Where Has the
“All-American Family” Gone?

By: Bradley Coates
Special to the
Oahu Island News

The University of Hawaii Press is planning to release a second edition of my award-winning book Divorce with Decency: The Complete How-To Handbook and Survivor’s Guide to the Legal, Emotional, Economic, and Social Issues next year. Thus, I am in the process of revising and updating the book. Here’s a sneak preview of the “new and improved” edition of my book and a brief listing of some of society’s more dramatic current trends.

The institution of marriage has become alarmingly fragile. The numbers of people who choose to get married at all, as well as those who manage to stay married, are both down. The University of Chicago recently conducted an eye-opening survey on the Emerging 21st-Century American Family. It revealed the following amazing trends – all of which are fully expected to continue.

1. In 1972, nearly 75% of adults were married, by 1988 this percentage had dropped to only 56%.

2. The percentage of U.S. households composed of married couples with children dropped from 45% in the 1970s to 26% in 1998.

3. Perhaps the most startling statistic of all – the number of households comprised of unmarried adults and no children more than doubled within the last 25 years to a current figure of 33%. The nation’s 54.4 million married couples, with or without children, now make up barely one-half of American households. Approximately one-third of the nation’s 105 million households are now occupied by single people, roommates, live-in couples and other unrelated people.

Key factors in the decline of married couples.

1. By the late 1990s, the U.S. marriage rate was the lowest in over 30 years.

2. Young adults are now waiting until their mid to late 20s to marry. Women today marry at an average age of 25; men, at 27. This is the oldest age for first marriages in U.S. history and represents a big change from just a few decades ago.

3. Up until the mid-70s, cohabitation preceded only 10% of all marriages. By the 1990s, that figure had risen from 50 to 55%.

4. Nowadays in America, more than 45% of first marriages, about 65% of 2nd marriages, and fully 85% of 3rd marriages, will end in divorce.

Statistical analysis on divorce and remarriage.

1. The “7-Year Itch” phenomenon is backed up by 2000 Census Figures. Marriages that end in divorce do indeed typically last an average of seven years.

2. About 75% of those who divorce will remarry - most within the 1 to 3 years following divorce.

What is the impact of all this on the children?

1. Because of high divorce rates, cohabitation and single parenthood, a majority of families rearing children during this 21st century will probably not include the children’s original two-parents. In 1998, only 51% of America’s kids lived in a two-parent household compared with 73% in 1972.

2. One-third of all live births in Hawaii occur out of wedlock.

3. The number of children living with single parents increased from less than 5% in 1972 to almost 20% in 1998. Meanwhile the percentage of children living in a blended household more than doubled.

4. Experts estimate that grandparents, instead of their natural parents, are now serving as the primary caretakers for approximately 8% of Ame-rica’s children.

5. The rate of divorce is 50% higher in remarriages containing stepchildren than in those without.

America’s families certainly aren’t what they used to be. Although I am no prophet or politician, it’s evident that the impacts of these trends will be enormous and far-reaching, yet difficult to predict or prepare for. It’s a challenging time to be a family law attorney.

Bradley A. Coates, J.D., has been a practicing divorce attorney in Honolulu for over 20 years.  He has been selected as Honolulu's Best Divorce Lawyer and is the founder of Coates & Frey, Hawaii's largest family law firm. This article contains only "general" information and readers should not take any actions based on the "summarized" information contained herein.  Instead, appropriate experts should be consulted for each individual's case and/or fact situation.  Phone: 524-4854 or visit the firm's website at www.coatesandfrey.com.