Traditional Family

The predominant family model in the United States of the 20th century, among other times and places. It includes one man and one woman connected by lifelong, monogamous marriage, together with the children of this couple.

Conservatives in Christianity and other faith traditions typically view this model as God’s ideal for human families. It is sometimes connected with the notion of the husband as the “head” of the family and the transmission of traditional values across generations. In the religious conservative view, traditional families are the essential building block of human society, and alternatives to this family structure are therefore regarded as weakening the social fabric.

Many progressives dismiss the traditional family as an ideal. They point to the profusion of family models throughout history and question some of the values allegedly promoted by traditional families (such as strict gender roles and unthinking patriotism). Moreover, they decry the use of the term as demeaning to those who have chosen other family structures, particularly same-sex couples. At the same time, while embracing many alternative family models, some progressives acknowledge research that two-parent families deliver significant benefits to children.

Dialog Tips: 

Jonah Goldberg, “Why Family Matters, and Why Traditional Families Are Still Best,” Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2015.

Gretchen Livingston, “Fewer than Half of U.S. Kids Today Live in a ‘Traditional’ Family,” Pew Research Center, December 22, 2014.


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