and family relationships. Since the 1960s., unprecedented changes have occurred in rates of marriage, divorce, and separation; in the proportion of single and two-parent households and births to unmarried mothers; and in the number of children living in poverty. To be sure, these changes are con- sistent with trends for the US. population as a whole, but they are more pronounced among African Americans, largely because of a conflux of demographic and economic factors that are peculiar to the African American community. In their summary of findings from a series of empirical studies that investigated the causes and correlates of recent changes in patterns of African American family formation, Tucker and Mitchell- Kernan (1995) came to several conclusions that have implications for future research and social pol— icy. One consistent finding is the critical role that sex ratios—the availability of mates play in the for- mation of African American families. Analyzing self—doubt :crsronal pow“ litment to their I'lle 'Wol-nenl :late to Africa“ is “f mamas, [or marital dif_ other findings tCheu-Keman’ es and defim‘- wean Amer- anomic trends ant opportuni_ ations toward rety. Change, and ‘aflgc in the an more fun- Irructuring of 36 the 19603, 1 in rates of le Proportion 1nd births to r of children lges are con- elation as a ced among a conflux of are peculiar a series of causes and : of African d Mitchell- usions that 1 social pol— al role that in the for- Analyzing giversity Within African American Families aggi-egate—level data on African American sex ratios In 171 US. cities, Sampson (1995) found that these sex ratios Were highly predictive of female head- ship, the perccntage of married couples among fam- flies with school-age children, and the percentage of African American women who were single. In " assessing the causal effect of sex ratios on the fam~ 11y structure of African Americans and whites, he _- showed that the effect is five times greater for the former than the latter. Similarly, Kiecolt and Fos- sett’s (1995) analysis of African American sex ratios in Louisiana cities and counties disclosed that they had strong positive effects on the percentage of African American women who were married and had husbands present, the rate of marital births per thousand African American women aged 20—29, the percentage of married—couple families, and the per— centage of children living in two-parent households. Another consistent finding is the substantial and critical impact of economic factors on African American family formation, especially men’s employment status. Analyses by Sampson (1995) and Darity and Myers (1995) provided persuasive evidence that economic factors play a major and unique role in the development and maintenance of African American families. Using aggregate data, Sampson found that low employment rates for African American men in cities across the United States were predictive of female headship, the per- centage of women who were single, and the per— centage of married—couple families among family households with school—age children. Moreover, comparing the effect of men’s employment on the family structure of African American and white families, he found that the effect was 20 times greater for African Americans than for whites. Sim- ilar results are reported by Darity and Myers, who investigated the effects of sex ratio and economic marriageability—Mlson and Neckerrnan’s (1986) Male Marriageability Pool Indexu—on African American family structure. They found that, al- though both measures were independently predic— tive of female headship among African Americans, a composite measure of economic and demographic factors was a more stable and effective predictor. Moreover, Sampson found that the strongest inde- pendent effect of these factors on family structure was observed among African American families in 247 poverty. That is, “the lower the sex ratio and the lower the male employment rate the higher the rate of female-headed families with children and in poverty” (p. 250). It should be noted that neither rates of white men’s employment nor white sex ratios was found to have much influence on white family structure in these analyses, lending support to Wilson’s (1987) hypothesis regarding the struc- tural sources of family disruption among African Americans. Although the findings reported here are not definitive, they substantiate the unique and power- ful effects of sex ratios and men’s employment on the marital behavior and family structure of African Americans and point to other problems related to the economic marginalization of men and family poverty in African American communities. Some analysts have predicted far—reaching consequences for African Americans and for society at large should current trends in marital disruption continue unabated. Darity and Myers (1996) predicted that the majority of African American families will be headed by women by the beginning of the next decade if violent crime, homicide, incarceration, and other problems associated with the economic marginalization of African American men are allowed to rob the next generation of fathers and husbands. Moreover, they contended, a large num- ber of such fan-lilies are likely to be poor and iso— lated from the mainstream of American society. The growing economic marginalizatiOn of African American men and their inability to pro— vide economic support to families have contributed to their increasing estrangement from family life (Bowman, 1989; Tucker & Mitchell—Kernan, 1995) and are identified as pivotal factors in the develop- ment of other social problems, including drug abuse, crime, homicide, and imprisonment, which further erode