Keep in mind that when discussing this topic there is no "universal" truth. There are plenty of exceptions to the generalizations, but there are also some overall themes to how we perceive families to be now and how we saw them back in the day. Some of it is perception...
Keep in mind that when discussing this topic there is no "universal" truth. There are plenty of exceptions to the generalizations, but there are also some overall themes to how we perceive families to be now and how we saw them back in the day. Some of it is perception and some of it is real.
The biggest change between how we view families today and how they were viewed in the 50's and 60's is in our very definition of family. Back then, the ideal image was a family clearly headed by a man who was married to a woman. The man worked while the woman stayed at home. He made the decisions about money and had the final word on most things, while the woman was expected to be the "homemaker." People who were married tended to stay married, even if life together was unpleasant.
Now we have more single parent households. Remarried parents are much more common (think of the Brady Bunch...both parents were remarried, but only because their former spouses had died.) Interracial marriages were frowned upon (sometimes to the point of disowning children!) There were no options for "civil unions."
The family of the 50's and 60's lived in a suburb of cookie-cutter small houses (a generalization, but that's what people back then often thought of as ideal.) There was a more clear distinction between urban, suburban, and rural life. Now, cities often blend together by connected suburban sprawl.
People were expected to marry young in the 50's and 60's, generally shortly after high school, and the idea of having no children (or even stopping after one) would have been very odd.
The biggest change in family structures today probably is the represented by the changed roles for women. More families have working mothers and fathers, and "stay at home dads" are more common (and you'd never have seen that in the 60's!)
Those are, in general, the main family differences: an increase in single parents, an increased role for women in the family, and a broadened definition of what actually constitutes a family in the first place.