Our Families, Ourselves:
Marriages and Families

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Our Families, Ourselves looks at the American family in the 21st century.  It examines the momentous events that have shaped the evolution of the American family over more than two hundred years, such as immigration, ethnicity, gender, religion, economics, and poverty.  It discusses marriage in relation to love, commitment and parenting, as well as violence, divorce, and age, and it tries to show the pitfalls that all of us need to avoid in order to maintain our families and our selves.

Contributing Experts

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Topics Covered in Our Families, Ourselves

1. Changing Families
This lesson looks at the American family in the 21st century and the notion that there is no single, “one-size-fits-all” model of what constitutes a family. Increases in the number of woman in the paid labor force, the rise in divorce rates, as well as developments in contraception and reproductive technology, are just some of the factors that have profoundly affected the family as a social institution.

2. Perspectives on the Family
This lesson examines some of the theoretical models therapist as well as researches use to study the family. Regardless of which of these models they use, family therapists and researchers work in a field that is not only personally gratifying, but makes a genuine difference in people’s lives. 

3. Family History
This lesson examines many of the momentous events and powerful ideas that have shaped the evolution of the American family over more than two hundred years, including the vital role immigration has played in bringing families to the United States from around the world.

4. Race, Ethnicity, and Family
This lesson explores legitimate, empirical data that suggests that there are certain patterns of behavior that can be linked to specific racial or ethnic groups, including different degrees of emphasis on religion and multi-generational solidarity, while noting that the underlying details often go unexplained

5. The Role of Gender
This lesson focuses on how all of us learn about gender from an early age, and explores some of the ways in which gender-based roles, expectations and assumptions are changing.

6. Love and Loving
This lesson examines theories about what love is and how it differs from simple attraction.  It looks at the primary obstacles that stand in the way of love, as well as some of  the strategies and techniques couples can utilize to avoid these pitfalls and make love endure. 

7.  Sex and Sexuality
This lesson focuses on attitudes about sex and sexuality in America, as well as on the impact of these attitudes, as reflected in such diverse outcomes as infidelity, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sexually transmitted diseases.  It also explores the frequently uneasy tension between schools, the community and the family in the sexuality education of this nation’s youth.

8. Making Connections, Choosing Partners
This lesson looks at traditional as well as contemporary dating and mating rituals.  What factors tend to draw people together, or wedge them apart?  Just what role does culture play?  And what are the qualities that tend to distinguish relationships that stand the test of time?

9. Singlehood…
This lesson dispels many of the myths about the single life and explores the relationship between cohabitation and marriage as well as the impact of the marriage movement. 

10. Marriage and Commitment
This lesson explores the many in many shapes and colors of marriages, influenced not only by the dynamics of the couple relationship but also the expectations people have when they form their marital union.  This lesson also looks at the qualities of successful marriages like compatibility, flexibility, and emotional support.

11. To Parent or Not To Parent
This lesson focuses on the various ways couples can become parents, as well as the factors that go into the life-altering decision of whether or not to parent.   We learn as the episode unfolds that that this is a question every couple must answer for itself, and that there are no right or wrong answers.  The only absolute in this often murky arena is the recognition that, whichever road a couple chooses, the stakes are nothing short of enormous.

12. Parents and Children
This lesson explores some of the factors that influence parenting choices, including social class.  It also looks at the growing impact of outside-the-home childcare.

13. Working
This lesson explores globalization and other economic realities behind the massive influx of women into the work force, along with the domestic implications that have resulted.

14. Family Violence
This lesson examines violent behavior within a family context, and the prevention and intervention programs that are making inroads in combating its toxic effects.

15. Divorcing
This lesson explores the reasons for the drastic increase in divorce rates over the past century, and looks at the implications of divorce for both adults and children.  It also examines strategies couples can employ to lessen the impact of divorce on family members, including counseling and creative custody arrangements.

16. Remarriage and Stepfamilies
This lesson explores both the obstacles and the opportunities stepfamily members are likely to encounter.  During the course of the lesson, therapists point out that while there is no template for stepfamily success, families that value kindness, compassion and maturity generally fare best.

17. Growing Older
This lesson looks at stereotypes and misconceptions about the aging process, as well as the realistic challenges that older people face, including medical, economic and emotional issues.  Group-living options, such as assisted living and nursing homes, are explored, as is the valuable role family can play in terms of support.  Family is also a part of the discussion about the inevitable end of life, as options concerning preparation for death are considered.

18. Families Today and Tomorrow
This episode explores the many and varied forms that modern families commonly take, from single-parent and stepfamilies to multi-generational families living together, and looks at the growing racial and ethnic diversity brought about by the upsurge in immigration. The lesson concludes by recognizing that while the American family has changed and continues to change—at what sometimes feels like a dizzying pace—it remains as vital and important now as it’s ever been.

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