Ah, the family. When thinking about it, one tends to conjure images of perpetually bright eyed, high soaring, and well mannered children and teenagers under the steady but tender guidance of Mom and Pop. Jimmy plays in the Little League, his sister Sarah busies herself with ballet, mother drives both to and from practice until each are old enough to drive themselves, while father works hard from morning till night to bring home the bacon necessary for financing the whole shebang. Yes sir, this is the life; a warm, gooey slice of apple pie at the picnic of that fabled American dream. Everything is so idyllic and pristine; just like a rerun of Leave It to Beaver or, better yet, Father Knows Best.
Too bad it's just a fantasy. In reality, the scenario presented above is nothing more than a series of floating abstracts which have, for untold millions, morphed into deeply held ideals. There are many reasons for this, but much can be chalked up to the era of mass televised commercialization launched during the 1950s. During this time, certain norms were presented to the public, which was weary after two costly wars and experiencing a baby boom. Sights and sounds of seemingly ordinary, everyday folks making a go of life in a wholesome, sanitized fashion were welcome developments for this populace, whose members handed their standards down to their children and so on.
Today, in urbanizing post-agrarian societies, the garden variety family bears almost no resemblance to the Hollywood scripts popularized over the last half-century. Single mothers and fathers alike are raising their offspring, who have, by and large, broadened their horizons beyond mere baseball and ballet. In many instances, neither parent is involved with bringing up their children. Quite often, grandparents or other close relatives are left with the indisputably tough task. Even the very definition of family is changing rapidly; many now eschew their blood relatives, or are disowned by said relatives, and create a family based upon voluntary association. In short, individualism is triumphing over collectivism, and civilization as a whole is reaping the fruits of this intensive labor.