their prospects as maniageable mates for African American women. In addressing the structural sources of the dis- ruption of African American families, researchers have advanced a number of short— and long—term proposals. There is considerable agreement that increasing the rate of marriage alone will not sig- nificantly improve the economic prospects of many poor African American families. As Ehrenreich (1986) observed, given the marginal economic 248 position of poor African American men, impover- ished African American women would have to be married to three such men—simultaneously—to achieve an average family income! Thus, for many African American women, increasing the preva- lence of marriage will not address many of the problems they experience as single parents. With respect to short-term policies designed to address some of the more deleterious effects of structural forces on African American families, Darity and Myers (1996) proposed three policy ini~ tiatives that are likely to produce significant results for African American communities. First, because research has indicated that reductions in welfare benefits have failed to stem the rise in female headed households, welfare policy should reinstate its earlier objective of lifting the poor out of poverty, In Darity and Myers’s View, concerns about the alleged disincentives of transfer payments are “moot in light of the long—term evidence that Black families will sink deeper into a crisis of female headship with or without welfare. Better a World of welfare-dependent, near-poor families than one of welfare-free but desolate and penna- nently poor families" (p. 288). Second, programs are needed to improve the health care of poor women and their children. One major potential ben- efit of such a strategy is an improvement in the sex ratio because the quality of prenatal and child care is one of the determinants of sex ratios. “By assur— ing quality health care now, we may help stem the tide toward further depletion of young Black males r-—-in the future” (p. 288). A third strategy involves improvements in the quality of education provided to the poor, which are key to employment gains. Although these are important initiatives with obvious benefits to African American communities, in the long term, the best strategy for addressing marital disruptions and other family-related issues is an economic—labor market strategy. Because much of current social policy is ideologically driven, rather than formulated on the basis of empirical evidence, it has failed to acknowledge or address the extent to which global and national changes in the economy have conspired to margin- alize significant segments of the African American population, both male and female, and deprive them RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES IN FAMILIES-i of the resources to form or support families. Although social policy analysts have repeatedly substantiated the link bemoan the decline in man riages among African Americans and fundamental changes in the US. postindustrial economy, their insights have yet to be formulated into a meaning ful and responsive policy agenda. Until these Sfi'uc. rural realities are incorporated into governmental policy, it is unlikely that marital disruption and other adverse trends associated with this develop. ment will be reversed. There is no magic bullet for addressing the causes and consequences of marital decline among African Americans, but public policies that are designed to improve the economic and employment prospects of men and women at all socioeconomic levels have the greatest potential for improving the lot of African American families. Key elements of such policies would include raising the level of edu— cation and employment training among African American youth, and more vigorous enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, which Would raise the level of employment and earnings and contribute to higher rates of marriage among African Americans (Burbridge, 1995). To be sure, many of the feder- ally sponsored employment and training programs that were launched during the 1960s and 19703 were plagued by a variety of administrative and organizational problems, but the effectiveness of some of these programs in improving the long-term employment prospects and life chances of disad— vantaged youth and adults has been well docu- mented (Taylor et al., 1990). African American families, like all families, exist not in a social vacuum but in communities, and programs that are designed to strengthen com- munity institutions and provide social support to families are likely to have a significant impact on family functioning. Although the extended family and community institutions, such as the church, have been important sources of support to African American families in the past, these community support systems have been overwhelmed by wide- spread joblessness, poverty, and a plethora of other problems that beset many African American com- munities. Thus, national efforts to rebuild the social and economic infrastructures of inner—city commu- Bur Bur Ch: governmental Eruption and this develoP- :ioeconomjc aproving the elements of level of edu- mg African :nforcement ld raise the ontribute to Americans f the feder— 9 Programs and 19705 trative and iveness of dong-term : of disad- vell docu— families, lmunities, then com- upport to mpact on 3d family a church, 3 African mmunity by wide- : of other an com- he social commu— versity Within African American Families nities would make a major contribution toward African American families and could encourage more young people to marry in the future. 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