American Family Values

A young brother gives his little sister a kiss on the 4th of July.

As society evolves due to progress and individual enlightenment, American family values undergo many dramatic changes. While no single list of values fits every modern family, exploring the most common ones may help people identify values of personal significance.

Breaking Down the Terminology

When asked about their family values, most people find it hard to formulate a response. The concept of values that pertain to a family unit is, in some respects, just that: a concept. These values are largely inherent, understood on an emotional level, unspoken and passed down through the generations based on personal experience.

For those who are unclear about the term and what it means, it might help to look at the wording and take a literal approach. Everyone already knows that the word "family" means a social unit--whether blood-related, marriage-related or emotion-related--usually residing together. The word "values" typically means a set of beliefs and ideals (social and sometimes political) that provide moral guidance to a family unit. When you put the two terms together, it makes sense to take their collective meaning as a set of beliefs or ideals that imbue each member of the family with knowledge about right and wrong, proper moral decision-making skills and well-developed social mores. Most modern American families also include caring, love and support of the family into their system of values.

Traditional and Modern American Family Values

Modern society breeds a contemporary viewpoint about the attributes of a family, but this was not always so. As recently as the 1950s, commonly-used American family values took a far different approach to matters of gender, equality and the family as a whole. Despite the disadvantages of those mid-20th century ideals, many of them still have a viable place in contemporary belief systems. To formulate a set of beliefs and ideals that will work best for your family, it might help to examine both the traditional and the contemporary models.

Traditional Values

Although they are not for everyone, certain aspects of traditional ideals may still appeal to a wide range of families. They represent enduring familial themes and the comfort of conventional homes. The list below includes both common and uncommon values for old-fashioned families.

  • Opposition to pre-marital sex
  • Opposition to same-sex marriage
  • Belief in traditional home-based roles for women
  • Belief in Christian-based values
  • Opposition to some elements of feminism
  • Opposition to abortion while actively supporting abstinence education
  • Belief in adoption as an alternative to abortion
  • Belief in programs and public policies that shield children from exploitation
  • Opposition to separation of church and state
  • Belief in father as head-of-household

Contemporary Values

Those who take a more modern approach to establishing family ideals may find themselves spoiled for choice. Although progressive families practice conscientiousness in setting up a system of values to live by, they are largely free of some of the limitations present in traditional belief systems. The following list highlights some popular ideals for America's modern families.

  • Support for the universal living wage model to improve livelihood
  • Belief in acceptance of non-traditional families that may include same-sex and polygamous long-term relationships, as well as single-parent families
  • Belief in a woman's right to abortion
  • Belief in Planned Parenthood programs that offer contraception
  • Belief in government-funded financial aid to families
  • Support for sex education in public schools
  • Belief in practicing and teaching tolerance, patience and understanding for alternative lifestyles
  • Belief in universal healthcare and family-friendly employment laws (maternity leave, personal leave, emergency family leave)
  • Support for freedom of religion

The Common Denominator

Whether you believe in traditional family roles and ideals or lean more towards the progressive, the one thing that both categories agree upon is building a loving and supportive family unit. Both groups want to instill good morals and strong character attributes into their children. In establishing American family values for your loved ones, get together with your partner and discuss the values that matter most to you. Remember that no one set of ideals works for everyone; feel free to mix and match from both categories or establish a set all your own.

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American Family Values