Willamette World News

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Modern Family in Germany

The modern family in Germany has kept some traditional values, but some changes have taken place over the last 50 years. First, here is a short historical view to get a better understanding of the changes within German families and the law system.

The most recent changes within the family were mainly starting during the 1960s. The first change was from the end of the 1960s until the 1980s. During this time, there was a decrease in birth rates, more people decided not to marry, and there was an increase of divorces. In 1977, an equalization of men and women in the family was achieved. The next phase was marked as relatively stable, until the beginning of the 1990s. Since then, the birth rate was quite constant, however the rate of divorces increased and the number for people willing to marry went down. Since 2005, both rates were more constant again. Reasons for this were the equalization of illegitimate children (1998), the violence prohibition in the upbringing (2000), and shared custody for non-married couples (2010).

The traditional family roles of the mother and father have remained very common and stable in families over the last years. A lot of people still see the mother’s role as the caretaker of the children and the man as being the breadwinner of the family. But there are also different opinions: it is more acceptable now that fathers help more in the household and with parenting, and that both parents are more involved. Reality shows that the majority still holds on to the traditional family roles, where the mother stays at home and works part-time as well, but it can also be the other way around, where the father stays at home and takes the three year parental leave.

A change has happened with the basic understanding of the family. The couples and parent-child relationships have changed from a more hierarchical order-and-command basis, to a more equalized relationship for all parties. Nowadays, decisions are not only made by one parent, but both, and children are included as well, integrating everyone in the decision making process.

For many people living together in a relationship is still very valued. Also, family is important for people’s happiness in life. They find that a good relationship and happy family life are more important than a job, free time, etc. This is a sign that family is still highly cherished nowadays.

The idea of marriage has changed on top of that. In the past, the marriage was controlled a lot by norms and regulations of society within a regulatory framework. This has changed, loosening the regulations and becoming more free. What was unimaginable in the 1960s, is now tolerated and normal. For example, unmarried couples living together or sex outside of marriage is not being sanctioned anymore. This has lead to an increase of a variety of different forms of living. There are more and more “Patchwork” families, gay couples and non-married couples with children, etc., and are much more acceptable than they would have been 50 years before. The size of the families has become smaller–having two children is the most widespread after having only one child. Three or more children are the represented lesser.


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