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The African American Family

Family is an institution that upholds values and societal standards. It interacts with other institutions in order to create a social network. There are many factors that influence African American families. The most prominent of them is discrimination that exists even today. Slavery also played a very important part in the formation of a contemporary African American family structure that is vastly different from the traditional West African model.

There are two African American family structure models today. The first one is patriarchal. This means that a man is seen as the sole breadwinner. This model entails a submissive role for women. However, women in African American families are usually given more freedom and respect than in white American patriarchal families. This structure is traditional for West Africa. In the vast majority of cases, a formation of this type of family starts with the birth of a child. Over 58% of African American babies are born out of wedlock.

The second African American family structure is predominant today. It is a model of a single-parent home with mother as the most authoritative figure. Many African American women consciously choose not to marry, so not all of these families are formed because of a divorce or separation. The factors that make women choose this path are mostly economic and social. The main problem in this case is the fact that a great number of African American men are undesirable marriage partners. The male-female ratio of the African American community is 88 to 100. This means that even if all men were considered good prospective marriage partners, there would be many women left with nothing. However, a huge number of African American males are addicted to drugs, unemployed and otherwise undesirable. This is why women choose to stay single-mothers instead of forming a traditional family. Men also play a part in this situation, because according to some surveys, many African American males see well-educated and independent women as undesirable marriage partners.

Extended family is equally important for both African American basic family structures. There are over seventy formations of extended families. This proves that African Americans are extremely flexible when it comes to family roles. This is probably the main reason that explains why single-parent homes can become a successful family structure.

African American family structures are determined by economic, cultural and social factors. Today matriarchal families with a single-mother are the most common. However, children should still have a male figure in their lives through contact with their extended family.

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